A learning culture is one sign of a healthy workplace. In an adaptive culture of learning, employees look for continued opportunities to master new strategies and skills. This pursuit of knowledge contributes to both employees’ professional development and the health of the entire organization.
A workplace culture that prioritizes learning is different from a traditional workplace in several ways. Traditional workplaces can sometimes be rigid, featuring one method of training for every employee. By contrast, a learning culture is built to accommodate different learning styles — allowing each employee to choose from learning methods that create effective engagement.
A learning culture also heavily prioritizes education, even if that means delaying workplace tasks that aren’t essential. While a traditional workplace can allow time for professional development, menial tasks can often take precedence over learning new skills.
Professional development programs can offer benefits for your workplace. The right learning and development (L&D) initiative can expand employees’ skills and enhance workplace performance.
Expanding employees’ skills and knowledge
Perhaps most importantly, a culture of learning can help expand your employees’ skills and knowledge. Employees get regular opportunities to learn new skills and try new things, often in a controlled environment without the pressure of failure.
Skilled employees can be better prepared to face a variety of market changes. For example, a workforce with digital marketing skills will be able to adapt if a particular social media platform changes its advertising standards.
One way companies can begin to expand their employees’ skills is by measuring skills gaps. In this approach, L&D leaders take the time to test their employees’ skills, identifying any weaknesses across the workforce. Measuring capability gaps is the first step in creating development programs that teach the skills your employees need to thrive.
Empowering employees within your organization
Cultures of learning also help empower each employee in an organization. Where employees in a traditional company might be confused by a task or feel ill-prepared to handle an assignment, employees in a culture of learning usually have the skills necessary to handle all projects.
Empowered employees can become true difference-makers for their organization, particularly in a pinch. For example, employees responsible for software engineering can provide feedback on new website designs, even though digital marketing is outside of their traditional scope of work. With the right training, employees in a learning culture are often comfortable wearing multiple hats for their employers.
Cultivating innovative thought processes and pursuits
Most employers would say they want employees who can think outside of the box. This is exactly the type of employee that a learning culture creates — someone who can innovate, think on their feet and solve old problems in new ways.
Innovation is even more important for companies that see regular changes. For example, employees in product design often need to devise creative solutions to the challenges their customers face. Without changing a product with a design customers love, employees add new features and capabilities that renew a product’s shelf life and help it maintain its standing in the market.
Strengthening organizational agility
Agile organizations can adapt and change as necessary, without losing the identity that makes them unique. Employees who are part of a learning culture can quickly learn how to adapt when markets change — or when their own business changes.
Organizational agility is also a metric that companies can use to measure workplace learning. Agility indicates how well an entire organization can shift, perhaps when products aren’t selling well or customers are requesting a new solution.
Organizations often depend on agility to achieve business success. For example, a company might onboard a new client with new expectations. Employees will need to remain flexible in accommodating the needs of their new client and may even need to learn entirely new skills. A culture of learning can expedite this learning process and better prepare employees for change before it occurs.
Reacting to shifts in the industry
When market shifts happen, organizations are expected to shift accordingly. Employees who are part of a culture of learning may be better suited to shift with their industries since they’re already in the habit of learning new skills.
Organizations that handle industry shifts often have well-optimized corporate learning designs. Employees already understand how to tackle unfamiliar projects and work alongside their team members to pursue progress. For example, company leaders in a culture of learning might conduct a needs assessment after their industry shifts. Then, they will create learning initiatives to close any new skills gaps resulting from the shift itself.
Understanding a variety of possible professional approaches
Members of a culture of learning understand that there’s more than one way to solve each problem. Properly trained employees should be taught to evaluate potential outcomes before settling on a solution to better align their tasks with business goals.
Critical thinking, or identifying the right approach to a challenge, is a valuable trait in any employee. Today’s employers identify critical thinking as the primary soft skill that new graduates lack.
Employees that are a part of a culture of learning understand different ways to approach the same problem and can consult with team members before developing a plan to overcome the hurdle.
Quickly adjusting to technological developments
Digital transformation isn’t a one-time event. As new technologies arise that improve workplace efficiency, reduce errors and create growth, companies must continually respond to better adapt to the market. For example, employees in a culture of learning might participate in a digital transformation workshop — where they learn the benefits of a project management tool that helps cut down on lost hours during the week.
Encouraging employee engagement
Building a learning culture doesn’t happen overnight. If your organization is serious about creating learning opportunities, you can start by encouraging employee engagement.
Particularly if you’re transitioning from a traditional workplace culture to a culture of learning, getting employees to engage can take time. Even if you identify the benefits of a culture of learning over a traditional workplace culture, there are sometimes employees who prefer the old routine.
Offering professional development courses is one way to maximize employee buy-in to your culture of learning. Ask your employees which skills they’d like to improve. Once you’ve identified the professional development fields your employees prefer, you can begin to create an L&D program that teaches these specific capabilities.