How to Foster the Learning Mindset

When it comes to training and development, most employers focus on immediate concerns—for example, ensuring their employees have the knowledge and skills needed to stay in compliance. Training and development, however, are about much more than ensuring employees can do the job at hand. On a broader level, training and development are about promoting what Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, calls the “learning mindset.” 

How to Foster the Learning Mindset

The Learning Mindset 

As Dweck lays out in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Right now the U.S. is not a nation of learners. People want to learn, but they underestimate what they can do.” As proof, she points to a recent study: “In a new study of 19,000 high school students across the U.S who were asked to construct a math worksheet, we found that most of them chose the easiest possible problems, even though they knew they would learn nothing from them.” But Dweck also emphasizes that in this case, there was a silver lining:

When students participated in an online workshop, their behavior changed. This workshop taught them two things. First, they learned a growth mindset, the idea that through hard work on hard tasks they could improve their brains and abilities. Second, they were asked to think about the contribution they most wanted to make in life, whether to their families, their communities, or society. They were then taught how to use their growth mindset, and their stronger brains, to help accomplish that. These students no longer shied away from difficulty. Compared with those who hadn’t done the workshop, they chose 30% more problems that challenged them—problems that would improve their brains.

While it may be easy to understand how and why encouraging students to challenge themselves is good for schools, one might wonder what organizations have to gain from encouraging employees to challenge themselves in this regard too. The truth of the matter is that organizations also have much to gain by fostering the “learning mindset.” 

Dweck and her colleagues have discovered that corporate cultures that have a deep commitment to the growth of every employee from receptionists to senior executives have a distinct advantage over companies who don’t share this commitment.  For example, Dweck and her colleagues have discovered that when employees know that there are jobs available and know that certain desirable jobs require specific skills, motivation to train for such positions increases.  What does this mean? It means that there is a direct link between opportunities for advancement and training success.  And as Dweck concludes, “Organizations that are committed to providing such knowledge, along with serious training opportunities, create a highly motivated, loyal, vital workforce.” But she further observes, the take away may even be greater, since “Business leaders who openly acknowledge people’s concerns about becoming obsolete and who invest resources in workers’ growth can help create a nation of learners—and perhaps resolve some of the political chaos that’s bubbling around us.”

Promoting a Learning Mindset: The Short- and Long-term ROI

So what are the advantages of promoting a “learning mindset” in the workplace? The advantages are threefold:

  • Self-motivated employees:  Employees who embrace a learning mindset are more motivated to take on new challenges and less likely to falter when they face them.
  • Problem solving employees: Employees who embrace a learning mindset are more likely to be willing and able to tackle problems on their own.
  • Loyal employees: Employees who embrace a learning mindset are more likely to be dedicated to your organization’s brand but also more likely to stick around for the long term. For organizations, the advantage is clear—lower attrition means lower recruitment and training costs and a more stable and consistent workforce.

The take-away here is clear. Training and development isn’t simply about ensuring one’s employees know how to do their existing jobs well. When training and development are embraced to promote a learning mindset, employees and organizations also have much more to gain both on a short- and long-term basis. 

Explore how to promote a learning mindset in your workplace with the support of an affordable learning management system.

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