How to Build a Learning Culture

Most HR leaders agree that building a strong learning culture is the foundation for achieving positive business outcomes and effectively confronting the future of work. In addition, a younger generation of workers is demanding more of employers, and they expect career development and continuous learning to be the norm. As a result, learning culture influences employee engagement and experience, too.

Therefore, no one is surprised that creating a learning culture is a top priority for CHROs and their teams. Recently, learning experts have shared their best advice on developing such a culture with HR Exchange Network:

Get Leadership Buy-In

At the HR Exchange Network Corporate Learning Spring online event, Rashim Mogha, Skillsoft General Manager, Leadership & Business Portfolio, talked about how to effectively train people to be better leaders. One of the motivations for focusing on this kind of education is to ensure leaders model the kind of behavior that reverberates in the organization and encourages others to spend time on learning.

In fact, at the Corporate Learning Spring event, Mogha suggested having leaders be the first among those using the organization’s learning programs. She presented the idea of launching a new learning program by offering it to the leadership bench, for example.

“Eventually, you have to scale it,” she added. “That’s how you build a culture of continuous learning, but you have to start small.”

Make the Case

Getting leadership to understand the benefits of education is a great first step. HR leaders, however, must also help them understand the impact of providing learning opportunities. After all, any time learning professionals can demonstrate a link between talent receiving upskilling or reskilling and then going out and making more money for the company, education is winning.

“In order to promote a healthy, business-focused culture of lifelong learning, performance and innovation, an organization needs to transparently and clearly understand, recognize and promote the importance of learning and innovation in regard to business performance and success,” says Markus Bernhardt, Chief Evangelist at OBRIZUM and learning expert, who is active on LinkedIn. “This link is key. Learning and professional development needs to be viewed as business critical, and learning needs to move from being a ‘cost center’ to being a ‘valuable business performance investment.’”

Provide Learning Opportunities

Getting leaders to understand the importance of learning and development is not enough. They also have to be willing to allocate resources to L&D. Sonia Malik, Global Program Lead, Education and Workforce Development at IBM, says that beyond modeling the growth mindset and lifelong learning behaviors, leaders must “provide an infrastructure and the ability to become a lifelong learner.”

“You can’t say we want you to learn stuff and not provide access to infrastructure, content, or time to learn,” she says.

Focus on Curriculum

Large companies are creating their own programs that run like small universities. The Disney Institute and AT&T University come to mind. What is important is to determine the organization’s skills gap and try to fill those holes. Being intentional and strategic helps elevate the culture of learning. It could also factor into motivating people because they may experience success of their own, too. In addition, it could prevent them from becoming redundant.

“Our company has had to reinvent itself time and time again across 140-plus years of existence,” says Robert Stojanowski, Director of Learning and Innovation Labs at AT&T. “Continuous learning and reskilling is embedded in the culture because it has to be. Moving from traditional phone service to the internet to mobility services, cybersecurity, or consulting requires a vast set of skills.”

Convince the Employees

Certainly, employees are showing an interest in career development and learning opportunities more than ever before. However, some might not feel as motivated as others. Or they may feel challenged by having to divide their time between their work tasks and learning.

As a result, personalized education is becoming more popular. Giving people the chance to grow in a way that supports their own personal goals as well as those of the organization can improve job satisfaction and performance.

“Tying that learning curve with that earning curve and personalizing the learning journey for individuals are keys to establishing that learning culture,” says Malik.

Learning while Working

Among corporate educators, a philosophy about learning while working is emerging. Basically, the suggestion is to build learning opportunities into people’s day-to-day jobs. Some of this learning happens organically. After all, employees might need to learn a particular program to complete assignments or tasks. There may be opportunities to shadow a mentor or leader. In other cases, learning leaders might have to allow for the allotment of time necessary to complete a lesson, for example, and immediately try to apply it on the job.

Ultimately, lifelong learning is going to separate the winners from the losers in the workforce and among organizations. The future of work has arrived in many ways, and the skills gap is catching up to everyone. Therefore, developing a learning culture is not just a nice thing to do for employees. It’s a business necessity.

By Francesca Di Meglio

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network

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