How to develop a learning culture in the workplace

How to develop a learning culture in the workplace

Leadership is a conversation, and the cultures of organisations are largely shaped by the ways in which they are led. We need to initiate conversations around the skills our people need to thrive in the Future of Work and create cultures of continuous learning.

Over the past 2+ years, everyone has been challenged to adapt. From a learning standpoint, it has allowed us to prove the theory that learning should be blended into the flow of work and experiential. To prepare for the future, we must be in a constant state of learning and master how to develop a learning culture in the workplace.

How to create a true learning culture

In a workplace learning culture, just-in-time learning isn’t enough. Employees need consistent guidance on the skills and capabilities needed for their current roles and future career steps. In this article, we discuss how to cultivate a positive environment in the workplace by first identifying the right motivating factors and the level of guidance and support required to develop a culture of continuous learning This also includes goal-setting, manager support through feedback and celebrating accomplishments.

What is a learning culture?

The Corporate Executives Board – a subsidiary to Gartner – (CEB) defines a learning culture as “a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization.” It ultimately suggests that a learning culture can create a space of open communication and an opportunity to explore new ideas without the fear of rejection or judgement.

If the past few years have taught businesses anything, it’s that flexible and agile work environments thrive through adversity. Research by Harvard Business Review supports this contention highlighting the trend towards prioritising learning “to promote innovation and agility as businesses respond to increasingly less predictable and more complex environments.”

Continually evolving company culture, with an emphasis on learning and innovation, should be one of the biggest priorities for business leaders in today’s rapidly evolving climate, in which the requirement to engage and retain talent is fiercer than ever.

What are the benefits of a learning culture in the workplace?

Organisations need to invest in the learning and development of their workforce to stay future-fit in the complex and competitive world of work.

Creating a supportive environment for learning is key to improving the employee experience and moving your business forward because it can drive skill development, agility, responsiveness, and revenue — all items on any CEO’s agenda.

Steps for leaders to cultivate a workplace culture of continuous learning

Learning isn’t just about good educational content. It’s about how your employees find and consume that content. The way people learn and the opportunities they have to practice new skills are equally as important. Instead of creating more content, learning and development teams need to shift their focus to creating the conditions for continuous learning.

Learning and development plans

A clear training and development strategy acts as an effective learning road map for leaders and employees to diversify their career growth. When organisations and their executive teams commit to a learning or professional development plan, it sends a message to employees that they are valuable and worth investing in.

Inkling insight: Team leaders need to understand the importance of creating a learning culture that shares talent between teams. They need to encourage workers to take on projects outside their respective business units. Give people ongoing opportunities to be challenged at work — particularly outside their typical job responsibilities — to grow new skills and promote collaboration. Help your team set goals, stretch their skills, maximise their strengths and discover new opportunities to grow.

Feedback and progress insight

Organisations are 30 times more likely to have engaged workers when leadership teams focus on employees’ strengths. Regularly issuing feedback and insights reinforces learning opportunities and consolidates the skills learned and in turn – can create engaged workers.

Feedback sends a message to employees that they are being recognised and managers spending time to help individuals improve their work is not only validation of their contribution but also motivation to grow and improve.

Inkling insight: Invite colleagues and peers to participate in giving feedback. Use tools that offer skill reviews, skill ratings, and informal assessments, so individuals can get the feedback they need, whenever they need it. Inspire and cultivate a culture of psychological safety that values continual, immediate, and informal guidance.

Time for learning

Allocating time for learning is a crucial component of successfully implementing a culture of continuous learning and development within the organisation. Often, companies will set aside time for dedicated training but fail to create time and space for incidental learning within their workflows – that is, the time to improve a process, retain a learning experience or acquire new knowledge specific to a task. And while employees who feel engaged in their role will likely seek out educational content in their own time, this should be mirrored by the organisation by creating time to acquire knowledge on-the-go.

When people have a chance to learn on the job, they collaborate and learn from those around them. That engagement creates business value that can help advance your entire organisation. People are getting more work done and gaining new expertise without forgoing their day-to-day responsibilities.

Inkling insight: Allocated learning time might include integrated learning experiences in work, on the job training and opportunities to apply these skills. These opportunities match employee skills to new experiences in which individuals can practice and reinforce their development. This visibility also helps mitigate proximity and other biases by being more inclusive and discoverable for all employees.

Rewards

Rewarding curiosity and continuous learning is more than simply praising and promoting those who display effort to learn. It’s about integrating positive reinforcement within the climate and nurturing critical thinking.

Inkling insight: Implement tools and processes that encourage people to communicate frequently about the skills they’re building. It’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of whole teams rather than just individuals. Try hosting quarterly team meetings dedicated to learning a new skill or building a reward system that recognises individuals who are frequently and efficiently offering feedback to their peers.

Training programs

Part of training includes creating opportunities for your team to grow and learn in all aspects of their professional development and feel empowered to own their careers. What employees need from their managers and leaders is the support and resources to grow. That could look like sponsorship, coaching, or collaborating on a project with another team.

Inkling Insight:  Creating a blend of horizontal (increased knowledge and skills) and vertical (increased thinking capabilities) leadership skills is also important to align your leaders and employees with the organisational strategy and objectives. Offer classes, workshops, or other formal learning opportunities on a regular basis that use a blended learning approach. 

Ready to cultivate a learning culture in your organisation?

Building a culture of continuous learning and development is essential for organisations seeking to attract and retain top talent, build high-performing teams, enhance employee engagement and prepare for the Future of Work. Get in touch with Inkling Group to learn more about our capabilities and how we can support you to cultivate a culture of continuous learning and development within your organisation.

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