According to a recent survey, 80% of CEOs cite the need for new skills as their biggest business challenge.
New research has also shown that the second most important factor in workplace happiness for employees is the opportunity for development and that ‘heavy learners’ are more confident, successful, and happy at work.
Because learning is essential for employees to develop new skills and find fulfillment in their work, companies that foster a learning culture and offer development opportunities to their employees are laying the groundwork for long-term success with a team of engaged employees who do their jobs well.
A learning culture is a particularly important element of sustainable success in business because it positively impacts strategy, innovation, employee engagement, employee retention, and many other elements of an organisation.
In this article, we will discuss what a learning culture is, why it is essential for long-term success, how it benefits employees and their organisations, and how it fosters innovation.
What Is a Learning Culture?
In organisational learning cultures, team members have the time and space to continually grow their knowledge and develop new skills. The learning is geared toward improving employee performance and supporting personal and professional growth.
Building a Culture of Learning, a report released by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), provides fascinating insight into the essential elements that go into a learning culture.
According to the report, one of the key features of a learning culture is an alignment between business strategies and professional development through learning.
Other notable characteristics include a qualified professional staff to administer the learning function, a dedicated budget that adequately meets the organisation’s learning needs, and the inclusion of talented, nurturing learning leaders in the overall talent management processes.
The evidence supports what we already suspect. A company with a strong learning culture must also have an organisational mission, vision, and values that align with and support employee development needs.
Leaders play a vital role in developing and implementing a culture of learning, but it is about more than providing the learning opportunities. An exceptional leader will inspire their team members to make learning a priority in their personal development strategy.
When setting the stage for a culture of learning, Matthew Smith, Chief Learning Officer at McKinsey & Company, says, “Like so many things, it starts at the top, and it starts with having a CEO or a senior leader who actually values learning and talks about it very actively.”
Because learning is so intricately linked with an organisation’s success, leaders who take a learning-focused approach to the overall management process will make learning a part of the organisation’s mission and business strategy by providing a variety of opportunities to meet the growth and development needs of employees.
Why Learning Cultures Are Important for Success
In the book Learning Agility: The Impact on Recruitment and Retention authors Linda S. Gravett and Sheri A. Caldwell discuss the impact learning cultures can have on attracting and retaining top talent, as well as the consequences companies face when they don’t make learning a priority.
Citing companies that experienced tremendous growth, the authors show the connection between the eventual failure of these companies and their decision to replace ‘fresh thinking’ with an inflexible adherence to the status quo.
To cultivate the fresh, nuanced thinking that makes and keeps organizations successful by helping them stay adaptable and agile as markets and other factors change, learning cultures are essential.
Because they are less risk-averse, learning-focused organizations have a competitive advantage in their markets, not just financially, but also in the areas of performance, recruitment and retention, employee engagement, customer service, succession planning, and innovation.
Matt Tenney is an active CEO who aspires to create the best workplace culture in the world. Matt is also the author of Serve To Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom, and The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence. Matt is frequently invited to present keynote speeches at leadership conferences and meetings. His TEDx Talk has been viewed over 1,000,000 times since January, 2020.