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According to a BCG survey, 95% of companies agree that corporate learning is absolutely crucial to their future – but only 15% say L&D has been granted the high-priority status it deserves. This is where the challenge with workplace learning lies – we all know how vital it is, but understanding how to embed and leverage a culture of learning in an organization can be a struggle.
What is a learning culture?
There are many ways to define what a culture of learning means for an organization. SHRM states that a learning culture “consists of a community of workers instilled with a “growth mindset.” People not only want to learn and apply what they’ve learned to help their organization, they also feel compelled to share their knowledge with others.”
This definition gets to the core of what we’re looking at. A learning culture exists within the very DNA of your people, processes, business goals, and values. Everyone is aligned on its importance, structures are built to ensure the entire employee base is actively involved in learning, and it is strongly championed by leaders and managers. Every company has a learning culture, but do they have a positive one?
Why is a culture of learning so important?
Josh Bersin once said that “the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.” We are in a moment of rapid change in the workplace and a company’s performance can ultimately hinge on whether it can adapt, or not. Agility has formed a backbone of success, and this is massively informed by a business’s ability to cultivate work-smart employees who feel confident and able to embrace change.
A learning culture allows for this, and more.
- Employee engagement and retention: According to the LinkedIn Learning Report, 93% of organizations are worried about retention. When employees feel that their professional development is a priority, they are more likely to be motivated, committed, and satisfied in their roles. This, in turn, leads to higher retention rates and a positive work environment.
- Innovation and adaptability: In a rapidly changing business landscape, innovation and adaptability are key differentiators. A learning culture encourages employees to explore new ideas, experiment with different approaches, and stay informed about industry trends. This fosters a more agile workforce, essential for navigating the challenges of today’s dynamic markets.
- Attracting top talent: The best employees actively seek out companies that want to invest in their personal development. It shows how they value progression and can be a massive selling-point when trying to attract talent. A recent Workable survey has found that L&D and career advancement opportunities are becoming crucial in this endeavour, rising as areas of interest by 7% since 2021.
How to create (and maintain) a culture of learning
It’s one thing understanding that learning is important, but the real challenge lies in trying to establish a sustainable culture. At SocialTalent, we’ve been in the business of L&D for over 10 years, enabling hundreds of organizations to successfully embed learning into their core. And as a result, we’ve picked up a few best practices along the way!
1. Leadership buy-in
To create a culture of learning, and truly stitch it into the fabric of an organization, it has to start at the very top, at the executive level. Otherwise, it will be perceived by the rest of the company as a nice-to-have. Leaders (be that C-Suite or people managers) need to help their teams realize that L&D is part of their working day. Be the example so others can follow. Let employees know that upskilling isn’t going to be deemed a lesser use of time. The statistics back this up – 56% of employees say that they would spend more time learning if their manager suggested a course to improve skills.
Pro tip: Consider placing a compulsory learning time block in every employee’s calendar. Ensure that no meetings, customer calls, or other distractions can interfere with L&D. An approach like this signals that learning is equally as important as other work projects.
A mistake that many companies make when they’re trying to implement learning is not talking to their teams about it. Often, in the excitement to roll out new training, many organizations fail to ask foundational questions like:
- What is your current capacity for learning and development?
- How much time can you devote?
- What additional skills and knowledge do you need?
- How do you like to learn?
Good communication and a buy-in from the people actually doing the courses is an integral step to success. If your teams are struggling with their current workloads, just assuming that they’ll take on additional L&D isn’t going to help with engagement and implementation.
3. Collaboration and engagement
We’re all in this together, right? Being siloed away to do your learning as a solitary mission is never as engaging as bringing it into groups. The most successful learning cultures are the ones with a lot of activity around the training. Think about:
- Assigning a learning buddy; someone who can act as a sounding board but also bring a level of accountability.
- Customers of SocialTalent, like Nokia for example, create group watch parties so everyone can learn at the same time in a more engaging environment.
- Allocate 10 minutes in an already established team meeting to discuss learning.
- Make learning more of an event – encourage your team to undertake particular learning paths in a quarter and ask them to report back to the team about how embedded this training into their roles.
Only 20% of organizations facilitate collaborative learning in the workplace – it is a vastly underused (and increasingly essential) component of effective L&D.
4. Time management
According to a LinkedIn survey, getting employees to make time for learning is the number one challenge facing talent development. It’s not hard to understand how this happens either, “real work” will always seems to take precedence. Here are two essential ways to stretch and optimize your time to incorporate L&D:
Time blocking: Instead of letting to-do lists grow or allowing flimsy post-it notes to be your reminder, actively designate time in your diary for learning. Perhaps there’s 15-minutes at the start of each day you can lock in? Or you have a block of time on Friday that you can dedicate? No matter what the calendar looks like – you can be intentional and find time to plot in your learning.
Bite size learning: We are HUGE advocates of this at SocialTalent. Josh Bersin once reported that the average amount of time an employee has for learning each week is 24 minutes. It seems like such a small amount of time, but used effectively, this can be enough to build a consistent habit into your routine. Consistently undertaking small chunks of learning also helps improve retention of knowledge!
SocialTalent’s Director of Content, Holly Fawcett, spoke with Sabrina Pittaluga about how she helps her team in BCG carve out time for learning:
5. Recognize and reward
Acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of employees who actively engage in learning. This could involve creating a recognition program, highlighting learning milestones during team meetings, or offering incentives for completing certain training programs. Recognizing and rewarding learning achievements reinforces the importance of continuous development.
6. Measure and track the metrics
You cannot improve what you cannot measure. Start by Implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the impact of learning initiatives on individual and organizational performance. Measure metrics such as employee satisfaction, productivity, and completion rates to see the effectiveness of the learning culture. And regularly review this data to make informed adjustments to your learning strategies.
Building a culture of learning is an ongoing journey that requires commitment, leadership, and a strategic approach. Companies that prioritize continuous learning position themselves for long-term success by fostering engaged employees, driving innovation, and attracting top talent. By implementing the actionable tips outlined above, organizations can create an environment where learning is not just a task but a fundamental aspect of the company’s DNA. Embrace the power of continuous learning, and watch as your company thrives in the face of change and uncertainty.
Want to learn more about SocialTalent? Talk to our team today!