How to Create a Learning Culture
October 7, 2022
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Creating a culture of learning is one of the most effective ways to enable your employees to grow and improve, increase employee satisfaction, boost employee retention, and gain a competitive advantage. Shaping a culture of learning means making learning a priority within your organization and helping team members adapt and evolve in their current roles or achieve upward mobility within the organization.
Everyone is part of a learning culture, from employees to managers and even executives. So, to shape this way of company thinking, here are five best practices to cultivate a culture of L&D to engage and motivate team members, increase employee satisfaction, and ultimately impact business goals.
What does it mean to have a culture of learning?
It’s common to use terms without really understanding what they mean, to the point that they become buzzwords that elicit eye rolls rather than enthusiasm.
If you want to build a learning culture, it’s important to define that clearly for your leadership team and your employees. In the most general sense, a learning culture is one in which employees are always looking for, sharing, and applying new information and skills to improve their performance and the company’s results.
How this plays out will be specific to your organization and your mission—there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, you’ll want to ensure that you prioritize time for learning and improvement, offer learning opportunities, and focus on helping your team members grow in the direction of their professional goals.
Microsoft is one example of an organization that created a learning culture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has spent several years creating what he calls a “learn-it-all culture,” where people seek growth rather than feeling like they already “know it all.” The company focuses on three pillars: encouraging a growth mindset, creating time for learning, and using data to determine what people need and want to learn.
A study by IBM found that in the best-performing organizations, 84 percent of employees are getting the training they need to excel, compared to 16 percent in the worst-performing businesses. If you want your company to perform at its peak, a learning culture is essential.
Culture change starts at the top and ends at the middle
It’s no secret that employees are more likely to do what they see their leaders doing than their leaders say. That means that if you want to shift your culture, it needs to start at the top and middle—with the managers who interact with your employees daily.
Upper management can take the time to meet with middle managers and find out what their career goals are. What educational opportunities can help with that growth? How can middle managers acquire new skills, diversify their job tasks, and practice autonomy?
When your middle leadership becomes enthusiastic about their career growth, that energy will be shared with the rest of your team. That will help your other employees get excited about learning as a way to improve their careers, and the learning culture will spread naturally.
Make learning a core value
The key to building a learning culture is to make it a core value. Learning and growth should determine your organizational priorities and dictate the best actions to take. Teams should believe learning is essential to the way they work.
One way to achieve this is through employee onboarding. You can give new hires structured onboarding courses and get them used to learning from day one, clarifying that learning matters from the moment they start. A smooth onboarding process also impacts your business. When using WorkRamp to onboard new hires, Reddit decreased ramp time by 33 percent and increased internal NPS by 13 points.
“The bonus outcome of using WorkRamp has been the overwhelmingly positive sentiment around sales training.”
— Ashley Crisostomo, Principal Program Manager, Reddit
Another way to show you value learning is by meeting employees where they learn best. People are learning across a variety of channels and formats, through whatever tools are most convenient to them.
One study found that learners seek timely, relevant content as they need it:
- At the point of need (56 percent)
- On evenings and weekends (48 percent)
- At their desk (41 percent)
- During breaks and at lunch (30 percent)
- On their way to or from the office (28 percent)
Two ways to provide on-demand learning opportunities include:
- Digital learning. Offer an on-demand digital learning platform that gives learners access to the right content, at the right time. Look for a platform that lets managers create personalized material that improves the employee experience.
- Blending learning. Invite employees to a live event, then share online materials after to elaborate on the concepts discussed. This helps people retain the learning content and apply the new knowledge to their work.
If you can convey that learning is a basic and fundamental belief in your organization, you’re well on your way to building a learning culture that empowers employees and improves performance.
“Everyone in the company, starting at the highest leadership, needs to be committed to giving and receiving feedback, and to doing so respectfully.”
