5 Questions for Building a Learning Culture


Is it time to rethink the learning culture in your business? While we may recognise the importance of growing our people so the business can grow, the question is whether the culture of learning is fit for purpose.

Access to learning and development is cited as a key criteria for joining or leaving a company. You therefore ignore it at your peril, if you want to attract and retain the best people.

Defining a Learning Culture

A learning culture is one where:

  • The focus is on the learner, their needs and aspirations.
  • The learning and development is structured to meet business priorities.
  • There are clear, strong and flexible frameworks and processes for learning.
  • Leaders role model best practice and support learners to implement it.
  • Collaboration and information sharing are encouraged.
  • There is effective performance management.

CIPD Hr Outlook report Winter 2016-17 states “One of the headline findings is that many HR professionals believe leaders in their organisation don’t have the behaviours and skills needed to get the best from their people. Their technical, financial and operational competence is high, but many leaders are deemed ineffective at performance management, people management and developing people. Further examination reveals that training and support for line managers when they take on new people management responsibilities isn’t there in a significant number of organisations. In fact, just 44% of employers provide formal training, and 60% provide tailored support for managers.”

Here are five questions you can use to check your learning culture.

  1. How important is learning and development for your business?

Research shows that 84% of businesses believe that learning and development is important. Interestingly, emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil see it as very important or important (89%); whereas in the UK, only 74% saw it as such.

Nearly 100% of CEO’s or CHRO’s felt that they were not developing skills fast enough or leaders well enough. They recognised that leadership and development is a vital tool to engage employees, attract and retain top talent and develop the right leadership culture to achieve business plans.

The risk is that only lip service is paid to developing the right culture for learning. At the Neuroleadership Institute Summit 2016, it was quoted that only 28% of businesses felt that they were effective at developing leaders and only 4% were seeing sustainable change. Just 13% of organisations have been found to take into account how we learn when designing a training programme! This is despite a total spend of $16 billion!

  1. learning culture
    Keeping knowledge to yourself

    Do your leaders lend themselves to a learning culture?

 You know that leaders need to role model the behaviours they desire in the company. It is therefore important that they work on their personal development as well as expecting others to. It is about empowering people to achieve more and having a growth mindset. This means moving from a culture of ‘knowers’ to a culture of ‘learners’.

A business cannot grow unless its people grow. Expectations need to be clear.  A leader can destroy a culture if they transmit a message that there are better ways to spend your time than learning, or that they don’t need it. How much support is given to a trainee, post learning, will determine how much implementation there is.

  1. What is the commitment to learning?

Over the 25 years that I have been delivering training to a wide variety of companies, leaders have often had a good intent towards learning and development. This is not the same as commitment.

  • On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is very little and 10 is fully committed, how would you rate your commitment?
  • How much are you prepared to spend in time, money and resources?
  • How much follow through are you prepared to commit to this?
  • What are you doing for your own development?

If resources are scarce, then it is important to focus on the critical behaviours that people need to improve to achieve the business goals. You can focus on the essentials and build a common language.

Even the best learning systems are of little use if there is no implementation. In planning your process, you need to consider how you will encourage execution of the learning.

  1. What is your vision for a 21st Century offer?

Younger employees have grown up with self learning by a variety of means. They are happy using cyber methods. (For example, my son cooks using YouTube rather than a recipe book.) They are likely to spend five times more time learning on their own each week than learning from their employers.

Learning is available 24 hours a day, in any location, through podcasts, e-learning, social media and more. The modern learners want more diverse, dynamic options and access to learning tools. New formats appear all the time. Companies need to be creative and in tune with the latest trends. This doesn’t mean that the more traditional tools are redundant, but they may need to be part of a mix. They definitely need to be innovative and relevant. Group learning and activities can also provide the time to build relationships and share critical information. Sources may be internal or external to the company; which ever is most appropriate.

Sharing knowledge as a team

In his book, Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal,  talks about the importance of sharing of intelligence to generate greater adaptability and collaboration. We are in a fast moving, complex world. Customers expect the best and want it now. Our competitors will be on our heels. By sharing knowledge via easy-to-use methods and promoting collaborative experiences at work, teams can build a learning culture that goes beyond the ‘silos’. Quality decision making can then happen at all levels and much faster.

It is about becoming ‘learning experience architects’. The goal is to facilitate learners in how to learn. It is changing the mind set from providing a set course or programme to fulfilling a learner’s career aspirations and needs. It may require making it fast, easy and now.

  1. What is your learning pathway?

From my experience, there is too often a piecemeal approach to learning and development. Just as a vet may be called in to treat a sick animal (perhaps too late), a trainer can be mustered when an employee ‘has a problem’. It can be a case of ‘that sounds like a good course’ rather than a structured pathway aligned to individual and business needs. Please see our free downloadable Development Needs Audit.

At Training for Results, we are committed to you getting the best return on your investment. We can help you develop a structured development pathway, which is learner led and regularly reviewed. A learning culture creates a more beneficial route to better performance. If you would like to find out more, let’s talk.

My thanks to Wessex CIPD and Fatima Vepari from Sukha Consulting http://sukhaconsulting.com/  for inspiring me and providing the framework for this article

Also published on Medium.

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