Why creating a culture of learning is important for workplaces
Learning and development is a vital part of the work experience, but for individuals and workplaces alike, it can quickly fall down the priority list when things get busy…and sometimes drop off thelist all together.
If you’re keen on changing this mindset and making learning a priority at your workplace, you’re in the right place. We spoke with expert Lisa Lie, the creator of microlearning app, Learna, all about the importance of having a culture of learning, how to go about creating it and encouraging your team to embrace learning and development.
Lisa, tell us a bit about yourself and Learna.
I started out in advertising because I was curious about people. What motivated them, why they preferred certain things, how they went about their work and what they were looking for.
My career shift took place when I was leading a high-performing team and realised I was much more invested in helping people grow than helping brands grow. From that point, I started searching for and learning everything I could about people, and what they needed to feel engaged and effective at work.
I took on a Head of People & Culture role where I had unwavering support to continually experiment with new ways of working to support a modern workforce.
Working in an environment that fostered curiosity, problem-solving and shaking things up led me to want to create a new way for people to learn the skills they want and need at work – the ones that make the biggest difference to their workday. As a result, I set about developing and launching Learna. Learna is a microlearning app designed to transform how people learn, grow, and engage at work; creating workplaces built for the future.
What is a culture of learning in the context of the workplace?
A culture of learning is like an ecosystem that fuels curiosity and growth, where continuous improvement is the norm and individuals are empowered to develop their skills. Learning is valued at all levels and integrated into everyday work, snapping people out of ‘going through the motions’ and rewarding consistent curiosity. Feedback and continuous improvement are encouraged, creating an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth.
Why is having a culture of learning important at work?
A culture of learning is really essential at work because it fosters innovation, adaptability, and growth.
From an individual perspective, it enables people to continually enhance their skills and capabilities, leading to increased engagement and effectiveness. From a team perspective, a culture of learning promotes open-mindedness, collaboration and creativity, allowing teams to explore new ideas and find new solutions to old challenges.
And from an organisation perspective, it creates an environment where people feel valued and motivated, leading to higher retention, role satisfaction and effectiveness. Ultimately, this kind of culture allows organisations to thrive in a rapidly evolving business landscape by enabling continuous improvement while gaining new insights and expertise.
What are some of the key elements or characteristics of a successful culture of learning?
Building a culture of learning takes time and consistent effort. If you’re looking for a ‘tick-box’ solution you won’t ever get there. Here are some of the key elements I’ve seen that really support in embedding a culture of learning into a workplace:
- Lead by example: If you aren’t actively learning, why should others? When teams don’t see their manager or leaders investing in their own development, it creates an unspoken barrier. Team members lose confidence that committing time to their career development is the right thing to do and may even question whether their manager or workplace really values continual learning. When managers openly share their own learning goals with their team, it sets the tone and increases accountability and removes the idea that learning from others is linked to hierarchy and instead makes it an expected part of your culture. When team members see their managers setting and sticking to learning goals, it prompts them to do the same.
- Will do, not should do: Change the way your workplace thinks about learning by making it a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have. When you connect learning commitments to an individual’s goals, what the organisation is trying to achieve, and existing internal workflows, it supports institutionalising learning and increases its perceived importance on the to-do list. Even changing language in learning conversations from “What should you do?” to “What will you do?” or “What have you learnt recently?” boosts motivation and accountability for learning.
- Working with time: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a person say, “I don’t have time to invest in learning”, “I’ll get around to it when everything calms down or when this project has finished…etc.”…To be fair they’re not excuses, they’re someone’s current reality and perspective. And the hope is that one day they’ll magically have more time and fewer things to do, but that’s just not how work works. If people look for the perfect moment to focus on learning, they’re highly likely to stagnate and start to go through the motions, when in fact, they could have taken a beat, quickly learnt something new and become more effective in that moment of pressure. Workplaces that build microlearning into their culture give people easy and practical ways to begin to make learning part of the day-to-day. It allows people to begin to form a learning habit, sparks curiosity for more and sets the expectation that we should always be learning no matter what. After all, who really wants to go through the motions day in, day out?
- What gets rewarded gets done: Recognising and rewarding people’s learning efforts reinforces the importance of continuous learning and its connection to career growth. After all, culture is the shared values, attitudes, behaviours, and standards that create a workplace and the experience that people have there. For learning to be a key component of this, then it should be connected to everything a business does and part of people’s roles (not in addition to).
If you use these practical strategies, you can create an environment where continuous learning is valued and integrated into the everyday work experience, benefiting both individuals and the organisation as a whole.
It can be hard to get employees to do learning or training on top of their jobs (even when the training is paid for!). What’s a good way for leaders to get their team on board and excited about learning?
Great question. Firstly, nothing should be provided or introduced without some context – ‘why are we doing this’ and ‘what’s in it for me’. Leaders should clearly communicate – and demonstrate – why learning is important to the organisation, the benefits of learning for teams and individuals and focus on how it enhances performance, personal growth, and future opportunities.
Next up, leaders can actively participate in learning initiatives themselves, demonstrating their commitment, vulnerability in not having all the answers and enthusiasm for trying new things.
And most importantly, if they truly value learning in their culture they should provide dedicated time and resources for learning, ensuring that people have the support and encouragement to engage in training, and that their people are also aware of their responsibility to commit to learning within their role.
If you foster a culture that values and recognises learning achievements through rewards, recognition, and career development opportunities, you can further motivate your team to embrace learning as an integral part of their day-to-day role and experience at work.