Creating a Culture of Learning: How to Make your Teams Future Ready


We recently addressed why it's important to create a culture of learning, addressing key reasons why companies need learning and development (L&D) programs. The bottom line is this: technology - including automation and AI - don't solve the problem of finding and retaining to talent.

Fostering a learning culture, on the other hand, can achieve both. Gallup reports that young employees seek skills training as a top perk when looking for a job. 

L&D also helps you retain existing workers - even when other companies are struggling to hold onto their employees. Per Gallup, 57% of U.S. workers say they want to update their skills and nearly half would consider moving to a new job if it meant acquiring the skills they want.

Companies that implement comprehensive L&D programs have happier employees, which leads to happier customers. According to Statista, 75% of employees were very satisfied or satisfied when reskilling/upskilling programs were offered at their workplace.


Employees' satisfaction with reskilling/upskilling training in January 2022—Source: Statista

In this post, we'll explore the 'how' of creating a culture of learning by listing some strategies you can use that allow your organization - and your employees - to embrace new skills and reshape the future. 


The 1000 lb AI-driven elephant in the room

Anxiety in the workforce is real, and it's impacting how employees view their roles and their job security. According to Goldman Sachs, AI has the potential to replace 300 million full-time jobs and a quarter of work tasks in the next 10 years. But it's also creating new jobs and changing the way many people work (without replacing them). 

The key to surviving in this evolving landscape is upskilling—learning and acquiring new skills that make employees more valuable and future-ready. Though AI may replace some jobs, it also presents opportunities for employees to adopt new roles or take on additional responsibilities. 

But, of course, there's more going on than just the rapid adoption of AI tools in the workplace that employees are worried about. There are a host of new technology solutions that organizations are grappling with including those that enable and facilitate automation, data analysis, social media, and user experience (UX). L&D teams are tasked with keeping up with these changes, but also preparing employees to use them. 


Benefits of creating a learning culture

A learning culture that focuses on building worker skills, attracting talent, and providing your employees with new opportunities is beneficial to everyone who works at or does business with your company. 

Initiatives like the 6-to-8 week training program that Sam's Club offers managers-in-training may include perks like tuition-free college credits, promotions, and on-the-job training opportunities. Sam's Club credits the program as having helped them maintain full employment at their 600 locations during a time when many U.S. businesses were struggling to hire and retain people.

In addition to helping you retain employees longer, a learning culture:

  • Fosters knowledge sharing among employees and teams, specifically, through mentoring and training programs.
  • Equips employees with updated skills, which gives them the confidence to tackle new challenges and take advantage of emerging technology.
  • Is really motivating - L&D programs help keep employees engaged and interested by presenting them with ongoing learning and upskilling around desired skillsets/topics like eCommerce, big data, and AI. They also motivate employees who, once upskilled, have new opportunities for career growth.
  • Demonstrates to your employees that you value them since you're investing in keeping their skill set relevant. 
  • Helps you save money by filling skill gaps internally. This not only allows existing employees to adapt quickly to changing roles and requirements, it helps you avoid hiring external consultants or new staff (and the high recruiting and orientation costs that come with them).


Create a learning culture with these 11 strategies

Creating a learning culture is not just about formal training programs. It involves a combination of technology, processes, and people all focused on celebrating learning, providing constructive feedback, and leading by example. According to HBR, it’s is as much about reinforcing positive learning behaviors as it is about creating a formal L&D program (perhaps more so). 

Here are some things you should consider when creating a culture of learning at your organization:


1. Approach learning as a continuous process

While it’s tempting to focus on the results of learning programs (e.g., the skills and capabilities that your employees and organization benefit from), it’s important to make the process of learning as enjoyable – and rewarding – as the outcome.

By putting learning on a pedestal, you create an environment that encourages critical thinking and the questioning of authority. You actively solicit differing opinions. Building a culture of learning involves recognizing those employees who try to learn and grow, but also fostering a climate that nurtures intellectual curiosity

2. Assess where you're at 

Before you can build a robust learning culture, you need to understand your current learning and development issues. Spend some time evaluating how your employees learn new skills, what they're interested in learning, and what kind of support they need to achieve their specific learning goals. 

Get your organization's leadership and subject matter experts (SMEs) involved to help you conduct employee assessments that identify skills gaps and learning opportunities. This is an essential step to creating a strategy that promotes learner engagement and supports effective training. 

3. Establish learning objectives

Companies who have solid learning cultures rely on a combination of informal and structured learning. Formalizing your learning objectives helps you understand the areas you need to focus on (e.g., eCommerce versus data analysis). 

