Developing and Maintaining a Learning Culture: 4 Steps You Can Take

By Brent Colescott, Senior Director of Business Strategy and Transformation, SumTotal

The future is not certain, but organizations can prepare themselves by investing in their employees. Developing an organization with a culture of learning will result in a more adaptable and curious team, where employees are eager to pursue and apply new skills.

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But how can you create a culture committed to learning? Establish continuous access to new skills or enhancement of existing ones. In this environment, learning will come naturally and become a part of the day-to-day for individuals at every level of the organization.

The benefits of learning

Learning does play a critically important role in helping businesses survive and even thrive in times of uncertainty. In fact, a PwC 2020 study found that almost three-quarters of CEOs express concern about critical skills lacking in their workforce.

The skills needed in today’s world are changing quickly, thanks to technology and automation. The organizations that will smoothly navigate this constantly changing world of work are those that develop employees with a passion for learning and a desire to work with agility. Organizations that invest in employee learning can develop and retain talent in a competitive environment. In contrast, those who do not actively provide employee skills development are less likely to develop a robust, loyal staff.

With this in mind, it’s natural to wonder how exactly an organization creates a learning culture. Well, there are four actions to take that can make this a reality.

  1. Learning must be customized and accessible.

From onboarding through retirement, employees should never wonder how or where they can access learning content. The availability of tools and resources must be baked into the company culture. The content must be available in an “anytime, anywhere” manner, tailored to run on any device, mobile or web.

It is also essential to remember that not everyone learns the same way. By providing customizable training methods – like virtual instructor-led training, on-demand resources, and micro-learning assets – you will want to offer each employee a personalized journey. Also important is to provide some insight into the benefit of these resources. Let employees know how trainings will play a role in their career journeys and empower them to self-direct learning and find content they are interested in to further their development.

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  1. Demonstrate value.

Show your teams why learning is valuable to them and the business. Leadership needs to buy-in to the value and express that across the board. If the most visible members of an organization overlook the importance of learning, others will likely follow suit. Share your learning experiences with employees: write a blog, post to LinkedIn, or share some thoughts to the companywide email chain. Be the evangelists for your program, and encourage others to do the same.

  1. Enjoy the experience and honor participants.

Reward and celebrate success. When individual learners reach a significant stage in their training, publicize it on your internal channels. Organizations that go as far as hosting a companywide learning conference or have monthly check-ins where employees share their learning experiences will see more engagement across the board as learning continues to seep into the culture. Think of gamification tactics of gentle team competition – incentivize people to do their best – and be their best. If it’s in your company’s budget, it may even be worth it to tie individual learning progress to a financial incentive that encourages action.

  1. Don’t forget to measure success and adapt as you go.

Learning is a constantly evolving process. It will never be done, and no strategy will be perfect forever. Make sure your plans are meeting the needs of the individuals and the business by tracking learning metrics. Some will measure learning minutes or hours per month on an individual, team, and companywide basis, while others will focus on courses completed and certifications earned. Dig into which trainings are popular with your teams and which aren’t, noting how this alters between business groups. Draw performance comparisons to see who has taken a lot of training and who has not; based on this you can see if the learning is impactful.

Tracking this data through the lens of retention will also be helpful. Take a look at how access to learning and course completion may be related to employee turnover. Regularly ask learners for their opinion, ranging from how they rate the availability of learning to the quality, scope, and efficacy. This can be done through polls and surveys – employee input is essential to maintaining a steady flow of improvement to the learning experience. It also shows your teams that you care about how they are engaging with the material and value their input. Make these insights public to ensure your team sees the value of responses and develops thoughtful replies in the future.

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In a world changing quickly, having a growth and learning-oriented mindset will be essential to success. Those who commit now to a robust plan for leaning and development and create a culture of learning will find themselves better suited to navigate conflict, avoid employee turnover, and develop a future-ready set of employees.