The Secret To A Successful Company Culture Of Learning

The Secret To A Successful Company Culture Of Learning
Branislav Nenin/
Summary: More than half of workers are likely to need new skills in the next 3 years, so a formal training program might not meet their learning needs. The way to train them? By developing a successful learning culture at your company.

Workplace Learning Culture: Upskill At The Speed Of Business Transformation

The nature of workplace learning culture has been changing for some time. For years, learning was a destination, both literally and figuratively. In its earliest forms, learners would stop their tasks, leave their desks, and attend a training session before returning to work. More recently, workers have been expected to stop working and log on to online learning for training. Then, they return to work.

eBook Release: The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment
eBook Release
The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment
Learn how to increase employee engagement and how to get learners to enjoy the experience of learning.

Now, however, L&D leaders are realizing that learning isn’t something employees stop and do before getting back to work. Rather, workplace learning is an ongoing process, one that can—and should—be self-directed.

In 2017, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report called this “continuous improvement,” and more recently Josh Bersin called for more learning during work tasks [1], or “in the flow of work” [2]. But for this continuous approach to learning to be effective, organizations need to change something fundamental, aside from their training programs.

They need to change their culture.

What Is A Culture Of Continuous Improvement?

Any organization that invests in Learning and Development also has a workplace learning culture, even if their L&D leaders don’t realize it. If your organization is centered on courses, seminars, and other activities that are focused on what the company wants the learners to know, that’s a training culture.

However, if your learners are self-directed, and you’re supporting their learning efforts with educational experiences, projects, and resources, that’s a culture of continuous learning. Three years ago, Deloitte found that 83% of the companies they were studying were shifting to these “flexible, open career models.”

Why the shift? A lot of that has to do with the rapid evolution of technology. The swift changes in the tools most workers use on the job mean that most formal training is outdated within a few years. Workers are looking up the skills they need themselves, asking Google for help, going to YouTube, and trying to fill in the gaps in their knowledge themselves.

This means that most of them are ready for a workplace that supports their own self-directed learning, rather than trying to shoehorn them into an existing training program. Employees know what they don’t know, and what they need to learn in order to be successful at their jobs and in their future careers. This is also good for their employers, according to ATD [3]. Employees who know how to direct their own learners make their organizations more agile, cooperative, and sustainable.

So, how can you create this culture of learning at your organization?

Recognize Your Learners’ Needs

Moving from a training culture to a workplace learning culture means moving to a culture that’s learner-centric, and that means to recognize that your employees may not always be working for you.

Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital report found that reskilling is a major concern [4]; 53% of respondents to the survey said that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next 3 years. Many workers have an eye on the future. If you force learning they won’t be able to use—at your organization or at another job—workers won’t be able to gather the information they need to do their job effectively, on their own or with your support. You’re also likely to lose their goodwill if your training program is focused on your needs and not theirs.

While organizations might worry that allowing learners to select their own learning means they’re training workers for future jobs, that’s not exactly the case. Supporting continuous learning and reskilling helps create an important quality in workers, according to Deloitte: resilience.

Encourage Learning Right When Workers Need It

Because the half-life of a skill is so short now, the best way to help your workers build resilience and adaptability is to help them learn skills they’ll need right away. Preparing for near-term needs helps your workers do their jobs right now, rather than trying to prepare them for an uncertain work future.

It’s also something they’re doing on their own when they ask Google for help with a task, a form of independent microlearning. Fortunately, this sort of microlearning is something organizations can harness, by making learning content searchable, by sending learning out through company communication channels, and by offering learning right in the platforms where employees work rather than on a separate platform.

Realize That True Cultural Change Starts At The Top

Culture is a deeply ingrained part of every organization. Changing a company’s culture is no small feat, even if that culture is related to something that may seem niche, like workplace learning. But it’s important to understand that the Learning and Development team can’t just decide to change the workplace learning culture and then make that change work. For the change to be successful, leadership needs to be on board.

Company leaders usually accept that development is important; according to LinkedIn’s latest Workplace Learning Report [5], 83% of L&D professionals say executive buy-in is not a challenge when it comes to supporting learning and training initiatives. Support is not enough for change; only 27% of L&D professionals say their CEOs are active champions of learning across the organization.

Those that do champion learning however, tend to get good results. Those leaders teach or create course materials, recommend courses, and encourage workers to learn, and their championship is a powerful driver for engagement in learning.

A Culture Of Learning Benefits Workers And Their Employers

People are always learning, both on and off the job. It’s how we’re built and it’s why we spend time reading, binging shows and podcasts, and searching for answers online. Chances are, your employees love learning and can train themselves little by little every day without being herded into online or virtual classrooms. In fact, they likely prefer this approach, which puts them at the center of learning.

Respecting this love of learning—and trusting your learners to learn the things that will benefit you as well as them—is a part of building a culture of continuous learning. If you show your learners that you support the fact they are learning on their own, they will appreciate it. And if you give them the means to educate themselves, they’re likely to see that as a perk. Dig in the eBook The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment to discover more about what employee training has to offer when implemented correctly, focused on engagement and joy!


[1] Rewriting the rules for the digital age: 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends

[2] A New Paradigm For Corporate Training: Learning In The Flow of Work

[3] From a Training Culture to a Learning Culture

[4] Beyond reskilling: Investing in resilience for uncertain futures

[5] 2020 Workplace Learning Report

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