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9 Steps to Creating a Culture of Learning

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A Culture of Learning can be defined as a mindset within an organization where learning and improvement are at the heart of how people prioritize their time, do their jobs, and interact with one another.  It’s an environment where people are actively seeking opportunities to develop themselves and others, and to explore new ways for the organization as a whole to improve.

Looking at this another way, the organization seeks to:

  1. Empower individuals to pursue opportunities to maximize their potential and thrive in their roles.
  2. Educate staff, allowing them to pursue career growth, cross train, and stay up to date with the newest innovations, processes, technology, etc.
  3. Elevate the entire organization through an engaged, confident, and competent workforce.

Creating a Culture of Learning is both intentional and embedded in the day-to-day experiences of everyone at all levels of the organization.  Here are 9 specific steps you can take to plan, create, enable, and actualize a meaningful Culture of Learning:

Step 1 – Honest self-evaluation of the current state of learning

Take an honest assessment of learning in your current organization.  Key considerations include:

  • Understand the current state of your organization’s overall culture and how it aligns with learning. Identify existing practices, attitudes, and behaviors related to continuous improvement and knowledge sharing.
  • Evaluate whether your company’s core values and cultural norms actively support learning and development. Do you have a culture that encourages curiosity, experimentation, and growth fosters a positive learning environment?
  • Clarify the strategic goals behind learning initiatives and align them to business objectives. Is it about enhancing skills, driving innovation, or adapting to industry changes?
  • How do you engage leaders, managers, and employees in conversations about the value of learning? Consider if/how it contributes to individual growth, team performance, and overall organizational success.
  • Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping the learning culture; does leadership demonstrate a commitment to learning and encourage others to do the same?
  • Assess whether your organization offers resources, training programs, mentorship, and opportunities for skill development. Do you provide the right tools that support continuous learning?

Step 2 – Document the future vision for your organization’s Culture of Learning

Based on the above evaluation of the current state of your learning culture, gaps will appear and need to be addressed or mitigated.  By addressing gaps, you ensure the first part of creating that future state for your Culture of Learning.

The second component is forward-looking.  What elements of a Learning Culture do you desire to have, are not present today and are ways you want to experience learning in the future?  Researching effective and existing models will help you add to your vision, by “borrowing” the best of what others have already implemented and accomplished.

Step 3 – Determine needed internal processes, offerings and/or services

For each element of the future Culture of Learning vision, you need to create workstreams, identify products and services, supporting technology, etc. that will help deliver and actualize that vision within your organization.  Some examples include:

  • Ensure you have the right technology to deliver asynchronous learning experiences (Learning Management System, etc.)
  • Effective technology training & support
  • Access to live trainers who will plan strategic sessions as well as be present to respond to needs
    • Supplemented with AI-driven technology designed to provide real time, relevant feedback (Alterity+)
  •  Asynchronous content offerings to address both job-specific skills as well as
    • Leadership and manager development
    • Respectful workplace
    • Cybersecurity and data privacy standards
    • Technical training
    • Soft Skills (communication, presentation, time management, organizational, crucial conversations, work/life balance, etc.)
Step 4 – Define key measurement for each new workstream
Each workstream included in your new Culture of Learning needs a key measure (at least one!) so that you can track progress and impact.  Thinking about what changes because of this new service, technology, training initiative, etc. will help you align the key measure with each new initiative.
Step 5 – Create a timeline and rollout model

Once you have the future vision defined and key measures in place, it is now time to consider how to execute the vision most effectively, over time.  Do you begin with technology?  Content?  Live training?  Creating or partnering with a training solutions team?  Updating job roles and descriptions?  Creating career paths and succession models?

The answer depends on what you view as the most critical need, where you can gain the most traction or what workstreams set the foundations for others to follow (for example: you may have to select and implement a learning management system before you can deliver and track asynchronous learning online to your workforce).

The timeline and roll out plan will protect your organization, ensuring that you implement the various strategies in the right order, at the right time and with an understanding of your capacity to get the work done and for the volume of change.

Step 6 – Calculate ROI (the “so what”)

The individual and then cumulative impact of each component of your optimized Culture of Learning should result in some very observable and easily measured outcomes.  These outcomes will almost always include:

  • Reduced Costs: While learning programs require financial investment, a strategic L&D program that aligns with key company initiatives can lead to long-term cost savings.
    • For instance, transitioning from in-person training sessions to online-based learning platforms can scale development opportunities for all employees without exponential cost increases.
  • Increased Productivity: When employees have the opportunity to develop critical skills, they work faster and smarter. A culture of learning encourages continuous improvement, leading to more efficient processes and better productivity across the organization.
  • Higher Revenue: Well-trained employees contribute directly to business success. By enhancing their skills, they can drive revenue growth through improved customer service, sales, and innovation. A learning culture fosters a workforce that positively impacts the bottom line.
  • Improved Employee Retention and Experience: Organizations with strong learning cultures tend to retain talent better. Employees appreciate opportunities for growth and development, leading to higher job satisfaction and longer tenure. Reduced turnover saves recruitment and training costs.
  • Support for Business Continuity: A culture of learning prepares employees for changing business landscapes. When faced with disruptions (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), organizations that invest in learning can adapt more swiftly, ensuring continuity and resilience.

Step 7 – Rollout the initial workstreams

The key here is to assign a lead – someone who is ultimately responsible for each component that is being rolled out within the organization.  This person does not have to do it all, but is ultimately responsible for the communications, roll out, adoption and management of the workstream.

It is also often helpful to start with a smaller pilot group to test the initiative, gathering feedback and optimizing the solution before rolling it out to the entire organization.

Step 8 – Collect feedback

Creating a continuous feedback cycle is key to maintaining a successful Culture of Learning.  Utilizing vehicles such as employee surveys, daily, weekly, and monthly team, departmental and organizational meetings, focus groups, and embedding learning into the performance management plan for your organization are all effective ways to collect feedback from every corner of the business.  This information becomes mission critical as you work to keep your Culture of Learning vibrant, alive, and meaningful over time.

Step 9 – Bi-annual review of the program with adjustments

It is essential that you create a small team whose primary role is to evaluate the workstreams, review the feedback, and ensure that the Culture of Learning initiative is meeting its anticipated outcomes.  This team should meet (at minimum) two times a year to ensure early identification of needed changes, areas of emphasis, reallocation of budget, continuity of execution and consistent leadership for each element of the Culture of Learning.  A senior leader should sponsor this group and ensure that outcomes from this meeting have a direct communication line to the full leadership team.

If you want to explore any of the above steps and/or partner with an organization that has nearly 30 years of experience helping create and deliver an impactful Culture of Learning for their client base, Alterity Solutions is here to help.  We have the right products and service solutions to meet your learning needs.  Please reach out and contact us here and we will be most happy to share our best practices and experiences with you.