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Learning culture

Learning culture

Table of Contents

    These days most companies know how important continuous learning is for their organization to achieve its goals. 

    Developing a learning culture is paramount to keeping employees engaged, productive, and empowered to innovate.

    Despite this, a large number of organizations have not yet adopted a culture of learning. 

    In this guide, you’ll discover:

    • What a learning culture is 
    • The benefits of a learning culture 
    • How to build one in eight steps 

    And more. 

    Now, let’s jump right in. 


    What is a learning culture?

    A learning culture is a set of practices, values, and processes in a company to encourage constant growth of learning and development. More importantly, it’s a mindset that fosters individual and organizational learning through knowledge sharing.


    This way, employees become lifelong learners and improve their performance. In turn, this boosts the performance of the entire organization.

    Companies with strong learning cultures understand the importance of integrating this culture into the business, ensuring it becomes part of the ecosystem.

    New research from Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) shows us that cultures of learning are hallmarks of companies that consistently produce the best business results.

    Simply put, a true learning culture is all about fully ingraining learning into an organization so that constantly acquiring and applying new skills becomes a way of working and living.

    In the next section, we’ll tell you why all of this is so important and the four benefits you can expect from building a learning culture mindset in your business.

    Why is it important to build a learning culture in an organization?

    The likes of Google have adopted the framework of learning culture. 

    But if that doesn’t convince you, how about this study from Deloitte

    It found that companies which have a robust learning culture are 92% more likely to invent new products and processes.

    Not to mention they are also 52% more productive. 

    Most importantly, these companies are 17% more profitable than their competition.

    At the moment, only 31% of companies have a learning culture, so the time is right to jump in and achieve a competitive advantage. 

    With so many benefits, it’s no wonder learning culture is fast becoming the hallmark of a successful business.

    So, let’s look at the four main benefits you can look forward to.


    Benefit #1: Increase your  productivity

    Any company in the world would go to great lengths to boost productivity. 

    Cultivating a learning culture is a great way to boost performance, as the Deloitte study mentioned above demonstrates. 

    When organizations ignore the importance of learning, employees only worry about getting the work done. They don’t innovate, and they don’t improve. 

    But if you place employee learning at the core of your organization, then you will have team members eager to experiment, absorb information, and analyze work processes. When this comes together, better ways to do things emerge. 


    Benefit #2: Boost employee engagement

    Today’s employees want to feel engaged in their workplace, yet many companies still struggle. 

    Prioritizing learning and skill acquisition is a great way to show employees that your organization cares about their career development. 

    People need to learn new skills to grow, and when an organization allows that, then it will attract quality talent with a growth mindset. 

    Opportunities for professional development can take on many forms: from structured on-the-job training to formal and informal feedback. Whether it’s in-person or online, learner retention is higher when employees are engaged in training programs.

    More than just a learning strategy, learning should be woven into the company culture.


    Benefit #3: Become more agile

    Today’s markets move at a breakneck pace. So do innovation and development. 

    Your learning culture can help you excel in this area. What better way to stay abreast of new technology and developments than to add continuous learning to your organizational values?

    It’s quite simple.

    If your employees are learning all the time, they will be ahead of those in companies that aren’t. That represents a significant competitive advantage.


    Benefit #4: Drive innovation at every level

    Let’s talk innovation. Organizations with a robust learning culture are 92% more likely to innovate in processes and products (see the study we mentioned earlier). They’re also 52% more likely to bring these to market first.

    Process innovation is especially important as it relates to productivity. 

    If your employees feel confident about suggesting new ideas and improvements without the fear of rejection, there’s a good chance some of these ideas will turn out to be winners.

    Whether they result in streamlining what was once a pain point in your work processes or a totally new product—your company wins.

    In the next section, we’ll drill down into exactly how you can kick-start a learning culture in your organization in eight steps.


    How to create a learning culture in the workplace in 8 simple ways

    Creating a learning culture is one of the best things you can do to increase key performance metrics in your organization.

    Investing in learning and development initiatives and crafting learning experiences for your employees is not as hard as it might look at first glance.

    So let’s get on with the eight simple ways to do it.


    #1: Focus on KSAs

    KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are good, so we’re not going to have a go at them too much. 

    But focusing solely on key performance indicators can stress people out and prevent them from evolving professionally and personally.

    Learning experts suggest that you should also focus on KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities). 

    This is a way for your workforce to understand that the organization expects them to learn and experiment. Most importantly, KSAs should not just be for formal training. 

    The goal is to create a company culture that encourages employees to constantly improve their KSAs. This benefits both employees and the entire organization.


    #2: Top-down, bottom-up, and company-wide

    Unlike traditional training, a type of formal learning that goes from the top to the bottom, a learning culture must be present at every level of the organization.

    This means the top management has to show everyone that learning, experimenting, and failing are okay. 

    It means turning the entire organization into a learning environment. For this to happen, everyone must be on board.

    Middle managers are key to a good learning culture as they have the most contact with the workers. They should actively participate in the learning culture by helping employees achieve their KSAs. 

    Ultimately, this creates an atmosphere of knowledge sharing in which every organization member needs to take part.


    #3: Use a Learning Management System (LMS)

    Let’s face it. Effective learning is not easy. 

    There are only so many hours in a working day for your employees to attend training, webinars, etc., while also completing their primary job tasks.

