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A quick guide to creating a learning culture

A recent CIPD report into professional learning and development found that 98% of L&D practitioners wanted to create a positive learning culture.  How do you turn that aspiration into a reality?

What is a learning culture?

If we take that CIPD figure at face value, then having a learning culture is clearly a good thing.  Yet the report found that only 36% of L&D departments surveyed had established one.

A learning culture then is something you need to consciously create and actively sustain.  It requires direction and buy-in across the organization.  It involves embedding learning into the way we work and our work structures.  Building a learning culture means fostering an environment in which the value and practice of learning are explicitly recognized and promoted at an individual, team, and organizational level.  Digital technology can play a big part in making this happen.

How to create a learning culture

1. Get buy-in

Senior leaders and line managers play a key role in driving a learning culture.  L&D professionals devise learning strategies to build a collective vision for learning, as well as deliver meaningful learning opportunities for employees.

2. Show leadership

Leaders set an example by publicly committing to building a learning culture as part of their objectives, ethos, and vision.  They can demonstrate their own commitment to continuous learning in their personal development programs.  This sends a clear message that what’s suitable for leaders is good for their teams.

3. Make learning continuous

Give people the opportunity to learn as and when they need and want to.  This involves dismantling the model of episodic training sessions and instead building a bank of microlearning resources that can be accessed across devices and platforms.  Technology helps move learning into the workflow so it becomes embedded in regular work practices.

4. Share the knowledge

Much of what we learn is from observing others and by doing.  A lot of context-specific, real-world knowledge is acquired through experience.  A learning culture needs to tap into that experience, release the knowledge in people’s heads, and share it with others.

5. Make everyone a teacher

A learning culture should be dynamic.  You’ll probably find that already knowledge is being shared informally on an ad hoc basis.  The goal is to recognize and capture this knowledge.  Encourage people to record their knowledge in a short video or audio piece on their phones.  Then share these learning moments with others.

6. Reward learning

People respond well to incentives, and openly recognize contributions to building a learning culture.  This can be in the form of digital badges, certification, CPD points, or in terms of financial rewards and career development opportunities.  Recognize experience and expertise by offering people the chance to mentor others.

7. Encourage collaboration

People learn and work better together.  A social learning strategy facilitates collaboration.  This can mean learning as a team using forums or collective assignments.  You can also provide a social learning space in your digital learning platforms or project management apps where people can post ideas and establish a dialog.

8. Personalized learning

Learning is a continuum and individual learners find their own place on that continuum.  Recognizing where they are and what they need now makes learning more relevant and impactful.  Allow them to search for and select their own learning.  Monitor their choices and recommend further learning based on the decisions they make.  Create individual learning paths that correspond to their learning needs and offer directions for their future development.

9. Use a learning platform

An LXP or LMS can curate and deploy a wide array of digital content.  Its analytics and recommendations functions can be used to increase personalization learning by responding to learners’ progress, preferences, and choices.  Using a learning platform to automate routine learning management tasks frees up L&D to direct strategies that underpin the learning culture.

The benefits of an active learning culture

An active learning culture rewards employees and the organization:

  • Critical knowledge is captured and shared.
  • Learners are given greater control over their learning which improves motivation and engagement.
  • Greater engagement with learning enhances the retention of knowledge.
  • Learning is situated in the workflow making it more relevant and responsive.
  • Establishing a dynamic learning culture leaves the organization better positioned to respond to change and fill skills gaps.
  • A learning culture establishes a sustainable, virtuous cycle of learning and development.
  • People are attracted to organizations that offer learning and development opportunities, so people stay and new talent joins.
  • A culture of learning with clear opportunities for progression boosts morale and increases job satisfaction resulting in improved performance.

Building a learning culture brings tangible benefits.  It creates a better, healthier working environment leading to increases in performance, productivity, and profit.  A culture of learning keeps organizations in a constant state of readiness to engage with the challenges ahead.

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