One of the keys to creating and sustaining a learning culture is hiring people who are continuous learners and who help others learn continuously. This is not simply about attending training programs or, as a manager, sending others to training programs. You want people who are always receptive to increasing their knowledge and developing new skills and competencies. You want people who seek out opportunities to grow. You want people who recognize the learning needs of others and can figure out ways to support their growth as part of the day-to-day work of the organization.
Edgar Wilson, in a post on e.Mile, writes that a “healthy” learning culture has four features:
- Humility – accepting that you don’t know everything, that you need to be continually learning new things, that you embrace change as an opportunity to develop new skills
- Curiosity – staying excited about learning and always looking for new and better ways to do things
- Collaboration – building teams that share work, share lessons, share advice, and share skills
- Appreciation – recognizing and rewarding the effort of others to learn and grow; not waiting for a major change
These features are a good guide for recruiting, selecting, and hiring employees. Look for people who have humility, are curious, are excited about collaboration with others, and who express appreciation for the effort and progress of others. Ask about examples of these behaviors in their work.
More and more companies are looking for learners. They want people with the ability to learn a job and adapt as the job changes, which it will. Tom Friedman in a column he wrote for the NYTimes titled How to Get a Job at Google, quoted Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, as saying,
For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.
Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, says, “The speed with which we learn will be more critical than the extent of what we know..” She recommends hiring people who are intellectually curious, teachable, playful, and deliberate. She says that this is especially true for leaders. “The best leaders, states Wiseman, are learners. They know when it is time to shift out of the mode of leadership and into a mode of learnership. Not only do they need to be able to do this for themselves, but their agility between these roles sets the tone for the entire organization’s ability to unlearn and relearn dynamically.”
How do you hire for a learning culture? How do you get "the right people on the [learning] bus”?