A learning culture, according to the Association for Talent Development, “Is one in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.”
There are several common traits observed in companies that embody a learning culture. These include:
- High employee engagement and retention
- Succession planning and frequent promotion from within
- High success with change management
- Increased productivity and profits
This may sound like a utopia, but it is in fact attainable by taking a few intentional steps towards creating a culture of learning. Companies interested in improving their culture and morale often take the same well-intentioned approaches, such as upgrading the coffee, offering fitness classes on-site, or relaxing the dress code. While these efforts are certainly appreciated, ask yourself if that lunchroom foosball table or free donuts are really enough to keep you engaged and to keep your career moving forward.
If you’re truly interested in developing a learning culture to help your organization move forward, we recommend the following three actions:
- Use training and professional development opportunities to build company culture
There’s a high correlation between successful training and development opportunities and building a positive company culture. From the moment a new hire applies for a position, every interaction with their new employer impacts their perception of the company as a whole. A comprehensive and effective onboarding program helps equip the new hire with the skills and knowledge needed for their role, and is also an opportunity for them to begin to build relationships with their manager and teammates. Training in this period should be about more than just “checking a box” and covering the basics; it’s an opportunity to help the new employee gain a sense of belonging in the organization.
Ongoing training with longtime employees can serve the same function, by strengthening bonds between experienced employees and allowing natural leaders to shine as they coach and mentor others. Marcus Buckingham famously remarked, “People will stay with a team before they decide to leave a company.” The ties that bond team members to one another, and that bond employees to managers who they genuinely trust and want to work for, reap immeasurable benefits back to the organization. Once the initial onboarding period is over, pay attention to what development opportunities you are providing to your top performers, so that you don’t risk losing them to another organization where they perceive the grass is greener. A strong learning culture will keep them engaged, and will lead them to pursue new opportunities within your organization when they start asking themselves what’s next in their career.
- Show support from the c-suite on down for training
Accountability starts with senior leaders and cascades down to first-level leaders (the managers of individual contributors). Simply put, without leadership support, any training initiative is doomed. Support can come in a number of ways, from funding the training initiative, to vocalizing support for training programs, and maybe most importantly, to ensuring employees have the ability to actually put their new knowledge and skills to use back on the job once training completes. So often training isn’t able to “stick” because ironically, the company culture simply doesn’t allow it to. Maybe the pace of the work is too fast, there’s no guidance for change management, or the leaders are apathetic about truly realizing change. Leadership support is a critical component of employee and organizational success! Support can be as simple as leaders encouraging employees to block out time on the job away from their routine tasks to focus on learning and development, or asking them to share new ideas with their teams once training completes.
- Implement the right tools to bring your learning culture to life
Most successful initiatives rely on an infrastructure behind the scenes that makes all things possible. For a successful training program, that success engine is the learning management system (LMS). Liberate your employees from mundane tasks such as taking attendance, running reports, and recording grades and seat time spent in training, and empower them with a world-class LMS like the Rockstar Learning Platform. This system not only houses all of your learning assets (courses, videos, assessments, and more), it also provides outlets for your employees to be social and learn from one another. With features like discussion forums and boards, both new and tenured employees alike can enter the conversation to collaborate and share resources with each other. Harness their natural social tendencies by encouraging them to participate in this meaningful exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Equipping your employees with the right tools and systems facilitates knowledge acquisition, retention, and transfer. In short, the right tools help people learn and help the knowledge stick. This leads to a positive return on your training investment, meaning your time and your money will be well spent.
Employees who don’t receive effective onboarding or sufficient support for their development throughout their employment will eventually leave for what they perceive to be a better opportunity elsewhere. By taking action to create a learning culture, all employees’ needs will be met from leaders to individual contributors. Both the organization as a whole and your individual employees will find success.