    An LMS, such as Docebo, can help keep your learning culture on track by offering real ROI in terms of time savings, reducing training costs, and freeing up time to focus on high-level strategy. 

    LMSs are powerful tools to help you design, manage, and track the performance of your learning experiences.

    #4: Measure the impact of your efforts and iterate based on results

    Learning is a matter of culture, so you can’t necessarily quantify and measure all aspects of it. 

    This is why it’s important to measure what you can. 

    It can be hard to gauge any of this in the short term, but in the medium and long term, there are ways to see how your efforts foster a learning culture and resonate with employees.

    Some of them are:

    • Employee engagement surveys 
    • Target studies on specific learning programs
    • Measuring the effectiveness of different learning channels (i.e., how many people are accessing the available e-learning courses?)

    We’ll go into more detail on how to measure the effectiveness of learning culture in the next two sections. 


    #5: Identify and close learning gaps

    A knowledge gap is a mismatch between what an employee needs to know and what they know.

    Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to identify these, and in all honesty— most are failing. 

    According to experts, companies are spending as much as 11% more on training per person than what would be cost-effective.

    This is why identifying learning gaps is a key step in creating a learning culture. Think about what you would want your employees to know to meet future business goals, then check if they know it.

    Identifying and plugging skills gaps will make it easier to upskill employees and futureproof your business. Plus, open communication, experimentation, and continuous learning are hallmarks of a learning culture. 

    Some of the leading LMSs, such as Docebo, come with tools to identify skills gaps and address them with targeted training courses. 


    #6: Cultivate a growth mindset

    All the fancy LMSs, webinars, and enterprise e-learning courses you might offer to your employees are meaningless without a growth mindset underpinning it all.

    What is a growth mindset in the first place?

    It’s the belief that a person’s knowledge and skills can improve through dedication, discipline, and work. It’s the opposite of a fixed mindset that believes these qualities are set in stone and that no amount of effort can change them.

    Those with a growth mindset understand that talent is only the beginning. They have a love of learning and a keen interest in their career development.

    This is the mindset that you want to foster as it allows people to understand that organizational change starts with individuals. 


    #7: Treat failures as learning opportunities

    Here’s one thing both scientists and entrepreneurs agree on: failing is the stepping stone to success. 

    Most experiments fail. A lot of new products tank. 

    Jeff Bezos lost billions of dollars on the ill-fated Fire Phone. Google Buzz failed to be a Twitter-killer. 

    Nevertheless, the good parts of those failures live on in other products, and the acquired know-how from R&D doesn’t just dissipate if the product fails.

    Apply this to your learning culture. Let people take reasonable risks and feel confident that there won’t be any sanctions for mistakes made in the pursuit of learning.


    #8: Level up your hiring process

    Creating a learning culture starts with hiring. 

    You want people who are curious, who want to learn, and who are comfortable with taking risks.

    Studies have shown that a “hungry mind” is an important pillar of learning and that people perform their best when their activity is aligned with their interests.

    Your human resource (HR) department needs to adopt processes and policies that bring the right people into your organization. 

    Structured interviews are a great way to judge a potential new hire’s attitude to learning, risk-taking, and motivation. 

    This way you can find individuals with intrinsic motivation, eager to experiment and identify ways to improve the organization.

    In the next section, we go over the signs of a learning culture.


    How do you know if you have a learning culture?

    There are a few telltale signs that your company has a learning culture. Is learning a value in your mission statement? That’s a sign your organization has cultivated a learning culture. 

    Do employees confidently share their knowledge with their peers? Chances are you’re onto a winner. 

    Here are additional ways to check if you have a learning culture:

    • Leaders communicate the importance of learning and hold managers accountable for applying learning in the organization
    • Your managers engage in constant coaching
    • You have a learning platform in your HR stack
    • You give each team member equal access to learning opportunities
    • Employees can see how their learning efforts align with the organization’s business goals
    • You have embraced the concept of transparent, two-way feedback

    The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you some pointers as to what a learning culture looks like in practice.

    On to the next section, where we will tell you how to measure learning culture in your business.


    How is learning culture measured?

    As with any investment, measuring the ROI of your learning culture and learning outcomes is important.

    One way to do this is to add learning metrics to your human resource dashboard. 

    Use data from employee surveys about the quality of learning experiences. 

    Also, consider tracking the data on the learning modules themselves: how many are you offering, and how many employees have participated? If you’re using an LMS to deliver training, you can pull detailed reports on all the essential learning metrics.

    Data from HR is useful to see how undergoing training or participating in other learning activities has increased employee productivity and performance.

    There are four key indicators of learning culture to measure:

    • Managers’ involvement in developing their team
    • Amount of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and learning
    • Quantity of learning resources and available development opportunities
    • How strong the learning agility is in your organization: the capacity and motivation to learn 

    In addition, is it worth tying learning culture to the overall success of your business? After five years of building your learning culture, have you hit more business goals than before?

    Now, it’s time to recap all that we learned. That’s in the next section.


    Now over to you

    Establishing a learning culture has many benefits: from tangible increases in productivity and business goals to helping engage and grow your employees

    The key pillars are open communication, a growth mindset, and involvement in learning at every level of an organization.

    Using LMSs also contributes to nurturing a culture of learning and measuring its impact. 

    To learn about how LMSs can help you create a learning culture in your organization, schedule a demo with Docebo.