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Establishing a Culture for Learning

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Learning solutions are the best way to:

  • Solve problems caused by a knowledge gap that’s slowing down business

  • Introduce a streamlined process

  • Train on new software that will make the daily lives of your employees easier

However, even an effective learning solution can fall flat if the culture for learning hasn’t been properly established. Training should be an opportunity, not an obligation, so if your employees are less than enthused when new training is announced, the learning culture of the company might need a little boost.

What is a learning culture?

In order to understand the importance of establishing a learning culture in your organization, it’s necessary to take a step back and observe the organization’s culture as a whole.

It’s common for businesses to establish a set of values that they consider to be the cornerstones of their practices. In theory, the culture of the business should reflect those same values.

While it’s great to feature your mission and values on your company’s website and in your email signature, it’s also important that your employees at every level embody those values on a daily basis in their work and attitude.

Josh Bersin explains that the true culture of a company is malleable, so if you have a clear picture of it, you can work to change it. Here are some other important things Bersin believes you should understand about the culture of your company:

  • It’s omnipresent: it moves beyond the official corporate values and resides in the everyday interactions of all the employees.

  • Employees get a read on the cultural climate through the processes and protocols that are followed from the top down, so it’s important that leaders at all levels are exhibiting behaviors that reflect the company’s values.

  • Learning is a huge part of business culture, not something that’s best left inside traditional classrooms.

When we talk about the culture of learning within your organization, we’re referring to the values and attitudes toward the psychological, behavioral and convictional learning that employees are engaged in on a daily basis.

Employees are learning every day, whether or not their employers have a traditional learning path in place for them. As Dr. Britt Andreatta notes, that learning might be about their job skills or company policy, but it can also be learning about their colleagues or about what accomplishments will be rewarded or even how leadership reacts to failures.

If you can take charge of your company’s culture of learning, you’ll realize great benefits for the employees and the bottom line.

What are the benefits of a positive learning culture?

A recent study by Bersin and Associates showed that companies with a positive culture for learning are 46% more likely to be first to market, have 37% more employee productivity and are 58% more future-ready than those without an established learning culture.

If those numbers aren’t a good enough reason to work towards creating a great culture for learning in your organization, here are 10 more benefits of having a positive learning culture in your workplace:

  1. It increases productivity and employee engagement.

  2. It helps to foster a growth mindset in both employees and the organization as a whole.

  3. It helps employees feel that they’re valued, which is great for morale.

  4. It can allow you to offer more promotions from within, which is a great money and time saver.

  5. It allows everyone to grow with and embrace the unique changes in their various industries.

  6. It promotes creativity and innovation.

  7. It challenges silo thinking, which can cause entire departments to stagnate.

  8. It improves technological literacy, a crucial skill in today’s world.

  9. It reduces employee turnover.

  10. You’ll get a massive return on your investment.

How to establish a positive learning culture?

If the learning culture of your workplace has been neglected, you can turn it around! It will take some nurturing, but there are simple steps you can take to get back on the right track, so you and your employees can reap the benefits of having a positive learning culture.

Make Learning Easy to Access

Learning should be a natural part of the workday. If training is always formal, lengthy or difficult to navigate, employees are not likely going to be motivated to make it a regular thing. Engaging learning opportunities that are built within the normal workflow are a great way to introduce learning to employees in an environment where the learning culture needs improvement.

This doesn’t mean that longer training seminars or courses shouldn’t be utilized, but start small. Once you’ve established a change in the learning culture, your employees will be more receptive to training and it will be much more worthwhile.

Show That Learning is Valued

Demonstrating the value of learning from the top down serves as motivation for growth in employees. Show that risk-taking is encouraged and offer incentives for course completion (however small they may be).

Employees also need to feel comfortable in their learning environment, so be sure to focus on the eventual mastery of whatever the skill is versus acing the content the first time around. Learning something new is taking a risk and you might not succeed the first time. Let your team know that’s okay!

Train Learning Leaders

This is especially important in a larger organization where there are many different departments and leaders. Train the managers or department heads to act like learning coaches. Managers should be knowledgeable about learning opportunities, but they should also learn how to promote a growth mindset within their own team.

There’s a great TED talk by Dr. Carol Dweck that can serve as inspiration. Encouraging team members to problem solve, embracing appreciative inquiry and building confidence are all contributors to your overall culture of learning.

Include Learning in Performance Reviews

To be clear, simply the participation in professional learning should be relevant in goal setting and performance reviews. Remember, risk-taking should be rewarded.

At the start of the quarter, set professional learning goals. If this is new to your organization, be sure to provide plenty of support and resources to make this a positive and rewarding experience. Celebrate the team's successes in achieving learning goals at the end of the quarter, just like you would celebrate meeting a sales goal.

Explore Different Modes of Learning

eLearning, face-to-face training and blended learning all have their place in corporate learning. Find what works best for your organization - it might be a combination of all three!

For a company that’s new to focusing on their learning culture, a blended learning experience can be really beneficial. The face to face aspect can help keep participants engaged and supported, while the online aspect allows for flexibility in their learning.

If you have a specific learning solution in mind but aren’t sure what mode of learning is best for your audience, consult a learning coach for help finding a great fit.

Encourage Reflection

Reflection is a huge part of the learning process for the individual as well as for the success of the learning experience as a whole. Using reflection can benefit your employees, but you can also use it to assess the effectiveness of the training and better your practices.

Learning reflections can be anonymous and might simply be a survey taken at the end of a training session. Your learning solutions will evolve over time, so don’t be afraid to get feedback. Use it to your advantage to continue providing the most effective training for your workforce.

Empower individuals, Strengthen the Team

Taking the necessary steps to improve your company’s culture of learning can be overwhelming, but change happens over time. Set your team up for success by demonstrating a growth mindset and promoting the power of learning.

In a company with a high-impact learning culture, individuals are eager to share the latest tools and practices with their team, colleagues are encouraged to explore their innovative ideas and business grows from within. When you establish a positive learning culture, you empower your employees and become an unstoppable force!

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