Creating a learning culture could be the single most important thing you do to impact your organization’s performance. Its impact cuts across the entire organization – from brand reputation to employee retention to profitability. Now I’ve got your attention, let’s start with a little learning.

What is a learning culture?

A learning culture is a corporate environment that supports continuous learning. An environment that catalyzes innovation, an organization which prioritizes knowledge acquisition and values the application of this knowledge in order to achieve company-wide goals.

Having a learning culture means that employees are focused on acquiring new knowledge and skills that will maximize their potential and increase their productivity in their roles.

Demystifying the Modern Learner

How technology and new learning preferences are shaping modern-day learning

What is the point of creating a learning culture?

Employees will be more receptive to change, more engaged with training initiatives, will perform better, will be happier, more productive, and will help improve the bottom line.

Learning is key to improving performance in the long-term and organizations must aim for a culture of continuous improvement. Keeping pace with technological advances also requires the need for continuous training, for learning new skills and behaviors.

An appreciative learning culture aims to transform an organization into one that learns from their mistakes, an organization that sees mistakes as learning opportunities and an organization that is agile in adapting to new everyday work processes.

Further reading

The Role of Leadership in Creating a Culture of Learning

7 Learning Psychology Routes to Effective Training

This is an organization that holds its talent in high regard, an organization that is determined to optimize its talent so they can perform at the highest level.

What are the benefits of creating a learning culture?

A culture of learning empowers team members and improves performance.

It creates a positive learning culture within the organization meaning that employees are more likely to embrace change and feel invested in implementing changes.

It helps to attract and maintain talent in the organization. It maximizes an employees’ potential as it invests in their talent which maximizes performance.

It encourages innovation and creative thinking, a company that innovates is a company that can lead in its market.

Creating a learning culture means generating new ways of looking at the world, thinking outside of the box, looking at problems as one piece of the jigsaw that needs to be solved.

An appreciative learning culture helps an organization shape its direction and future through knowledge creation and learning.

Harnessing employee potential

The most important skill that an employee can possess is a willingness to create, acquire, apply and transfer new knowledge and skills to their job role.

The business of the new knowledge economy is the creation of new knowledge.

Knowledge is the biggest and most critical strategic asset for any organization, and the investment an organization makes harnessing that knowledge will pay dividends.

A successful learning culture will generate autonomous, empowered, engaged and enthused learners who create personalized learning paths based on individual needs.

Employees who access learning libraries, who seek out experts for mentoring, who are hungry for new knowledge.

That is the dream, and with tools available, it’s a realistic dream to achieve.

How can L&D create an environment that fosters innovation and learning?

Modern globalized organizations must create situations where their employees can continuously learn, apply that learning and experiment with different approaches to achieve the end goal.

Compelling, innovative and accessible training experiences that reflect the culture and values of the company itself.

Further reading

The Role of Leadership in Creating a Culture of Learning

7 Learning Psychology Routes to Effective Training

As a first step, L&D must define the vision they have for their learning culture.

Formulate a strategy that moves the learning paradigm from Adaptive learning (learning that focuses on solving an existing problem without question the framework that generated that problems) to Generative learning.

Generative learning goes far beyond solving one problem, it asks learners to think outside of the box, to focus on more innovative solutions and more radical possibilities.

Promoting the following three competencies can lead to the creation of a thriving learning culture:

  • Affirmative competence

This is the ability to focus on what the organization has done well in the past and what they are doing well now.

How can we show affirmative competence? Celebrate achievements, pay direct attention to strengths, have positive expectations for what can be achieved.

  • Generative competence

Ensure that elaborate and timely feedback is given, show that the day to day tasks are making a difference, that team efforts are contributing to a shared goal.

This will give your professionals hope and empower them.

  • Collaborative competence

Foster dialogue, improve accessibility, foster disruption, the right to question norms, encourage your professionals to think creatively.

Employees must feel able to express opinions and know that their managers are responsive.

8 tips for creating a learning culture

These tips will empower your employees to embrace learning and change. 

1.  Champion learning 

Make learning part of your KPIs. Build it into your employees day to day by giving them opportunities and time to learn.

Emphasize the importance of learning and training and personal development. Lead by example, set up collaborative groups where learning can be shared with colleagues.

2.  Establish a supportive environment

Establish an environment where novel and disruptive ideas are embraced and valued.

An innovative environment that encourages risk-takers, that looks for ideas that welcome change. A safe supportive environment where mistakes are seen as an essential part of the learning cycle, as learning opportunities for the group.

3.  Set up a reward system that supports learning cultures

Motivate your learners through praise and acknowledgment of their achievements, show them how their contributions are shaping the organization’s future.

4.  Ensure a transparent environment

Learning cultures thrive on shared knowledge.

Allow a free flow of information in the organization, a real-time roadmap which employees can access with shared findings and evaluations. Where they can see how their ideas have been incorporated into the organization.

Demystifying the Modern Learner

How technology and new learning preferences are shaping modern-day learning

5.  Ensure leadership reinforces learning

Leaders must have a clearly defined vision of the transformation needed in the company.

They must have clearly defined and measurable objectives in a plan that is aligned with their vision. A plan that is designed to engage and motivate employees to learn. Link corporate learning to key strategic imperatives.

6. Create opportunities for everyone to participate

Demonstrate that personal insights are embraced, that leadership encourages the participation of managers and employees in their planning. Build a learning culture of trust and support.

This could be done through departmental/team sessions. Escaping the “routine” of the office bringing people together for an often referred to “off-site” can help employees to think differently. 

7.  Facilitate the accessibility of learning

New technologies are being seamlessly woven into the fabric of training programs, the smartphone has become a ubiquitous learning tool that is harnessed by learners all around the globe.

The Modern Learner’s dependence on their phone as the go-to-place for information retrieval has been well-documented, so it is entirely logical that the popularity and accessibility of digital training are growing exponentially as a democratic solution for language learning and skills programs.

8.  Promote informal learning

Social and collaborative learning which takes place outside the more formal virtual classroom is key.

Harness more informal supporting content from outside the official library. Set up a business book club, where learners can share their thoughts on new ideas, can promote websites that they’ve found valuable to their learning.

There is no one-size fits all 

Learning cultures open the doors to a happier, more engaged workforce who will actively seek to generate new learning experiences and who have a need to share that learning with colleagues. There is no one-size fits all learning culture, and L&D should aim to keep employee development and satisfaction at the heart of the learning experience.