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Building a Culture of Continuous Learning at Dimagi - Dimagi

2022 is a landmark year in Dimagi’s story, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. This, coupled with the announcement of Dimagi’s 5 Year Strategy, has inspired important initiatives, such as investing in continuous learning and expanding of skills company wide, in support of our goal of achieving high-impact growth.

Creating value through effective management

As the Director of People Operations, I’m focused on building the human and operational foundation that will support this next phase of growth. Learning and skill development is at the heart of this, with a particular focus on managers. Dimagi’s business is complex and can take time to learn, so retaining and nurturing our talented team members is even more essential than at other organizations. Even if you don’t fully believe the saying “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers,” it’s hard to argue that strong managers are essential for retention, morale, and performance. 

This year, I took on the goal of “enabling Dimagi managers to create more value.” This is not just about helping our managers become more effective, but also about supporting them to be inclusive leaders. This goal is also about placing the employees at the center of a new vision that treats learning as a continuous process, not an episodic event, and as a company-wide responsibility. We aim to make this possible by adopting new and expanded learning architectures, in which learning is not only limited to one-off training sessions, but it is embedded within the culture that helps people constantly learn and share knowledge.

At Dimagi, there has always been a drive towards encouraging employees to try new things, fail, learn, and try again. But working on this goal meant much more – it meant making ongoing efforts to create an environment where teams continuously expand their skills, to create the results they truly desire, and together, create a culture that values continuous learning. Beyond the focus on managers, this also meant investing in new skillbuilding and training tools for all employees, to ensure growth opportunities are consistently available for everyone at Dimagi, and that they encompass best practices from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The training plan to support continuous learning

Thinking about this goal and the kind of training programs that would create the most impact, is the backdrop against which the People Operations team began our work conceptualizing the overall training plan. We identified the key skills that, when developed, would result in maximum impact, like the ability to give feedback in a balanced and direct way, the ability to coach others, and the skills needed to be an inclusive leader. The next step was to look for organizations that could deliver workshops that are hands-on, science-based, and promote learnings that can transform essential skills into lasting habits. 

After much evaluation, we decided to partner with LifeLabs Learning, which focuses on training on ‘tipping point’ skills: ‘the smallest changes that make the biggest impact fast.’ In addition to making the team more effective, we also wanted to strengthen the feeling of inclusion and belonging for each team member, promoting a team culture that welcomes everyone and utilizes each of our unique skills and knowledge. For managers, this means identifying, challenging, and managing their assumptions and biases, and leading their teams inclusively and effectively. For the Inclusivity training for managers, we decided to partner with Tai Dixon Darden, a workplace Culture Strategist who specializes in executive coaching, team culture and trust building, talent management strategy, diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. 

Another consideration was how to train our managers on advanced interpersonal skills that we knew would be needed to support our employees remotely, make them successful and to ensure that professional ties are kept strong despite distance. We then identified the core skills that might seem very basic but would create the maximum impact. We also knew that one-time training sessions would not be helpful and therefore also offered employees a Culture Amp-based tool designed by LifeLabs Learning, “Skills Coach”  which provides employees with guided learning journeys. It is the tool available to employees in their toolbox to reinforce stickiness of these core skills.

Key learnings 

Inclusivity workshops for managers were launched in April, and all staff workshops on Feedback Skills in May. The response has been great, and a lot has been learnt around the expectations of employees. But, still a lot of questions are yet to be answered, and many more programs to be rolled out. 

One key learning has been around setting expectations regarding outcomes from the training, especially when the training is intended for a larger audience. With a little over 70 managers at Dimagi, the expectations can be as diverse as the demographics of a cohort. So, together with getting trained on key skills, we believe it is also important to offer employees the opportunities for individualized learning. Switching from a content-centric “push” approach to a learner-centric “pull” approach would allow learning to be customized for each employee allowing them to get the learning they need, when they need it, at every stage in their careers.

By adopting a learning architecture that supports continuous learning, dedicating resources and setting the right expectations, organizations benefit from having a more engaged workforce that feels valued, and employees become even more innovative and resilient.

This is just the beginning, learning is a journey, and we at Dimagi feel so grateful to be moving along on this journey – creating a continuous learning culture where employees can grow, thrive, and perform at their fullest potential.

If you’re interested in joining us on this journey, check out our Careers page where you can see some of our remote job postings! 



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