We think of learning as something that happens in a school classroom. Once we step out of the classroom and into the workplace, learning comes to a halt. But to keep up with the changing workplace, we need to be continuously learning.
In fact, leading economists believe that upskilling and reskilling employees is vital for businesses to remain competitive and efficient. But how do you ensure every member is acquiring the knowledge they need?
The answer: a learning culture.
Let’s unpack what a learning culture is and look at why it’s so important in the modern workplace.
What is a culture of learning?
Every business has its own company culture. A set of ideas, practices and values that informs the organisation’s actions and the habits of employees.
Now to have a culture of learning means learning and development is an integral part of your organisation. A thirst for knowledge, upskilling and development is apparent within your talent and celebrated by leaders. Your business prioritises and celebrates personal development, upskilling and sharing knowledge.
A culture where learning is embedded across the organisation sounds like every L&D professional’s dream.
So what does this look like in practice? Well, it could be anything from hosting workshops or webinars, to offering daily doses of microlearning. The possibilities are endless and we dig deeper here.
Why is a learning culture important?
In today’s environment, a culture of learning is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a must-have. You can quickly fall behind your competitors if you don't commit to continuous learning.
So let’s breakdown why it’s crucial to have a learning culture and the benefits:
1. Increased Employee Engagement and Retention
Employees no longer want just a stable job. They want the chance to develop and upgrade their knowledge and career. A positive learning culture enables employees to feel a sense of fulfilment and growth. This growth can translate to increased employee loyalty.
In fact, a report from Linkedin found that 94% of employees said investment in training and development is one of the major reasons they would decide to stay at a company for longer.
2. Increased Organisational Success
A culture of learning doesn’t only benefit employees, but the organisation as a whole. According to Mckinsey’s recent insights, creating a learning culture drives businesses forward. A report by CIPD has found that organisations with the most effective learning cultures have increased productivity and profitability.
The reason is very simple - by committing to your employees continuous development every new skill they learn, they will practice in your organisation.
Through investing in learning and development, you’re investing in your company!
3. Tackling the Skills Gap
Organisations which encourage a culture of continuous learning will build a flexible and agile workforce that are able to tackle new challenges. The commitment to furthering your existing employees' knowledge will also negate the costs of hiring and training new talent.
The skills gaps issue is a very real threat facing organisations today and over the next five years, but organisations who have a committed and positive learning culture will be ahead of the curve for years to come.
How do you create a learning culture in your organisation?
CIPD found that “98% of learning and development practitioners wish to develop a positive culture for learning but only 36% feel like they’ve developed one.” If you’re one of the 62%, what can you do to change this?
Here’s what top L&D professionals suggest to cultivate your learning culture:
1. Micro-learning to build habits
Winning the attention of your employees to kickstart learning culture can be a challenge. Between looming deadlines and busy timetables, employees struggle to finish long-form courses and make time for learning.
Here’s where our hero comes in: microlearning. Just enough information at just the right time. This little and often strategy helps employees build a learning habit to drive learning culture and innovation.
2. Give power to your people
Put your talent at the forefront of their learning. Learning doesn’t always need to be delegated or assigned - it begins to feel like a chore. And when learning feels like a chore, information is less likely to be retained.
Instead give control to your employees to learn what they want and when they want. Empower your employees to personalise their own learning path and apply the learning at work.
3. Make learning fun and social
It’s no secret that when something is fun we want to do it more often! That’s why learning doesn’t need to be too serious. Injecting a sense of fun in training and development is fantastic for employee engagement and building a learning culture.
4. Use a variety of learning methods
Traditional formal training should be one feature, not the entire package. Why? Because learning is not one size fits all.
Mix things up and use different learning methods to engage and attract various types of learners across your organisation. The learning content you offer should also be diverse and cover a wide variety of subject matters and skill sets.
And it’s no surprise, we’d recommend our own 13,000+ micro-lesson library across hundreds of skills in audio and video formats
What are the characteristics of a learning culture in an organisation?
Do you have a learning culture? How do you know? We made a handy quiz to help you learn more about your own culture.
Here are some common characteristics to look for a thriving learning culture:
- A learning culture is not built on a top-down structure. Both managers and employees need to work in synergy for a thriving learning culture. For example, engaging and sharing knowledge, resources and ideas.
- Companies need to have habits and practices that promote reflection, learning and career development. For example, personal development plans and assessing learning activity in one-to-one meetings.
- Companies need to value continuous learning and recognise achievements.
How can leadership promote a learning culture within the organisation?
1. Make learning an explicit priority
When leadership demonstrates a willingness to learn, grow and gain knowledge, it’s no surprise that employees feel emboldened to do the same. Leaders need to signal that learning is a real priority - less talk, more action.
So send clear signals to your workforce to show you’re all in, such as:
- Making sure everyone has designated learning time built into their work schedule
- Knowledge sharing exercises, such as lunch and learns.
- Setting up learning committees (for eg Slack channel) so employees can share and discuss learning resources and lessons
2. Creating a psychologically safe environment to learn
Are you fostering the trust and collaboration needed to sustain a strong learning culture?
Psychological safety at work is the belief that you won’t be embarrassed or punished for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. This enables employees to feel welcome to ask questions, explore and risk take, which creates an optimal learning environment.
By allowing for openness, you are encouraging your team to be creative and innovative in their problem solving skills. This will lead to a stronger organization that puts learning at the forefront - which ultimately results in productivity, growth and efficiency.
So encourage your team and leaders to open up about their mistakes and ‘failing-forward’ stories to foster an open learning culture.
3. Encourage valuable feedback
For an effective learning culture, communication and feedback between all levels of the organisation is essential and encouraged.
When feedback and guidance becomes a regular part of conversations, employees become aware of their personal development. This results in better performance and less surprises at annual performance reviews.
So encourage your employees to give and seek developmental feedback. And make sure performance reviews and 1:1s include evaluating learning needs.
Workplace learning is changing. It is no longer about a single course or long workshop that employees must take. It goes beyond that. It’s about cementing continuous learning and building a learning culture to support it.
Hopefully these steps will support you to build a lifelong culture of learning in your organisation. 🚀