— Jen Scopo, Instructional Design Manager, WorkRamp
Make learning personalized
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Organizations should consider a modern learning strategy that focuses on personalized programs and technology. This combination helps address learning gaps and keeps learners engaged with your content. The goal is to make learning available for everyone, everywhere.
Employees are more likely to take part in learning if you give them asynchronous learning. Modern learning technologies like WorkRamp help employees find the content they need, when they need it.
“Employees were excited to use WorkRamp. Everything is self-serve, which made it easier for people to fit the training into their schedule, and they were able to get up and running with the platform quickly.”
— Sabena Carim, Director of Effectiveness and Enablement, MikMak
Read more: Creative Ways to Make Learning More Engaging
Integrate eLearning tools
How do you implement this kind of learning culture? One of the best options is to avoid creating a cafeteria line, where everyone receives the same menu, and instead create a buffet of learning opportunities. That way, each employee can access training on demand and learn precisely what they need to excel.
You’ll need a robust all-in-one learning platform that is easy to use and makes on-demand training simple to access. For example, GRIN used WorkRamp to gamify the learning experience and track the success of its training initiatives. It took only 15 minutes to get GRIN team members set up on their first training courses in WorkRamp.
Angela Walker, RevOps Manager of Enablement at GRIN, describes what happened next: “We built out certification paths according to each GTM role that included some self-led modules, a few live sessions, and a final narrative presentation.” At the same time, GRIN’s Product team built out modules for product training sessions, and the Engineering team explored ways to leverage WorkRamp to build its onboarding program.
The tracking tools within WorkRamp allowed Angela and her team to understand what percentage of adoption and adherence they were getting for each training initiative. They were then able to make changes and customize the programs to better meet the needs of the learners.
WorkRamp can help you turn learning into a growth engine within your organization to become one of the top companies in your industry.
Help employees progress in their careers
A major part of attracting and retaining talent is offering genuine learning opportunities that assist career growth, the core of building a learning culture.
Make a promise to employees that they will grow and thrive in their careers by:
- Letting them create their own plans and choose the skills they need
- Providing curated and personalized learning experiences
- Inspiring them to meet professional and personal goals
- Encouraging employees to learn at their own pace
- Tracking the impact of learning programs
- Giving constructive feedback
Take business process outsourcing (BPO) company PartnerHero, for example. Global Director of Talent Development, Robyn Barton, wanted to create a culture of learning at PartnerHero that inspires employees to grow personally and professionally and become leaders on their teams. Using WorkRamp, she could deliver customized learning at scale, allowing leaders to build onboarding and L&D training tailored to their teams’ specific needs.
PartnerHero found employees were completing more training and achieving higher satisfaction scores with WorkRamp. Employees can self-learn through an expanding skills library, English development courses, and access courses on leadership skills and coaching for those who want to take the next step in their career.
“With an easy-to-use, effective, and enjoyable learning platform like WorkRamp, we can create a culture of learning that targets the whole employee, with skills development, fitness, DE&I, mental health, stress management, and more. This helps them develop their professional skills and progress toward achieving their personal goals while feeling more connected and engaged with the PartnerHero community.”
— Robyn Barton, Global Director of Talent Development, PartnerHero
Reward ongoing learning
Let employees know that their time spent learning is valued and recognized. You can link learner progress to promotions and pay raises, but self-directed learners may not need extrinsic motivation.
For example, you could help establish the learner’s credibility within your organization through shoutouts in Slack or via email. You have many options for incentivizing learning, including:
- Gamification. Studies show that competing in study-based games made learners 20x more likely to retain new knowledge than lecture-based courses. Elements such as badges and leaderboards are an effective way to reward and motivate learners. When someone reaches a specific level in their training, they can unlock public badges for their online profiles.
- Industry certifications. Credentials from third-party organizations (think, Certified Salesforce Administrator) instill pride in learners and give them a competitive advantage in their careers.
- Monetary rewards. These incentives come as reward points redeemed for gift cards or a salary increase. Monetary rewards add a little extra motivation for employees to achieve their milestones.
