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Get involved in learning - from top to bottom

As we go through Learning at Work week, business leaders will inevitably ask both themselves and their colleagues an important question: “What does a great learning organisation look like for us?” Bradley Bruce from Top Employers UK reveals what the UK’s leading employers are doing to elevate their learning culture.

The evidence seen from our research conducted on HR policies, strategies and practices of the UK’s certified Top Employers, points to many contributory factors to great learning - and one driver is very clear: learning works best when everyone in an organisation – from top to bottom - is encouraged to take charge of their own development.

This starts within the boardroom. Our research shows that while it is the senior management team that typically approves the Learning & Development strategy in an organisation, the best go much further and have a clear role in its delivery. Among certified UK Top Employers, senior executives actively participate in learning (93%) and mentor others (85%). These senior teams know something very important – that a deep involvement in learning is the opportunity for unlocking talent and driving employee engagement. And, crucially, senior executives in 4 out of 5 of certified organisations expect line managers to do as they do and follow their good example.

In many other organisations, by contrast, line managers can easily feel disconnected from the benefits of learning for themselves and their teams. Too often, they see learning as an inconvenient short-term loss of resource or an extra burden on an already tight budget. In addition, they feel under pressure to keep their team’s collective head down to meet deadlines or targets. This may feel like a good short-term survival strategy, but it means that “engagement” becomes nothing more than a temporary coincidence of interests between managers and their teams. Development conversations can then become irregular and uncomfortable - and can actually hasten the departure of key staff.

A more positive way to look at learning is seeing it as central to the growth of the organisation, with the line manager encouraging the employee to take responsibility for his or her own development. This is a key difference between Top Employers and other organisations. Our research shows that 100% of certified companies expect all employees – from top to bottom - to show initiative in their own development. This is no easy option - every employee will have different needs. But to bring out the best in your talent, Top Employers take the trouble to invest time finding out about their employees’ development needs and involving them in mapping out the path ahead.

The Top Employers Institute has been running its global HR certification programme, recognising the world’s leading employers, for over 25 years. Certified Top Employers – more than 1300 worldwide – are given access to unique global HR best practices. Do you want your organisation to join the exclusive global community of Top Employers? Find out more