3 Shifts Every Company Should Make to Shape its Learning Culture

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Aug 1, 2014

Recently we discussed how companies can actually realize more learning through less learning by building a productive learning culture.

To build a productive learning culture, the best organizations do three things:

1. Right size learning opportunities

To more actively engage their employees in development outside of the classroom — historically a major challenge for many organizations — 61 percent of heads of Learning & Development focus on providing employees more learning opportunities, and 75 percent actively promote the importance of on-the-job, experiential learning.

Unfortunately, employees are now overwhelmed with the available learning opportunities and choices, often failing to identify those relevant to them or take advantage of them.

Instead of increasing learning choices, the best organizations limit learning opportunities to only those that are most relevant to employees and impactful for the organization by:

  • Actively limiting and curating the learning opportunities provided by the organization; and,
  • Determining which learning opportunities are relevant to employees by considering their learning needs and learning maturity.

2. Advance the organization’s learning capability

Most employees have strong job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities, but few rate their learning capabilities very high: in fact, only 20 percent of employees say they are effective at learning.

Considering that only 16 percent of heads of L&D report focusing on teaching employees how to learn, this discrepancy is not a surprise.

But upon further examination, this lack of learning aptitude is primarily a capability issue, not a matter of employee motivation. So, L&D must focus on teaching employees how to learn.

Instead of simply creating and teaching learning content, the best organizations advance the organization’s learning capability by:

  • Designing learning programs that increase employee awareness of how to learn, not just what to learn; and,
  • Using learning technologies and platforms that enable employees to develop their learning behaviors, not just consume content.

Organizations that effectively execute this approach have more than twice as many employees with high learning capabilities than those that maintain the conventional approach.

3. Foster shared ownership of the learning environment

Our analysis reveals that few organizations have environments that support a productive learning culture. Although 60 percent of employees report that their work environments are open, far fewer consider their environments fair, relevant, safe, and clear.

These learning environment attributes matter, and they can have up to a 14 percent impact on employee performance.

However, despite universal agreement from heads of L&D, employees, managers, and leaders that creating a supportive learning environment is important, no single party has individual ownership of it.

Most L&D functions have been focused on driving ownership of individual learning but not on driving shared ownership of creating a learning environment. To do this successfully, L&D leaders must:

  • Recognize and reward group actions that collectively support learning.
  • Hold employees accountable for fostering a supportive learning environment.
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