Planning also helps you map out custom lessons for employees and teams and is a good time to set some rules for more formalized training (e.g., type of expertise required, onboarding guidelines, etc.) When planning, you can create some key performance indicators (KPIs) for your L&D program to work towards. 

4. Get company leaders involved

Leaders have a big impact on your company's learning culture. They should model the approach and characteristics you want your employees to embrace (e.g., curiosity, knowledge sharing, a willingness to accept criticism, etc.) 

You can create learning programs specifically aimed at upskilling managers and executives or simply encourage leaders to become mentors and coaches. This is not only inspiring to their team members, it demonstrates that, at all levels, your organization is committed to helping people develop new skills and grow with the company. 

5. Build positive feedback into your training process

It’s hard for most people to get negative feedback, particularly when they’re tackling something new. When giving feedback and/or evaluating employees on their training progress, it’s important to approach it as positively as possible.

Highlight knowledge gaps in a way that makes individuals aware of what they don't know, without blaming them for not knowing. Since people are generally more receptive to praise and appreciation, build positive feedback into your evaluation process. Online upskilling platforms like Circus Street can help with this by providing pre- and post-assessment tools to monitor learner progress.

6. Make learning a requirement for hiring

One of HBR's top recommendations for creating a learning culture is to "hire curious people." That is, individuals who have a strong desire to learn and develop their skills. It's easier to augment potential than to change someone's inherent nature. 

Hiring people who are inquisitive, open to change, comfortable with ambiguity, and naturally curious can help you build a resilient culture of learning filled with resilient people. 

7. Create a comprehensive knowledge base

Your knowledge base is the repository of documents, files, and interactions like recorded phone calls and video transcripts, that employees can access and learn from. For many companies - particularly larger and older organizations - this knowledge base isn't centrally located. If you want to focus on sharing knowledge and helping employees learn, then you need to gather this information into a central location that allows people to access and find answers quickly. 

Part of your knowledge base likely exists in the brains of SMEs who know your company, products, and brand really well. Getting these SMEs involved in sharing their knowledge and making it accessible is an important part of developing a culture of knowledge. Think of these people as light keepers, guiding the way for new employees and those who want to learn more about a given topic, department, or issue.

8. Encourage knowledge sharing

Whether you have a team of two hundred or two thousand, make sure that employees can exchange knowledge and information easily. There are many ways to do this including via online bulletin boards, collaboration tools like Slack, real-time help sessions (in-person or virtually), and by creating small teams (a.k.a., an agile approach) that allow people from different departments to work together and exchange information. 

You may even consider setting up an online community where your employees can discuss learning topics, give feedback on courses and programs, or simply chat with one another about their learning experiences. Whatever your approach, it’s important to make sure that all employees have the opportunity to participate in knowledge sharing activities. 

9. Make it clear that a culture of learning requires knowledge sharing 

It should be clear to all employees that continuous learning relies on access to knowledge. That means those with knowledge should share it freely and those who need advice or information should know how to access it. Employees should also be encouraged to give and receive feedback and solicit ideas from others - even if they disagree with them. 

10. Take the guesswork out of training

Accessible training is the hallmark of a good learning culture. Providing access to tools and platforms that take the guesswork out of training can help employees learn faster and stay up-to-date with new technologies and trends.

Using digital eLearning platforms like Circus Street with features like being able to connect to your existing LMS, a large lesson library, customized learning programs, and a mobile app for on-the-go learning gives employees more flexibility - and control - of their individual learning journey. Digital upskilling programs provide detailed, interactive course content that can be accessed anytime from anywhere. 

11. Celebrate milestones and successes

When an employee achieves a milestone or succeeds at something they've been trying to learn, celebrate it. Create an occasion for them to share what they've learned. Achieving success in learning requires dedication and is worthy of acknowledgement. 

Rewards systems can help keep learners motivated - whether by acknowledging an achievement in a company email or bulletin board, by awarding prizes based on specific milestones, or by making it monetary (e.g., a raise is a great motivator.)


Related Articles

LinkedIn Learning vs Udacity: The pros and cons for businesses

So you’re ready to digital upskill your business, but how do you choose the right training partner? ...

Read more

What is digital learning and how is it impacting businesses?

As digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down, digital upskilling is no longer a nice to ...

Read more

9 Reasons Your Business Needs a Culture of Learning

A learning culture improves employee retention and keeps you agile and competitive. Here are 9 reaso...

Read more

Ready to get started or want to ask a question?

Get in touch and we can start helping with your digital learning journey.