Workplace training

How to Create a Learning Culture: 6 Tips to Know

Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

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Day in and day out, your employees are cranking through their to-do lists. They’re completing their projects. They’re meeting or exceeding their quotas. They’re fulfilling all expectations.

But ask yourself this: Are they learning?

Seriously—are they growing along with your organization? Do they get to walk out of your office doors each and every night feeling like they’re a little better off than when they arrived that morning?

Or are they just slogging their way through each workday —barely keeping their heads above water?

If you’re cringing right now, you’re not alone. Up until somewhat recently, learning and development haven’t been major areas of focus for employers. That likely explains why a whopping 74% of employees feel they aren’t achieving their full potential at work.

Now you're probably wondering how to create a learning culture in the workplace.

Today, as the younger generations make up a larger chunk of the workforce, the modern employee expects that their organization prioritizes their development. One report from Gallup indicates that 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job.

That means that—in order to stay relevant in the increasingly competitive battle for top talent—employers need to understand how to make learning a core pillar of their company cultures.

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So...Why else does it matter? The many benefits of a learning culture

That opening scare tactic was effective, wasn’t it? And it’s true. A learning culture in an organization is no longer a nicety—it’s a necessity.

But in case you need a little stronger nudge, let’s dig into some of the specific benefits of creating a learning culture in the workplace.

1. You’ll build a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce

You want employees who do more than meet expectations, don’t you? You want a workforce that’s hungry for knowledge—that’s eager to push the boundaries and innovate.

That really only happens if you give them the tools and resources they need to learn new concepts and refine new skills. A learning culture fuels the fire by showing your employees that you want more for them than to meet the status quo—you want them to achieve their full potential.

2. You’ll boost employee retention.

As mentioned earlier, employees today expect that their employers will prioritize learning. And if they don’t? They’re prepared to hit the road and find a company that better aligns with their values.

This is why building a learning culture is so important—it keeps your employees engaged and around for the long haul.

In fact, research from LinkedIn reveals that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. Separate research from CultureAmp found that people who believe their jobs contribute to their development are 21% more likely to stay with their current employer.

3. You’ll foster a growth mindset

You may have heard the term “growth mindset” before, as it has become a bit of a buzzword. But what actually is it?

The concept was developed by psychologist, Carol Dweck, and is often contrasted with a “fixed mindset” to describe the two different ways people approach learning. Put simply, someone with a growth mindset believes that people aren’t born with a finite amount of knowledge, and intelligence can be developed through practice and by overcoming challenges.

Needless to say, that’s a philosophy you want to encourage within your own organization, and a growth mindset has been proven to offer many benefits of its own. Dweck’s research found that employees with a growth mindset are:

  • 47% likelier to see their colleagues as trustworthy
  • 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company
  • 65% likelier to say that the company supports risk-taking
  • 49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation

So, yep, it’s safe to say that fostering a growth mindset is definitely a positive thing.

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How to create a learning culture: 6 tips to implement

The facts and numbers are compelling. But it’s actually taking action and figuring out how to create a learning culture in an organization where most companies fall short.

Research from Intrepid found that only 27% of the 1,000 employees surveyed found their employers learning and development offerings to be “embedded in the organization, meaningful, and useful.”

Fortunately, you can avoid becoming part of that statistic and help your employees see the value in learning by implementing these tips.

1. Provide plenty of different opportunities for growth and development

Not everybody likes to learn the same way. Some people have long attention spans for in-depth courses or seminars that last a full day. Others want bite-sized lessons that can be consumed in a matter of minutes. Some people prefer hands-on learning, while others want to expand their knowledge from the comfort and safety of their own desks.

Too many companies fall into the trap of offering one type of learning initiative and expecting all employees to take advantage. However, the key to a true learning culture is variety.

Schedule things like frequent lunch and learns or job shadowing opportunities for people who want to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. But, at the same time, offer courses and lessons through a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows employees to control their own learning (the same research from LinkedIn found that 58% of employees actually prefer to learn at their own pace).

Chances are, employees will take advantage of a mix of all of your options—so make sure that you’re diversifying the opportunities for them.

TIP: Check out the GoSkills training platform to make learning accessible and easy for all of your employees.

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2. Don’t just focus on professional growth

When you think about learning in the workplace, it’s tempting to think that every single learning initiative needs to directly translate to job performance—employees should only be learning relevant information they can leverage in their positions.

However, your employees are whole people with interests, passions, and desires outside of the office too. That deserves to be recognized in whatever learning program you put together.

