Learning and development (L&D) initiatives are important to employees and vital for businesses. To support them, it’s important for an organization to have a learning culture, which Training Industry defines as “a set of organizational practices, values and processes within a workplace. The goal of a learning culture is to encourage the continuous growth of learning and development and to improve the performance of individual employees and, therefore, the entire organization.”

With that in mind, here are four strategies leaders can use to build a learning culture in their organization.

1. Practice What You Preach

Leaders shouldn’t ask employees to do what they won’t do themselves. Leading by example is obviously a more ethical way to lead, but it also results in more buy-in. The behaviors and routines of leaders have a strong influence on the behaviors and routines of their teams.

How to Get Started

Leaders should be accountable for their own learning by:

  • Taking on a challenging task at work.
  • Reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, or taking an online course.
  • Sharing anything insightful that they learn with their team members; a study by LinkedIn Learning found that 56% of employees would take a course recommended by their manager.

2. Redefine What It Means to Be a Manager

The lessons that stick in our mind are often learned the hard way — through experience of trial and error — which means that the bulk of learning falls on learners’ shoulders. While self-learning is a great way to build confidence through experimentation and exploration, it has limitations, including the fact that we often don’t know what we don’t know.

When managers take on a coaching role, they can create more on-the-job learning opportunities by (tactfully) highlighting knowledge gaps and offering guidance where needed. Giving feedback can be uncomfortable, but if done in an encouraging way, it can improve learning outcomes, performance and work relationships.

How to Get Started

Managers should:

  • Ask for feedback and advice from both the people they report to and the people who report to them. In doing so, they create an environment where constructive feedback is embraced, and they may learn about different tools and strategies to improve their own performance.
  • Offer support throughout the learning process, including after training.
  • Practice giving meaningful feedback.

3. Provide a Variety of Options

Not everyone likes to learn in the same way. Some learners may prefer bite-sized online lessons that they can access just a time, while others may prefer in-person, structured training (e.g., a seminar or a conference.) A robust learning culture is inclusive and varied.

Remember that learning opportunities don’t always have to be work-related. Encouraging employees to share their hobbies at work will foster a culture of sharing and curiosity.

How to Get Started

As a learning leader, you can:

  • Use a learning management system (LMS) that gives you the flexibility to host a variety of types of content.
  • Offer free or budget-friendly options, such as “lunch and learns,” job shadowing and time off for development.

4. Celebrate Failure

Fear of failure can make learning intimidating, and the fear of being held responsible for mistakes can be a significant obstacle to individual and organizational success. Even a robust training program is useless if employees are afraid of failing in front of their colleagues. In order for employees to be willing to suggest new ideas, learn new skills and try new things, it’s essential to have a safety net.

How to Get Started

Learning leaders and people managers should:

  • Praise people on their efforts to learn and try something new. When things don’t go as planned, offer support and document lessons learned.
  • Create opportunities where employees can share ideas and ask questions without judgement.

Any shift in culture takes time and investment, but a learning culture is worth that investment, especially with the current rapid cycles of technological change. How have you worked toward building a learning culture in your organization? Let us know by tweeting us @TrainingIndustr and @getgoskills!