Why your employees need a growth mindset

As Learning at Work week unfolds, organisations are trying to whet their people’s appetite for learning with activities ranging from bitesize courses and lunch and learn sessions to quizzes and masterclasses. The emphasis this year is on ‘shaping the future’, with some companies inviting employees to take part in forward-gazing focus groups or make personal learning pledges.

Some employees (and you probably know exactly who they are) will be hungry to learn as much as they possibly can and will grasp these opportunities with gusto. Others will be less enthusiastic – maybe taking part because they feel they ‘have to’ or finding convenient excuses to dip out.

What accounts for the difference? The answer is probably because the first category of employees have what’s known as a growth mindset, while the latter hold very fixed views about what they are ‘good at’ and their potential (or lack of it) to develop.

In unpredictable working environments, where change is constant, it’s important for organisations to have a cadre of employees who have a growth mindset. People with this frame of mind believe they have the potential to develop, are open to learning and better able to adapt quickly when circumstances are volatile or ambiguous.

Recent research from Hult Ashridge suggests that it is possible for people with a fixed idea of their abilities to shift their thinking and develop a growth mindset. So what does the organisation need to do to encourage employees to take a more positive outlook of their capabilities?:

1. Encourage a learning culture

Learning doesn’t have to be formal or classroom-based. The workplace itself is a great arena for people to develop their skills. HR needs to work with line managers to create an environment where learning is part of the way ‘we do things around here’. It’s about encouraging employees to share their knowledge, through peer-to-peer learning or social learning groups for example, or using projects or secondments as an opportunity for people to develop new skills. Mentoring is also a great way to give people the confidence they need to step outside of their comfort zone. Not all learning needs to be work-related. Some organisations have used Learning at Work week to offer classes on everything from yoga and cookery to pottery and photography, in a bid to ignite people’s passion for learning.

2. Develop a culture of feedback

Regular feedback is a valuable way to support employees in developing their skills and recognising their own potential. It will help to ensure employees get the training and support they need so that they can future-proof their careers and stay relevant to the business. HR has a key role to play in instilling a culture of feedback and ensuring that managers have the skills to deliver it effectively. A key part of any performance review should be about identifying employees’ aspirations and development needs, and finding creative ways for them to build their skill-set in line with business needs. If employees feel their manager believes in them and sees they have potential to grow, they will be more engaged with their job and motivated to learn.

3. Build self-awareness

Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is a great starting point for development and will help people pinpoint the areas they need to address. People may not be aware, for example, that they have limiting beliefs which are holding them back or that they are perceived by others as having a negative or change-averse attitude. Psychometric assessments and 360 degree feedback programmes can help individuals develop an understanding of themselves and the way they operate and interact with others. An ability to receive feedback is just as important as the ability to deliver it. Learning at Work week provides a perfect opportunity for an internal masterclass on why feedback is a gift and how employees can make the most of it.

4. Provide opportunities for stretch

If you allow people to always stay in their comfort zone, complacency will set in and learning will stagnate. HR can support the development of growth mindsets across the business by encouraging managers to stretch their people with challenging assignments or by delegating tasks they would normally do themselves to give others the opportunity to learn. It’s important, however, that stretch is accompanied by support. It’s not about throwing people in at the deep end and them blaming them when things go wrong. The key is to give people the opportunity to learn new skills and try out different approaches, while having their back and supporting them along the way.

5. Allow time for reflection

We work at such a rapid pace that there is rarely time within the working day to sit back and reflect. Sitting back and reflecting on experiences is, however, a key part of learning. If managers want their people to develop a growth mindset, they need to give them time to reflect and learn from their experiences. If employees are being given challenging work, they need time to think about what went well, what they could have done differently, and what additional competencies they might need in the future.

You can find more information about Learning at Work week here: https://www.campaign-for-learning.org.uk/news/about-learning-at-work-week

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