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‘As companies evolve continuously to keep up with the pace of innovation, employees must learn continuously as their teams adopt new strategies, technologies, and best practices.’ – Kwame Thomison
In Building an environment for learning and development, various methods of implementing a culture of learning are explored in-depth. A difficulty for engineering leaders when doing this is dedicating the time to development, and encouraging engineers to ensure they use the time. This series looks at which methods can overcome these challenges and how cultivating an environment for continuous learning creates a stronger, high-performing engineering team.
Episode 1: How to build your learning culture
In this article, Kwame Thomison shares the social learning framework his organization has been implementing over the last two years. However, before he dives into this, Kwame guides the reader through why learning is so important for engineers and shares insightful statistics on why companies continue to not dedicate enough investment to it.
At Kwame’s organization, they have prioritized the cultivation of learning communities: groups of people with shared learning goals. These groups are also referred to as Communities of Practice (CoPs), and Kwame goes on to describe in detail what sets CoPs apart from other learning communities, the way CoPs operate in his organization, and the impact that this newfound culture of learning has had on his engineers and the organization in general.
A common reason why organizations don’t invest in learning is due to a lack of time. In this article, Matthew Butt tells the reader, ‘Even your busiest engineers have the time to learn’. Through his technique of ‘microlearning’, Matthew demonstrates how five minutes tagged onto a daily standup is enough to begin integrating a culture of learning without disrupting the work of time-precious engineers.
Matthew describes the four values of microlearning – a shared vocabulary, repetition, contextualization, and varying perspectives – and goes on to explain how each value fits in with each step of a typical microlearning session. After describing some potential topics for microlearning, Matthew clarifies that ‘this technique is most powerful when used to build a strong conceptual foundation for further learning’, and provides possible next steps for the reader as their team continues on its learning journey.
As roles develop over time, new skills will be needed and new competencies developed. Through continuous learning, engineers can thrive in their teams and beyond, so how can organizations cultivate an environment that values and implements this education and growth?
This conversation centered around creating a culture of learning where engineers are actively encouraged to develop, with our panelists – Tara Ojo (Senior Software Engineer at the Financial Times), Kathleen Vignos (Director in Platform Engineering at Twitter), Kristen Spencer (Engineering Manager at TWG), and Krishnan Srinivasan (Vice President for Cloud & Compute at Target) – and moderator – Kevin Goldsmith (CTO at Anaconda) – discussing their own experiences of doing so.
During this discussion, our panelists explored:
- What systems they have put in place to ensure learning and development is built into their organizational culture;
- How to encourage team members to take advantage of dedicated learning time;
- How to turn learning into a habit;
- How to achieve buy-in for dedicated learning time in an organization;
- Overcoming the challenges that arise when building a culture of continuous learning.
A final takeaway
It is apparent that building a culture of learning doesn’t happen overnight, but that its implementation leads to engineers who feel valued, motivated, and who are able to adapt and grow quickly. The content in this series provides engineering leaders with the knowledge they need to begin building learning into their culture, by examining which method is right for their organization and their team.