6 Key Steps to Embedding a Learning Culture for a Thriving Business

Posted by Luke Johnson

The rate of technological change is accelerating. 25% of what you know now won’t be relevant in 2 years.

How is it possible for a business to prepare for a future it can’t fully comprehend? How is it possible for individuals to stay relevant in an era of rapid change?

A solid first step would be to cement a culture that can not only ride the waves of change, but embrace it.

A lifelong learning culture.

The full framework used in this article can be found by downloading our latest report into bridging the digital skills gap!

 

The importance of a learning culture

 

First, let’s examine why you would want to embed a learning culture in the first place.

As research from Edward Hess has found, an organisation’s ability to learn is “the foundation for continuous improvement, operational excellence, and innovation”

Which of course leads to growth…

At Growth Tribe we have a simple yet profound saying; “always be learning” and we live by it every day!

Why?

According to a PWC report into lifelong learning“we have to develop the awareness that staying relevant is important and develop the right mindset to act on this”

Businesses must help foster this growth mindset!

Humans are naturally inquisitive, so learning happens at work every day. But it’s up to companies to direct and drive that learning, to act as a catalyst for continued skills adoption.

As this enlightened quote from Nancy Gleason highlights “Everyone is now responsible for lifelong learning and up-skilling. It is the skills that will carry you through; the content will always be changing”

So, let’s jump into to the steps to embedding a lifelong learning culture.

 

Step 1 - Stakeholder Buy-In

 

Like any cultural change, embedding a learning culture must be driven from the top in order to succeed. The idea must have the full support of a leadership team that is committed to driving the change.

This is mission critical.

Unfortunately, like most things, it’s easier said than done.

At Growth Tribe, a culture of lifelong learning was established from day one. It's so tightly woven into the DNA of the company that to change it would be to fundamentally change who we are.

But what about established companies? Companies that need to dilute the old way of thinking in order to embrace the new?

Great question! And no easy task.

By taking the following steps you can be sure to make life a little easier!

First of all, and most obvious, you need to identify the relevant stakeholders and get them involved in the project early on. The most important people to involve will be those with high influence and high level of interest.

Secondly, alongside the high influence, high interest stakeholders, the goals and priorities of the project and the company must be aligned. Full senior management support cannot be achieved if the goals don’t further the business objectives.

Next, and arguably most importantly, you must build value and demonstrate the benefits of embedding a growth culture. Wow them with stats. Scare them with the consequences of doing nothing.

Finally, you need to demonstrate positive results. This is crucial to ensure continued support and to encourage senior stakeholders to double down their efforts.

securing management buy in

Step 2 - Creating Awareness of Learning Culture

 

You don’t know what you don’t know.

At this stage the senior stakeholders are on board... it’s now time for the rest of the organisation!

Yes, people are naturally inquisitive, but it’s still important to highlight and place emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning. Ensure that everyone in the organisation knows what lifelong learning means and why it’s important.

 

A Fixed Mindset vs. The Growth Mindset

 

This is what a learning culture is all about; fostering a growth mindset throughout the organisation.

A culture of lifelong learning will help those who already have a growth mindset to thrive and will help those without to develop one.

 

growth mindset vs fixed mindset

Why not take this and hang it in your office to create awareness? It was inspired by the amazing work of Carol Dweck and I highly recommend her book Mindset

While I won’t go into details on hiring in this post (you can find out more in this report), embedding a culture of lifelong learning can be made easier by hiring people with a demonstrated growth mindset to begin with.

At Growth Tribe, that growth mindset plays an essential part in dictating who we hire and makes our on-boarding process much more efficient.

That leads me on... highlighting the importance of lifelong learning should be a major focus of the on-boarding of new staff. They need to buy-in to the culture from day one.

Don’t take the importance of awareness lightly - without full buy-in from everyone at the company the impact of step 3 will be limited.

 

Step 3 - Supplies for a Learning Culture

 

You’ve created the demand, now ensure the supply.

You’re getting the buy-in and hiring the right people, so make sure you make learning as easy and accessible as possible.

Learning opportunities should be abundant. This means supplying the right tools and resources, making these accessible to all and crucially, ensuring that people have the time for learning!

It’s crazy the amount of business owners and senior professionals that recognise the importance of learning in the workplace, but are reluctant to help to free up people's time.

Don’t make this mistake. The adoption of new skills and knowledge is critical to business success, so learning should be given the same priority as other business-critical functions.

All aspects of the organisation must be set up to cater to learning. At Growth Tribe we have dedicated learning zones, regular internal workshops, encourage time-blocking for learning new skills, created learning and reading slack channels, share books, share learning experiences and have generous (personally managed) training budgets.

 

slack reading channel

Step 4 - Setting Learning Goals

 

You can’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going!

For learning to be truly embedded into the culture of the organisations, it must form part of both the organisation's and the employee's goals and OKRs.

It is correct to assume that individuals that possess a growth mindset will proactively look to learn at every opportunity. But this is the organisation's chance to set the learning direction and ensure that it is aligned with the overall goals of the company.

Self-driven learning is powerful and should be encouraged, but organisations must be careful to anticipate the need for future skills and knowledge.   

learning culture goals

 

Step 5 - Celebrate Failure

 

To fail is to learn. If you are not failing you are not innovating.

Companies that fail to innovate die.

You get the point.

One of our core values at Growth Tribe is to fail fast and celebrate failure. We test stuff fast and fix it later, and we build stuff that breaks!

 

growth-tribe-fail-board

A lack of risk-taking and testing of newly gained skills/knowledge will suppress innovation.

By this stage, a learning culture is well on its way to being embedded into an organisation. So don’t suppress people's ability or desire to test new ideas and put their newly gained skills into practice by discouraging failure.

Things will go wrong! Embrace it.

 

Step 6 - Recognise Success

 

We also have a win board 😉

As Maslow once said, recognition is a basic human need! Celebrate learning achievements and reward dedication. Ensure people know that their new knowledge and expertise isn’t going unnoticed.

People become lifelong learners and dedicate themselves to professional development because they understand the importance that staying relevant plays in staying valuable.

So recognise the added value with suitable reward.

 

The Learning Culture - A Summary

 

Embedding a culture of lifelong learning is no easy task, especially for established companies, but the benefits can be huge.

A report from Bersin by Deloitte states “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.” A strong learning culture can be created and sustained by following the 6 key steps I've just outlined.

Don’t underestimate the importance of an organisation's ability to learn fast. Learning is business-critical, so give it the attention, resources and time it requires.

Be a lifelong learner and, as we have, see your organisation's productivity skyrocket and growth explode.

Getting serious about learning, development and talent in your organisation? Download our full report into the digital talent gap.

 

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Screenshot 2018-11-12 at 15.04.28

Written by Luke Johnson