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Building a Learning Culture In Your Workplace

One of the main pain points for many HR departments is the inability to find qualified candidates. As technology continues to rapidly develop, skills are rendered obsolete at increasing rates. This is reflected in LinkedIn’s annual rankings of the top 25 most-coveted skills by employers: the most sought-after skill sets change rapidly year-to-year, to the point that the 2015 list and the 2018 list have little in common.

What is a learning culture?

Today, skills either require upgrades or become completely obsolete in a matter of years. Savvy companies (including heavy hitters like Google) have sought to create a learning culture within their organizations. 

A learning culture is not a specific phenomenon—it’s more a conscious effort by a company to instill in its employees an attitude that privileges constant flexibility, growth, education, and curiosity. A learning culture is not an isolated series of seminars within an organization. Rather, it is an initiative that—when implemented correctly—shapes workplace attitudes, upskilling initiatives, internal marketing, and recruitment strategy.

No two learning cultures will look alike, as they are tailored based on the size, mission, and industry of your company. So far, implementing an effective learning culture has proved challenging to many companies: according to a 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 10% of companies have managed to nurture a learning culture in their workplace.

Why is it beneficial for my business?

There are many reasons why organizations are attempting to create a learning culture within the workplace. As industries face semi-frequent technological “disruptions”, the ability for employees to learn new skills quickly has become increasingly valuable. Another reason is that in a hiring shortage, companies may struggle to find candidates with the skill-sets that they need. In this situation, companies without a learning culture would be faced with a crisis, while a company with a sufficiently-developed learning culture would be able to adapt on the fly. Lastly, a strong learning culture goes hand-in-hand with a talent acquisition pipeline, since both will help grow talent within your enterprise for long-term benefits.

How do I create a learning culture?

A learning culture is not created overnight. It is developed over time and requires the collaboration of many different parts of your business. To begin creating a learning culture within your company, you should:

  1. Use internal marketing techniques to encourage employees to learn new skills. This could be a monthly spotlight that showcases the growth of a different outstanding employee on a company blog.
  2. Incentivize learning within your company through promotions, competitions, positive reinforcement, and meaningful rewards such as extra paid time off.
  3. Provide constructive criticism to all employees on a semi-regular basis.
  4. Recruit based on learnability, flexibility, and innate desire to learn, as opposed to existing skills.
  5. Make sure that management is receptive to change. Nothing discourages learning like an employee coming up with a more efficient solution to a problem, only to get shut down by management.
  6. Get everyone on board with the learning culture. It’s not just for low and mid-level employees. It’s even more imperative for managers and executives to participate and showcase their accomplishments because it sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
  7. Encourage employees to pursue skills based on their own interests. If you can leverage their passion, you can expect them to go above and beyond every time.

When developing a learning culture, managers often look to the 70-20-10 model for learning and development, created by the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s. The numbers refer to how knowledge is cultivated: 70% comes from on-the-job hands-on experience, 20% comes from interacting with co-workers, and only 10% comes from educational workshops and events. The 70-20-10 is useful because it shows why success comes from making learning culture, not just a series of isolated courses. Instead, a successful learning culture will permeate every aspect of your business, with the overarching goal of cultivating curiosity within employees of every level.

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