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Now What? Why Continuous Learning Improves Performance

It’s been six months since your latest performance review. You had walked out of your boss’s office with a development plan in hand, and you were ready to get started.
And then it got busy. And there was that emergency project. And you suddenly realize you’ve made zero progress on that plan. OK, well, no one’s really paying attention. You can say you worked on “improving communications” — just send a few more emails. It’s not like there are training classes or checklists for you to actually use as part of your development.

As a learning manager, that’s not the picture you want to see. You want employees not just thinking about development but also acting on their plans. You want managers to be involved year-round, not just at the annual performance review. You want a continuous learning culture.
But how do you get there?
The first step is easy: Know what you’re doing now. Do the development plans include clear actions? Or are the steps vague, with subjective measures of improvement? Do you offer a library of training materials or budget to reimburse employees if they seek outside training? You want to perform an audit of everything you’re currently doing at your company with learning, including getting some honest feedback from employees. Do you offer online training but no one uses it? Find out why.
Next, review the gaps in your program. Once you’ve done your audit, you can match the current state with the desired state to see the gaps. Maybe you’re not using an online Learning Management System (LMS) or there isn’t budget to send employees to outside training. Or maybe employees just don’t know what you offer. See where the gaps are and determine which areas are priorities for improvement.
Bring the learning and development togetherIdeally, a development plan would have action items that match the learning activities your company offers. “Improving communications” would include the online module about giving feedback, a quarterly check on communication styles and perhaps written exercises so the employee can practice. Bringing the current state and ideal state together requires some work, but you can start small. Do an internal communications campaign to tell employees what resources are available to them. Informing the workforce is a good way to get people to use the programs. Next, revamp the review process, making the development plan more reflective of the learning programs you have in place. Then start looking at changing the resources. You can find technology that automatically creates development goals or has progress checks for managers.
A continuous learning culture doesn’t have to come with a big investment upfront. Knowing what is happening in your company and which areas you want to tweak can start making changes for you immediately. As you plan ahead, include these audits on a regular basis. You won’t get to the ideal state right away, but you’ll be marking progress so you know how you’re doing. Just like in your own development plan.