How to create and foster a learning culture

Developing a learning culture in today’s modern business environment is no longer a ‘nice to have’

How to create and foster a learning culture

by Kath Greenhough, senior manager of consulting services, Australia and New Zealand, Skillsoft 

Developing a learning culture in today’s modern business environment is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential for companies to cultivate learning if they wish to stay in business. Employees today see learning opportunities and career development as real benefits – above and beyond salary and novelty ‘perks’. Having a structured learning and development programme in place demonstrates to employees that the company values their personal development. In turn, this increases employee loyalty and helps companies attract the best possible talent. Businesses with a strong learning culture enjoy employee engagement and retention rates around 30-50% higher than those that without.

But is your company ready to give up confrontational attitudes for an open culture of trust and inquiry? Are you ready to unlearn competition among groups and individuals, and replace it with cooperation, openness and dialogue?

  1. Learning is continuous

Learning is happening every day, whether you notice it or not. Successful leaders don’t treat learning as an event to be scheduled. Learning needs to be ‘people-centric’, not ‘learning centric’. Think,

“How can we help our people make learning a frequent part of their routine? What learning content will our people engage with the most?” People are individuals; each employee will have their own preference about how they learn best. It might be listening to audio books or watching short and structured video clips throughout the day, as and when specific challenges arise. More learning content is available now than ever before. Organisations need to help their employees find what works for them by acting as curator, offering guidance and structure with learning recommendations tailored to each individual employee.

  1. Make learning self-directed

On-demand learning empowers employees to seek and find their own answers. Neuroscientists state that this type of learning is retained far longer than just being told what to do. Organisations can get so focused on delivering a learning program that they forget about the simple things, for example ‘how you do a pivot table?’ or ‘how to have a difficult conversation with your manager?’ Of course, the more engaging the learning management system is, the more likely staff are to engage in the resources available.

  1. Turn managers into coaches

Learning and development should not just be the responsibility of the HR department or the learning and development team (L&D team). Managers need to enable learning to take place. They have to take the time to talk to each of their team members about what they’d like to learn and via which method and effectively make that happen. The L&D team therefore need to support the managers to enable them to be coaches to their team members.

In performance reviews at Skillsoft for example, we operate a 30 by 30 approach, preferring to catch up with our teams about their performance every 30 days for 30 minutes rather than once a year. It is the manager’s responsibility to assess what the L&D requirement is, what that person wants to learn, if it is related to the job they’re doing or want to do, and can it be provided in a way that works for them/is easy to consume?

  1. Evaluate performances based on learning

New models for performance management demonstrate that measuring learning, along with performance, ultimately increases both.

Making the training both accessible and available in a format that the employee wants to engage with is only half the story. To foster a culture of learning, this needs to come from the CEO down. A company’s leadership needs to communicate the vision, mission, strategy and goals of the business so that every single person feels that they matter. People are much happier when they know that coming to work every day has a genuine impact on the success of the company. When employees know they are making a real difference, it gives them the motivation to continuously learn and grow. Managers who build a culture of learning understand that investing in employees today pays dividends tomorrow.


Your employees have the potential to drive your organisation to new heights. If you create and foster a culture of learning, you’ll develop their skills, increase employee engagement and retention and set your organisation up for success.


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