When I ask clients to identify their desired outcome as we plan training implementation, by and large the most common response is “culture.” They want to create a culture of dialogue or a culture of productivity. They want to influence the organization’s adaptability and flexibility during change. They want a culture where people step up, speak up, and hold one another accountable.
What is culture? One of my favorite perspectives uses this definition: “The culture of a company is the sum of the behaviors of all its people.”
In our recent research of the L&D divide—the gap between what employers are offering and what employees are asking for—only 44% of participants felt their organization provides them with learning and development opportunities they truly value. I recently heard it said that the war for talent is over, and the talent won. In other words, the future of talent and learning is now in their hands.
Learning and development is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must. It’s your organization’s greatest competitive advantage. As organizations use training to build and develop culture, they need to focus on the culture of learning.
In a report from Association for Talent and Development (ATD) titled Building a Culture of Learning: The Foundation of a Successful Organization, the authors define a culture of learning as “one in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.” They add, “The importance of the pursuit and application of learning is expressed in organizational values and permeates all aspects of organizational life.”
Organizations with a strong learning culture affirm the importance of learning and provide an atmosphere in which learning is so ingrained that it becomes a way of life. Unfortunately, studies estimate that only 31% of organizations have a culture of learning.
As you look forward to 2023, look to build or strengthen your organization’s learning culture. Here are a few things for you to keep in mind in doing so.
Assess Your Current Learning Strategy
This is the perfect time to perform a learning audit. Examine how your employees are currently learning, what they are learning, and what your organization’s strengths and weaknesses are. In doing so, you will be better able to create a strategy that will foster your desired learning culture.
Meet Learners Where They Are
COVID-19 forced us to move away from in-person training to virtual training, and in doing so, we’ve come to appreciate how virtual learning offers high-quality training with ease for learners. We’re also seeing a more strategic move to on-demand (self-paced, self-guided) learning to provide ultimate flexibility. Assessing your current learning culture will help you identify whether to deliver in person, virtually, on demand, or a blended or hybrid learning model.
Link in Leadership
Any organizational culture comes from the top down. Leader-led learning and development does more than just foster a learning culture—it can ignite it. It’s important that you move from mere permission to ignition. Linking in leadership includes but is not limited to:
- Leading by example
- Connecting learning to business objectives
- Kicking off training courses/initiatives
- Making time for learning
- Not interrupting learning
- Setting goals
- Sharing experiences
- Rewarding learning
Employees aren’t going to learn if they don’t know about it. A key component to building a culture of learning is marketing. As you launch learning and leadership development programs, make learners aware. Advertise in email campaigns and company newsletters, discuss in new employee interviews and onboarding, and leverage course champions by fostering opportunities to share what they have learned.
More than knowing that training is available, leaders and learners need to know what’s in it for them. Let them know the benefits and advantages of learning. This can serve as a great motivator and help in building your learning culture.
As you prepare for what we hope will be an epic 2023, let it be the beginning or rejuvenation of your organization’s learning culture. Returning to that ATD report referenced above, the authors said, “Robust cultures of learning are distinct hallmarks of organizations that consistently produce the best business results.”
Developing a culture of learning is an investment that helps you leverage your employees’ potential and grow your business. It truly becomes your competitive advantage.