A Strong Culture of Learning Drives Organizational Success

New Association for Talent Development research finds that high-performing organizations are more likely to have formal heads of talent development and a culture of learning.

Organizations with learning cultures are more likely to realize positive business results, according to Developing a Culture of Learning: Strategies for Organizational Achievement, a new research report published by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and sponsored by Schoox.

ATD defines a culture of learning as “an organizational culture in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.”

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When senior leaders communicated the importance of learning to a high or very high extent (20 percent), their organizations tended to be high performers. “It is concerning that at 27 percent of organizations, senior leaders communicated the importance of learning to a low extent or not at all. As a result, these organizations are significantly less likely to be high performers,” the report acknowledged.

Organizations with a formal head of talent development, regardless of whether that person was a member of the senior leader or executive team, were significantly more likely to be high performers. About three-quarters of organizations had a formal head of talent development or learning. At 34 percent of organizations, this person was a member of the senior leadership or executive team.

“Research shows that having an individual accountable for talent development can help drive alignment between learning goals and business goals, meaning learning is more likely to be applied so it drives organizational performance,” according to the report. “The research found that, on average, high performing organizations reported their talent development staff had higher proficiency across four areas—training delivery, instructional design, learning technology application, and evaluating learning impact—than lower-performing organizations.”

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Other key findings from the report include:

  • When it came to encouraging learning or supporting learning application and skill transfer, organizations where managers did it to a high extent were much more likely to be high performers.
  • According to respondents, the most significant barrier to a culture of learning was a lack of time for learning. However, organizations that allowed employees to use paid work time for learning were more likely to be high performers.
  • Research shows that offering individual development plans is associated with better performance and offers additional organizational benefits. A considerable 69 percent of organizations overall offered IDPs, but a lower 28 percent offered them for all employees. An IDP is a written plan that lays out the expected skills, knowledge, or competencies that an individual employee will need to develop in a set time frame (such as during the next quarter or year).
  • Successful organizations were more likely to engage in activities such as applying for public awards and partnering with other organizations such as nonprofits and government entities. They also recognize and reward their own employees who exhibit learning behaviors and seek to integrate learning into the hiring process. ATD’s BEST awards are examples of awards related to learning.

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