What is a learning culture?
A learning culture, or a culture of learning, is where employees continue to seek, share, and apply new skills, competencies, and knowledge.
This approach benefits both the employees by helping to elevate the employee as a person and as a worker. It benefits the organization by affording them opportunities to transform as their employees grow.
Talent development leaders, which you can think of as coaches, say that for a learning culture to be possible an organization must have:
· Closely aligned learning and business strategies.
· Values that affirm the importance of learning.
· An atmosphere where learning is ingrained it’s simply a way of life for the business.
Organizations that have a successful learning culture tend to be far more agile. They are also able to see change and exploit it in the best possible way.
But, of course, for a company to successfully implement the culture of learning, changes are necessary at the managerial or executive level.
After all, it’s the leaders who are creating and reinforcing how the new staff is trained. So, they, the leaders, will need to be supportive of a learning environment. Which they should be.
I know that as I implement this approach in my business, I’m seeing the benefits of how my employees approach their work. But, to shift from traditional methods of management to a more learning culture-orientated approach is not something that can be achieved overnight.
You first must understand the difference between the dictator-style of management of traditional organizations and the coaching approach inherent in the learning culture.
From dictator to coach: the difference a culture of learning can make to your organization
Coaching is becoming an integral part of the learning culture. And I invest a significant amount of time in training myself and my employees on how to coach correctly. And coaching should not be confused with consulting.
Difference between a coach and a consultant
Many times, I went through the consulting phase at my work. Either my boss thought it would be wise to hire one or I tried to compensate a lack of skills in the office by getting the job done from the outside.
I am not saying that the consultants’ role is not necessary and sometimes vital, but it is for sure temporary. Coaching, as part of the learning organization, is ongoing and delivered by those inside the organization.
To give a clear example of what a coach does appose to consultants: consultants come in and answer questions, offer advice, and sometimes solve problems.
Coaching is about using all your knowledge, experience, and skill to help get the best out of other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have all the answers, or that you’re the best in the field you’re coaching.
Do you think Lebron James’s coaches are as good a basketball player as he is? Probably not. But each of his coaches has worked with him to help him achieve his best.
That’s how it works in the learning culture. You’ve got to ask the right questions that help spark insights in other people. You’ve got to work with employees, help them find their strengths and weaknesses, and encourage them to work on them.
Why some leaders don’t like the learning culture
In the past, this approach to training staff was derided foremost by some of my bosses. They perceived it as soft. And it seemed to make them uncomfortable because it deprived them of asserting their authority.
Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make sense. The more employees know, the more empowered they feel to continually grow and develop as people and employees, the better it is for a business.
Instead of micro-managing staff, management could instead work on the business helping it to grow. Which is far more productive, it also makes employees feel trusted and respected. And yet, there are businesses out there who struggle to let go of control despite the tangible benefits of the learning culture.
Coaching isn’t an easy job
Coaching well can be hard. That is why in many companies, employees will continue making glaring errors, while managers will alternately ignore them and try to micromanage it.
However, a shift in mindset could turn such a toxic work environment into a place where employees would want to work. And this, in turn, has many benefits for the executives and managers of the business.
7 benefits of a learning culture
Earlier, I said there are tangible benefits to implementing the learning culture in an organization. Here are seven of them:
1. An increase in employee satisfaction which can drastically reduce staff turnover.
2. Ease in transition between departments, and promoting from within.
3. Increased productivity, efficiency, and profit.
4. Improvement in mindset amongst employees.
5. Culture of knowledge sharing and inquiry.
6. Enhanced ability for employees to adapt to change.
7. More developed sense of accountability and a sense of ownership.
One small caveat to this is: the learning that is encouraged must be related to the business. Which sounds obvious. But it is necessary to ensure the learning is targeted towards the skills and expertise of the organization.
Another important consideration is a sense of unity. Don’t expect all the learning to be done solo. In fact, learning in groups (or departments) helps solve problems more efficiently. It also encourages learning as employees help each other out.
Bonus benefit: a successful learning culture can often break down tacky office politics. It’s no longer about who’s better than who. It’s about fostering cooperation and open dialogue so that everyone (and the organization) can improve and grow.
Developing the learning culture in an organization is an on-going task
Developing a learning culture is not an overnight task. It takes time. And patience. An organization’s leadership team has got to be prepared to make a few changes to how the staff is trained. As well as how staff views each other and the reward system.
After all, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to encourage anyone. It’s also a good way of letting your employees know that they are doing their job the right way and well.
My own experience implementing the learning culture
I am not flawless. I still have an urge to tell and sell. But what I don’t do now is make up my mind about the right way forward before I speak with my employees.
The command and control, dictator way of leading a company is dying out. Companies need to be nimble to survive in today’s market. Which is what a culture of learning can help with. The learning culture keeps leaders and employees on their toes, and up-to-date with their industry.
Traditional managerial methods often result in those organizations being slow to adapt to change. Which means they inevitably have to play catch-up.
While the advantage of adopting the learning culture is being able to see change coming. And then adapt and incorporate the change without breaking stride.
Of course, in the learning culture, leaders can’t really reward employees for executing flawlessly things that they already know how to do. Now, this is not to say that successes shouldn’t be celebrated.
But in a learning culture, you want to celebrate the wins that come in the form of new skills and new knowledge. This can be anything from learning a more expedient method for completing a task efficiently; to figuring out a way to better coach new staff that gets the most out of them in a shorter period of time.
Learning culture is the future
The learning culture is about growth and adaptability. It’s about allowing employees to constantly grow and improve. Like all cultures, it is an ever-evolving process. As long as there is constantly open and constructive dialogue, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
The learning culture allows organizations to be flexible, quick on their feet, and adaptable. Employees and leaders work in concert to develop skills, experience, and competencies that provide serious advantages and benefits to the business.
This approach to business can work for everyone from retail stores and supermarkets to tech companies and start-ups.
My writing is based on true events and stories. It is as real as it gets. I changed parts of the stories and excluded real names as I don’t want people to get hurt. But most of the stuff I write is authentic and includes my thoughts and feelings.