In another year of continued uncertainty, organisations need engaged, creative, resilient teams to survive – and thrive. How can your organisation achieve this? By building a culture of learning.
A learning culture doesn’t just happen. It’s everyone’s business. Discover 4 key benefits of a learning culture so you can talk about it with confidence and engage stakeholders to drive success in your organisation.
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One thing that is certain in another uncertain year is that businesses that have a learning culture are more able to survive and thrive. When your organisation actively promotes and embeds a learning culture, your employees and leaders will have the skills, knowledge and mindset to embrace challenges and drive organisational success.
But what is a learning culture? It’s a vital question. Those organisations that are successful in implementing learning cultures have a common understanding and shared vision of what a learning culture looks like in their organisation.
However, the many definitions of a learning culture, lack of awareness of the importance of a learning culture and lack of clarity on who is responsible and accountable for creating and fostering this, mean that efforts can make slow progress or be challenging to maintain.
A CIPD study noted a significant gap between those who wished to foster a learning culture and those who achieved it. They found that 36% of L&D practitioners felt they’d achieved creating a learning culture compared to 97% who wished to develop a positive culture for learning.
A commonly accepted definition of learning culture is “a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed towards the mission and goals of the organization”.
And it’s important to know what a learning culture is not: it isn’t a single directive or initiative from L&D or top management. They may foster and facilitate its foundation, but it’s not owned or managed by them.
A learning culture doesn’t just happen.
It needs you and the business managers to support it practically and communicate it clearly so that all aspects of the business are infused with an ethos and practice of learning.
Discover the benefits of a learning culture so you can talk about it with confidence and credibility, engage stakeholders and drive success in your organisation.
1. Learning cultures increase engagement and retention
By creating an environment where they are constantly learning, employees feel that the organisation values them and their personal growth. This leads to increased engagement and dedication.
A learning culture also improves performance, not only of employees, but also of the organisation. New knowledge and skills will help them excel in their roles and increase motivation. One LinkedIn report noted that employees who spend time learning on the job are 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, and 23% more able to take on additional responsibilities.
And learning cultures can also foster well-being. Employees who spend time learning on the job are 47% less likely to be stressed and 21% more likely to feel confident. These benefits also link positively to retention.
Managers are instrumental in supporting the learning culture in their team and fostering engagement. One study highlighted that when managers support employees’ continuous learning, they show greater commitment towards the organisation, which in turn reduces their intention to leave. What’s more, leaders need to communicate the organisation’s vision of a learning culture, actively involve their teams in activities that support the vision and foster a growth mindset in their teams by encouraging them to question, give feedback and suggest improvements.
They also need to walk the talk and demonstrate that they have a growth mindset and are continually learning.
2. Learning cultures boost creativity and innovation
At the heart of a learning culture are two important attitudes: an appetite for risk taking and viewing failure as a learning and growth opportunity. Two attitudes that are closely linked to creativity and innovation.
For organisations to adopt true learning cultures, they need to fully embrace both. Essential to this is a sense of psychological safety in the organisation. Employees need to feel supported to express themselves honestly and freely, question processes and practices and admit mistakes without blame or fear of retribution. This free exchange boosts curiosity and enhances critical thinking, valuable to drive creativity and innovation.
And it’s not just environment and attitudes that are important. Learning cultures foster creativity by encouraging employees to broaden their skills and knowledge through non-traditional forms of learning. Learning from peers, reverse mentoring, secondments, conference presentations, networking with employees from other organisations, cross-industry and job scopes will broaden perspectives and motivate your employees to apply what they learn.
In these learning cultures, innovation becomes the norm. And the benefit of getting your learning culture right is huge. According to one study, 46% of organisations who have a learning culture are more likely to be first to market, 37% are more productive and 92% are more likely to innovate.
Organisations who actively promote a growth mindset such as Microsoft under Satya Nadella’s leadership, outperform others in the market.
3. Learning cultures prepare organisations for disruption and change
In 2023, an impending recession, rising inflation and slowing economic growth requires us to prepare (yet again) for another year of uncertainty.
A culture of learning is imperative for navigating change and driving growth. A learning culture equips employees with a growth mindset, an appetite for risk-taking and embracing change as an opportunity for growth. Agile learners are less likely to be afraid of failure and are energised by change and challenges. They stay calm, focused, experiment and work through obstacles.
Amazon Web Services has innovation and learning at the core of its culture to drive its continued success. The fourteen Leadership Principles which include ‘learn and be curious’ and ‘invent and simplify’ act as a framework to make consistent decisions. The Leadership Principles are part of the hiring process, employee development programme and help them create mechanisms to turn intentions into processes which they implement and inspect.
4. Learning cultures improve customer satisfaction
And there’s a ripple effect from this boost in employee engagement, creativity and change management.
Greater customer satisfaction.
Engaged, skilled employees exude confidence, passion and motivation for their work. And this can lead to enhanced trust, connection and engagement with customers, both internal and external.
A learning culture is one which doesn’t wait for feedback - it solicits feedback. A culture of curiosity and innovation encourages employees to engage with customers, and listen to their opinions, both positive and negative. Supported by an environment of psychological safety, team members can feel free to question the customer journey and suggest improvements to processes. This positively impacts Moments of Truth, where a customer interacts with an organisation, shaping positive customer experience and perceptions.
The growth mindset in learning cultures leads to a can-do mentality, where employees are resilient and proactive in generating solutions to customer issues and complaints.
Having this informative picture of the benefits, you’ll be confident and convincing when talking to others about the importance of a learning culture. Help others have a clear, common vision and see how a learning culture is everyone’s business.
With 80 years’ experience partnering with organisations to develop talent and organisational capacity, work with the British Council to equip your teams with professional skills and strategies to develop a positive learning culture to achieve your organisation’s goals.