The learning and development experience is becoming an inevitable part of employers' responsibilities.
In this current period defined as the Great Resignation – where so many are leaving the workforce or transitioning jobs – organizations are looking to their People team and HR leaders to engage and retain their existing top talent, as well as entice and recruit new hires. People and HR leaders are investing time and resources in building comprehensive benefits packages for their organizations that include free wellness workshops, yoga classes, meditation app subscriptions, and generous training budgets. This investment in humans by executives is worthy of acknowledgment; however, it is just the starting point. While many of these packages look shiny and may lure team members in, the real key is to engage team members at every level of the organization to actually utilize these programs and benefits and to bring people together in the learning and development experience.
One of the most simple and effective ways that an organization can drive awareness and engagement for everything they are offering is by incorporating community-based learning into the program—a space where team members can share feedback on the yoga class or workshop they took, ask questions to their other team members, and learn in a social setting with their colleagues.
Here are four reasons why online learning communities are a crucial component of the learning and development and/or benefits program you are building or have in place at your organization:
Community-based learning platforms enhance the benefits & engagement of live workshops and classes by making learning ‘stickier.’ Team members who attend a workshop or class and connect during that experience will then be a part of a community where they can continue to build on those relationships, network, share thoughts, and gain ideas, all of which will support their learning and retention of those new skills.
When designed thoughtfully, online learning communities connect people globally and motivate them to share ideas and ask for help. When team members connect with other team members across the globe and across sectors, they are exposed to new ways of thinking and can bring this growth mindset back to their own projects or team. Being a part of something bigger than ourselves not only feels good, but it inspires us to think on a grander scale.
In the words of Jeffrey Bussgang and Jono Bacon, human beings “fundamentally crave a sense of connectedness, belonging, mission, and meaning, particularly when performing our work…Communities deliver these benefits, creating a sense of shared accountability and a set of values while preserving individual autonomy.”
Learning communities also provide individual learners with the opportunity to get face time or interact virtually with senior leaders. In a community setting, the CEO can pop into the same Ask the Expert session, yoga class, question thread, or chat as a Data Analyst or Project Manager. Communities allow people across an organization to consistently interact with individuals they otherwise wouldn’t, fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging.
By empowering team members with either a third-party learning community or building your own internally, you are providing your organization with the space to share openly, collaborate, learn, and build new skills. Studies show that when organizations invest in professional growth and learning, team members gain trust in leadership and the organization. Learning communities are an incredible space for organizations to live out their company values, retain top talent, and recruit new team members who also value learning and community.
How can you start incorporating community into your program? Existing professional communities like Chief, Offsite, and Code Academy are great low-cost communities to offer to team members, depending on their specific skills and areas for growth. Learning and development partners or consultants can also help you build and roll out a more customized online learning community for your team using easy-to-use community platforms like Mighty Networks, Slack, or Discourse. This option, however, will require more management and internal resources to get off the ground. For more tips on how to build community at your organization, check out our CEO’s recent article in Forbes.
Having a space for team members to continuously learn together is crucial. Reflect on this: how can you be a catalyst for community-based learning at your organization?
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