Of course, the bulk of your development offerings should relate to on-the-job skills. But, don’t be afraid to throw in something fun every now and then either.

Maybe one Friday each month, you’ll host a lunch and learn where an employee can teach about their passion—whether it’s crocheting or photography. Or, perhaps you’ll coordinate some volunteer events where employees can learn about community programs and the good work that’s happening in your community.

Branching out of what’s only valuable to you and your organization shows that you support employees in all learning endeavors—while simultaneously fueling their curious minds.

3. Offer regular constructive feedback

We all have a certain lesson or best practice that sticks in our minds—and chances are it wasn’t one that was learned through a formal course or instruction. Nope, it was something we learned the hard way.

When thinking about learning opportunities, many organizations tend to think of formal, structured programs and initiatives. But even something as simple as offering regular feedback is a great way to contribute to that growth mindset and show employees that you’re invested in their development and advancement.

“The best way to trigger curiosity is to highlight a knowledge gap—that is, making people aware of what they don’t know, especially if that makes them feel uncomfortable,” writes Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Josh Bersin in an article for Harvard Business Review. “Note that people are generally unaware of their ignorance and limitations, especially when they are not very competent, so guidance and feedback from others is critical to helping them improve.”

Delivering constructive feedback isn’t always easy, but provided that it’s done so in a professional, tactful, and encouraging way, it can actually be one of the best ways to help employees continuously learn and improve in the workplace.

4. Praise continuous learning

Constructive criticism can be powerful, but that doesn’t mean that employees should only hear when they’ve screwed something up.

To create a learning culture, you should also consistently reward and recognize employees who are putting themselves out there and taking advantage of the learning opportunities you’re offering.

Things like perks and financial rewards can be great motivators, but don’t underestimate the power of a simple, “Way to go!” either. One study of 1,200 U.S. employees found that 88% of respondents found praise from managers very or extremely motivating. Additionally, 83% of respondents said that recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than rewards or gifts.

Whether it’s commending that employee in a team meeting or stopping by their desk to let them know you’ve noticed how hard they’ve been working at developing a new skill, even the seemingly small bits of recognition can go a long way in keeping them engaged and encourages your employees to keep pursuing those learning opportunities.

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5. Celebrate failure

We all have a real fear of failure. According to a survey from AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association International, fear of being held responsible for mistakes and failures was the single biggest obstacle to encouraging people to take greater responsibility.

Without a doubt, this makes it extra intimidating to learn something new. It’s far safer to stay in our bubble than to challenge and potentially embarrass ourselves—or worse, risk repercussions or reprimands.

That’s why one of the most important characteristics of a learning culture is a safety net for failure. You need to make it clear to employees that they aren’t only allowed to fail, but they’re actually encouraged to do so—because it’s a positive sign that they’re trying something foreign and new.

When an employee tries something that doesn’t go according to plan, make sure you commend them on their efforts, asked what they learned for next time, and offer your support in helping them try again. That’s far better than responding to failures or missteps with punitive measures—especially if you’re looking to create a learning culture at work.

6. Lead by example

Ultimately, there’s nothing worse than a leader who says one thing and does another. So, if you truly want your employees to focus on their own learning and development, you need to lead by example and do the same.

Even further, you need to engage all managers and superiors in the process. They should also be investing in their own growth and learning so their employees can take that cue and follow the precedent they set.

It seems like a subtle thing, but it makes a huge difference. That same research from LinkedIn found that 56% of employees would take a manager-suggested course.

Focus on learning and you’ll engage your employees

There’s no denying that employees want learning and development opportunities at work, and meeting that demand can pay off in big ways.

However, a shift to a learning culture won’t happen overnight. It’ll take an investment in time and constant changes to prove to your employees that you prioritize their advancement—both professionally and personally.

Where should you start? The above six tips will help you start to make that important cultural shift. To recap, creating a learning culture requires that you:

  • Offer a variety of learning opportunities
  • Focus on personal and professional growth
  • Offer regular constructive feedback
  • Praise continuous learning
  • Celebrate failure
  • Lead by example

One more tip? Implementing a learning management system (LMS) for your organization makes learning far more manageable, accessible, and even fun for your employees.

Check out the GoSkills training platform and prepare to level-up your employee engagement (and your knowledge!).

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Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a writer specializing in career, self-development, and productivity topics. When she escapes her computer, she enjoys reading, hiking, golfing, and dishing out tips for prospective freelancers on her website.

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