Things move so fast nowadays, that just to keep up with new technology and business trends requires regular research and learning to stay competitive. It’s easy to focus on finishing your work, read the occasional article or watch a video when you need to know something right away, and put on the blinders to everything else. Letting professional development fall by the wayside, unknowingly losing time, becoming less efficient and less innovative. We cripple ourselves by “doing it the way it’s always been done” instead of learning from each other and finding new ways to complete tasks and solve problems.

Many companies that struggle to “find time” for training find that their employee engagement and professional development are falling behind. Here are five ways to combat this decline, creating a healthier learning culture, actively engaging employees in innovative thinking, and improving productivity.

1. Create a social learning culture

Have a dedicated communication space for learning and sharing. Use, Slack, Teams, Miro, Trello, whatever works for your team and project – but within that, maintain a dedicated space to communicate and share ideas, tips, and information among your organization. Having a digital space to share allows employees to step in and out of the learning environment as they have time between tasks to either share or learn.

Be the champion who sets the example and put together learning opportunities. Seek out and share tutorials that you find helpful – sometimes it’s as easy as posting a link to a YouTube video or article. Other times, you may decide to do a little screencast using Snagit or Camtasia to show how to do something, step by step. Share organizational news and industry updates. Linking to job aids or guides and asking specific questions – “How might we use this?” – puts innovative productivity at the forefront in a social learning environment. Spotlight the efforts of various parts of the business in order to foster more social innovation and cross-collaboration.

2. Make learning a team deliverable

Plan to use some time during your regular team meetings to have members do a mini presentation on a topic that might help others better understand their role or part in a process. If that feels too formal for your team, try having some dedicated discussion time for learning and development, where individuals can share ideas, tips, and tricks. Task your presenters or discussion starters with finding something helpful to share with the group – perhaps productivity tips in Outlook for organizing email or creating email templates. Maybe it’s sharing a library of images or media for presentations they found online, or buried in the company’s intranet. Be sure to encourage everyone to participate and share on a rotating schedule, as it can be common for a few passionate folks to overshadow the abilities and interests of more introverted workers.

3. Schedule time for personal learning

Schedule time on calendars for personal learning and development time. Whatever organization you are in, you should be able to allow your team at least 1 or 2 hours per week dedicated to learning and developing themselves to do better work. Before you start thinking, “There’s no way we have bandwidth for that!” hear me out: In a 40-hour week, 2 hours is 5% of their time; if that makes the other 95% more productive, it should be more than worth it. Showing your employees that you care about their development can keep them from jumping ship to greener pastures. For this reason the time and risk savings are exponential when people are given the resources to learn socially and cross-organizationally.

4. Discuss professional development plans

Have discussions with your team members about their personal and professional development goals – what about the job motivates or inspires them? Where do they have opportunities for improvement? Find where those things intersect and that’s an ideal learning journey. While interests and job requirements don’t always align perfectly, there’s always room to get creative and find out how to grow that person’s passion while upskilling them to create more value for your business, while you support them on their ideal career path.

Start your professional development plan by doing an assessment on strengths, skills, opportunities, goals, and resources. Once you have those defined with your employee, discuss and define strategies for achieving goals and fulfilling opportunities — using the skills, strengths, and resources. Agree on reasonable timelines and milestones which will allow for the natural ebbs and flows of any work environment. When you make time for your employees’ professional development goals, it signals that you care about their future, not just the work they’re doing for you right now. It’s a two-way street — if you want them to care about your company’s future, you need to invest in theirs. Even just showing an interest and moral support goes a long way, but be prepared to follow up on your plans. Schedule reminders to check in and see how their progress is going and what you can do to help.

5. Work with a learning and change expert

Changing your organization’s learning mindset is no easy task, even if you follow all of the above. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from a team of learning and change experts to help guide their initiatives into a successful outcome. Evolve believes that learning and change are intrinsically linked, so we help businesses craft tailored plans to get the most out of their efforts. For help developing a social learning and change culture, contact Evolve Solutions Group for a free consultation today.

You can also download some of these great resources to get you started!