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 can 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 by sharing 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

Establishing a culture of learning varies across a spectrum, and assessing the strength of your learning culture can guide your next steps. Certain indicators can help determine not only the effectiveness of your learning culture but also its level of strength.

Look for these signs in your organization:

Managers Are Coaches

Coaching is a reoccurring topic of discussion in webinars, blogs, ebooks, and other resources at BizLibrary due to its significant connection with organizational growth and longevity.

According to a study conducted by Zenger Folkman, there is a significant impact on employee retention based on the coaching abilities of their managers. The research reveals that 60% of employees working under managers perceived as ineffective coaches are actively exploring new job opportunities. In contrast, only 22% of employees under managers identified as effective coaches are actively seeking alternative employment.

Additionally, according to Josh Bersin, organizations benefit significantly when their leaders excel in coaching skills. The research indicates that businesses with leaders who are effective coaches experience a notable improvement in business results, with a positive impact of 21%, as compared to organizations where coaching proficiency among leaders is lacking.

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

Training might still occur in company cultures that don’t emphasize learning, 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 to actively encourage and facilitate 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 effect.

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 through 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.