Start an organization-wide initiative to reward people for their dedication. By investing in rewards and recognition for learning, you can build a more energizing learning culture and see a greater impact from your programs.
Create a safe space around learning and experimentation
One of the aspects of learning that many people struggle with is making mistakes. As you create a culture of learning in your organization, make sure leaders communicate that making mistakes is a normal part of growth and experimentation.
When employees understand mistakes are part of learning and growth and seen as a positive sign of engagement and improvement, your organization will be on the path to not only succeed but also to attract top talent excited to grow with you.
Set aside time for learning
LinkedIn Learning found that 83 percent of online learning happens during the workweek. Employees may find it hard to schedule an hour or two to cover learning materials, on top of their daily tasks and responsibilities. To keep up with their professional development, organizations must support employees’ learning programs by encouraging them to block out learning time.
Some ways to encourage learning are:
- Lunch-and-Learn sessions. Offer 30- to 45-minute sessions that dive into various, relevant subjects like teamwork and adapting to change. Lunch-and-Learn sessions also add a social element to learning.
- Office hours. Block out 45 to 60 minutes each day for employees to take their courses. Open up managers’ offices so employees can stop by and discuss goals and how to make the most of their program.
- Reminders. Make learning top of mind by sharing content through your intranet, Slack groups, and email. You can also provide monthly reports highlighting progress and tracking how learning affects the organization.
- Mentors. Pair employees with managers one-on-one to keep them motivated and excited by learning.
Only 20 percent of surveyed employees were satisfied with how employers addressed their ambitions. If you empower your team members to dedicate their work time to their development, you can build a powerful culture of learning.
Make your goals known
Learning for learning’s sake is fun, but business leaders usually have a specific goal in mind when setting up a learning culture. Some common goals include:
- Developing talent internally, so you aren’t reliant on external hiring
- Attracting and retaining top talent in your industry
- Becoming an innovator in your industry
- Increasing employee engagement, which improves productivity, morale, revenue, and more
- Overtaking a key competitor in market share, revenue, or profitability
Whatever your goals are, make sure your leaders know them. That way, employee learning programs can be tailored to meet those needs.
However, you want to avoid a key pitfall: you don’t want to make learning yet another deadline on your already-stressed team members. Learning should be to develop new skills and grow careers, not completing specific courses by a specific date. When there’s the pressure of a deadline, many people fail to learn—instead, they simply check the box and move on to the next task.
Measure results and adapt accordingly
Once you develop a culture of learning and set goals for your learning programs, you need to let time work its magic. Learning is an ongoing process, and not everyone progresses quickly.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t measure results. Instead, keep track of progress and help those moving more slowly by reinforcing what they’ve learned, providing additional coaching and materials, and more.
Remember to be creative in your metrics. If you simply measure completion percentages and final scores on the class exams, you’re missing the larger purpose of learning—creative ideas, experimentation, and outside-the-box thinking. If everyone is getting 100 percent on the exams, but no one is innovating or has permission to make mistakes, you’ll need to reevaluate your approach.
Creating a successful learning culture
Implement these best practices to create a successful culture of learning in your organization. But remember, prioritizing learning requires buy-in and effort from all team members, from executives to individual contributors. Show your employees you are invested in their learning and growth from day one through onboarding and provide continuous L&D opportunities for all employees regardless of their tenure.
Ready to bring learning front and center? WorkRamp is an All-in-One Learning Platform that can help you create a culture of learning for your company. Contact us to schedule a free demo to see how WorkRamp can help you empower your team to increase employee satisfaction, performance, and retention.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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Michael is a SaaS marketer living in Guadalajara, Mexico. Through storytelling and data-driven content, his focus is providing valuable insight and advice on issues that prospects and customers care most about. He’s inspired by learning people’s stories, climbing mountains, and traveling with his partner and Xoloitzcuintles.
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