Organizational Culture

Creating a Learning Culture for a More Adaptable Organization

Culture of learning among employees

As the modern workplace includes more and more remote employees and virtual work, now is a great time to examine your company culture and see how you can create a learning culture in your organization.

A culture that prizes learning adapts to changes quickly and without losing productivity, can pick up and gain new skills as they become necessary to remain competitively viable, and are able to expand their hiring pool with the confidence that they can overcome any skill gaps.

On their website, SHRM writes:

“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.”

Consider how this might impact an organization – in a learning culture, employees actively develop each other through the sharing of information. This means that problems get solved quickly, and for training managers, this paradigm means that you can focus on formal learning, while your culture of learning takes care of informal learning moments on its own.

Here are some of the signs of a learning culture, and how you can build a culture of learning in your workplace!

Knowing the Signs of a Learning Culture

A learning culture exists on a spectrum, and knowing how strong your learning culture is can help you decide your next step. There are some signs to look out for that will indicate not only whether you have an effective learning culture, but also, how strong that learning culture is.

Look for these signs in your organization:

Managers Are Coaches

We talk about coaching a lot, from webinars on the subject to free ebooks, and we dedicate a lot of time to coaching because it’s important to our organization’s growth and effectiveness.

A study from Zenger Folkman found that 60% of employees who report to a manager who they don’t consider a good coach are actively seeking new employment, while only 22% of employees who report to managers who they consider good coaches are actively seeking new opportunities.

A Bersin study on coaching found that organizations who have leaders who are effective coaches improve business results by 21% compared to organizations with poor coaches.

Leaders Are Actively Recruiting New Employees

In a learning culture, leaders have a keen understanding of the skills and abilities needed by employees. Consider technical skills for a software company, as an example.

In an organization where leaders have not asked questions and learned everything about the software they are helping to sell, they will likely lack an in-depth understanding of the product and how it works, from a technical standpoint.

Thus, when it comes to recruiting, they might know that a good candidate will have good coding skills, but probably won’t know specifics.

A leader who really dives in and tries to understand a product will quickly learn what scripting languages the product is built on – and can help recruit with much more specificity – compare “We need someone who can code” with “We need someone who has familiarity with SQL and server-side Javascript.”

The more leaders understand each role specifically, the more they can help with recruiting and finding the best employees for the job. That depth of understanding only comes from a culture where employees actively share information and educate one another, regardless of seniority level.

There Are a Variety of Ways That Learning Occurs

In company cultures that don’t emphasize learning, training might still occur, but it’s a more formal process that typically exists only on employer-sanctioned channels.

That means that a training program isn’t enough to build a learning culture – it requires leaders and training managers actively encouraging and facilitating learning with their employees.

At Google, there’s a famous policy called “20% time.”

This policy encouraged employees to spend 20% of their time – one day a week – on personal projects. You might use many of these personal projects today – Gmail, GoogleTalk, and AdSense are all the result of Google encouraging employees to explore their personal interests and learn how they could build better solutions.

Steps to Build Your Learning Culture

Now that you know a little bit about what a learning culture looks like, you may be wondering how you can establish such a culture in your organization. Consider how learning is done at your organization today.

Is learning a one-way, one-channel process, or are there multiple ways you celebrate and empower employee learning?

Building more channels to facilitate learning doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. For instance, creating a book club for managers to read and discuss new management books encourages extra learning and discussion, and allows managers to share the strategies that worked for them, and get feedback on how they can use new strategies they’ve learned to greater effects.

An online learning platform can also be a powerful way to encourage employees to learn and share what they’ve learned with other employees.

Let’s say, for instance, that an employee who is in charge of your company’s social media strategy wants to learn a few new ways to encourage people to comment on your company’s LinkedIn posts.

In a culture without frequent informal learning, unless that content is pushed to a learner, they might never find the lessons they’re looking for.

In a learning culture, an employee is empowered to share their struggles with their teammates, source ideas and knowledge from colleagues, find the knowledge they need, be it articles, streaming training videos, or from conversations with managers, and spread their knowledge through new conversations with managers and their peers.

Learning cultures are powerful tools for adaptability and improvements to business, and as they grow, they become self-sustaining sources of cutting-edge information that can give your company a powerful boost, even in the most competitive markets.

To really understand how learning cultures are built, check out our free webinar with experts who’ve made it happen in their organizations:

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.