What it looks like when a culture of learning is actually important to a company

  • Posted on September 10, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
What it looks like when a culture of learning is actually important to a company

The words "mandatory training" often don't excite many; instead, they elicit moans of dread, conjure memories of monotone lectures and uncover a fear of time wasted. Even to those who are excited for the chance to learn something new, there may be skepticism towards such training's effectiveness and the opportunity to apply any new learnings to day-to-day work.

At least, during my interview process, empowered with a newly minted master’s in Learning Sciences, I was skeptical. The recruiter emphasized Avanade's dedication to continued learning and professional development, as they ask each full-time employee to dedicate 80 hours toward training every year. In my experience, this typically means there are pre-approved pathways of curricula, and the employee does not often have input into their training plan. Instead, they are relegated to the passenger-seat, passive in what they are allowed to explore, and how. 

Avanade surprised me. I am wholeheartedly encouraged by leadership to pursue whatever training or informal learning opportunities I believe could be of use to me in my role as an IT experience consultant. For instance, early last year, only 10 months into my time at Avanade, I nervously asked my Career Adviser if I could count an IDEO Human-Centered Service Design course toward my training hours. The answer was an emphatic yes, and what’s more, our leadership supported my enrollment and shared the class with others to encourage them to take it. Before I knew it, three of my colleagues, including my Career Adviser, enrolled too. We met regularly outside of class to discuss our learnings and class projects. While feedback mechanisms were built-into the course (which is essential for learning), the chance to discuss how to apply the training to our own work at Avanade was invaluable. Even recently, over a year since we completed the course, my Career Adviser and I exampled the service blueprint approach we learned from the class to teach new teammates one tool they could use to solve a problem.

Having a sense of control and input in your learning is proven to increase intrinsic motivation, but Avanade doesn't expect you to do so without support. There is a dedicated Learning Catalog of course offerings, with recommendations based on your Talent Community, and our Learning and Development team is actively engaged in forums, keeping a pulse on what Avanade employees are asking for or say they need.

My leadership also has been proactive about reaching out to me with training opportunities and asking me what I thought of the training afterward. A week ago, I earned a Design Thinking Essentials badge from the LUMA Institute, and I wouldn't have known the class was occurring, or that I was even eligible to take it, without my team. It's honestly not rare for me to receive an email or chat asking if I'd be interested in a particular course, and if so, leadership would help get me enrolled (this is how I was able to take the LUMA course). And their suggestions aren't aimless – either they feel the training will nurture me as I grow my career, or they're informed by the interests or concerns I've shared in conversations before. Regardless, I feel cared for and heard.

While the availability of quality training is essential, it's vital to provide avenues for employees to share their knowledge, further encoding what they know and planting seeds for other minds to explore, and recognize the effort employees take to balance training with work and home. I was happy to hear recently of the new ITS Lunch & Learns, created to encourage professional growth and connection in our virtual environment (but with a promise of pizza when in-person meetings resume). And in our monthly ITS All Hands call, time is always dedicated to celebrating certifications and training accomplishments. And there's a lot to celebrate – Avanade employees boast over 24,000 Microsoft certifications, and the count is only climbing.

But more important than the boast of a badge is the growth that comes from these opportunities. Conversations are inspired, and collaboration becomes fueled with new ways of working that involve a diversity of minds. As a lifelong learner and learning advocate, I am always on the lookout for organizations that recognize the power of their people and foster a learning environment to support them. I'm grateful to have found both at Avanade.

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