Every business owner aims to operate a successful company filled with skilled, motivated, and valued employees. To achieve this, you need to either recruit people with the right background and experience, or train them to have these essential attributes.
The first is expensive, and the second, unfortunately, is fallible.
Although many well-intentioned training programs fail, according to McKinsey, it is possible to create a learning culture in your business that helps both the individuals and the organization to thrive.
What a ‘Learning Culture’ Means
The idea of a learning culture in business means an environment in which the employees are encouraged and supported to continuously seek out, share, and apply new knowledge and skills in their work.
A company with an established learning culture also typically has organizational values related to the importance of learning, which includes formal education, on-the-job training, and informally gathered non-traditional knowledge and understanding.
Why Learning Matters
It’s an old maxim that success breeds success, but it happens to be true in this case. Research tells us that having a culture of learning is one of the hallmarks of high-performing companies.
An IBM study focusing on the importance of staff training showed top-performing companies provided adequate training for 84 percent of their workforce, compared with only 16 percent in lower-performing organizations. Other research shows 94 percent of workers would stay longer in a role with a company that invests heavily in staff training and development.
These factors show having a learning culture impacts every area of the business, from productivity to retention.
How to Develop a Learning Culture
The first step in developing a culture of learning in your organization is to get the buy-in and support of your leadership team. Get the C-Suite behind your efforts by showing them the numbers and running an awareness and education campaign.
Next, formalize your training and development strategy. For a learning culture to become ingrained, it needs to be mandatory for everyone. Otherwise, you risk some people not taking it seriously enough to implement the strategy thoroughly.
Recognize employees who successfully learn new skills, encourage others to do so, and create opportunities for formal sharing of knowledge and information. Develop new job opportunities and consider promoting from within.
Request formal feedback from all participants in the form of an anonymous survey or evaluation to find out whether they benefitted from the training provided. This information will tell whether your training and development strategy is paying off and if your investment is money well spent.
Include training and development goals in your annual staff performance reviews to give workers a plan to move forward. Committing these goals to writing helps remind them of their intentions while giving management a guideline of the career aspirations of their subordinates.
Challenges of Creating a Learning Culture
You’ll find no shortage of challenges when you attempt to develop a culture of learning in the company. Some of the most common barriers or objections you’re likely to hear are:
- We’re happy as we are, we don’t need to learn anything new.
- It costs money to invest in content and resources.
- We’ve always done it this way.
- We don’t have time to learn new ways of doing things.
Other challenges typically faced by companies include making sure employees get the same quality training in all company locations and establishing online training if face-to-face interaction isn’t possible. Learning leaders need to deploy appropriate technology that employees can access to complete the training.
A survey of 500 learning and development professionals showed the single biggest challenge companies experience is a lack of resources.
Benefits of a Learning Culture
Building a culture of learning in an organization feeds and nurtures employees' curiosity, enabling the business to keep up with constantly changing industry demands. As teams increase their collective skill levels, their learning can make all the difference between surviving or thriving.
Close the looming skills gaps we’re bound to experience as the future of work shifts after COVID-19 in order to:
- Keep up with the evolving workplace demands,
- Drive innovation and creativity with motivation,
- Reduce workplace distractions,
- Attract better talent, and
- Improve your staff retention rates.
Start creating a learning culture today and invest in the skills and competencies to help both your individual employees and the organization flourish.