Key findings from Emerald Works’ annual research report reveal that “high impact learning cultures (HILC) are 10 times more likely to have a sustainable impact on four critical levers of business:  growth, transformation, productivity, and profitability.”

A learning culture is “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.”

There are many components of a learning culture in a work environment. Many times, the expectation is for the learning team to drive and sustain the learning culture. However, the reality is that it is much more involved than one function. The development of a learning culture lies beyond the learning and development (L&D) function.

The trifecta that is influential in creating a high-impact learning culture includes:

  1. Organizational leadership.
  2. Line management and employees.
  3. Collaboration between L&D and human resources (HR).

When these critical groups do their parts, the organization builds a much stronger foundation for high performance and continuous growth.

Why Is This Important? 

Learning does not occur at a single event or time; it must be continuous, on demand and just in time. Work-related learning takes place from sources inside and outside the L&D function, as our devices connect us to information from many sources. Learning in the flow of work and experiential learning have much greater impact, and learning is a journey over time to support increased knowledge, build skills and reskill employees as organizations transform their business strategies. Knowledge workers are essentially obsolete, but “learning” workers are the key to organizational success. Employees must continuously grow as they advance in their careers.

Organizational Leadership

CEOs and executive leadership must model learning behaviors and provide consistent messaging to encourage continuous growth. Leaders that incorporate learning into the organizations’ DNA by driving a growth mindset can foster innovation, collaboration and support for company goals. A learning culture also creates a space for employees to challenge the status quo with new knowledge, take acceptable risks and not be penalized for failures. If leadership employs learning as part of their employee value proposition, they will attract employees that continuously learn and grow and experience increased retention.

Line Management and Employees

Managers support the professional growth of their teams and themselves with consistent messaging regarding continuous learning. Managers will be more apt to share the responsibility for learning, coach their team members with more regular feedback, encourage time for development as learning is increasingly valued and more aligned to performance measures. Managers who model lifelong learning behaviors will  influence and empower employees to build their skills and contribute to organizational transformation.

L&D and HR Team

Historically the keepers and drivers of learning culture, L&D and HR teams should focus on the continuous development of the organization’s learning foundation and create alignment between shifting organizational strategies.

Building the learning foundation includes:

  • Oversight, management and governance of the learning platform.
  • Optimizing learning-related tools and resources, such as learning libraries, curated learning content, professional skills development, thought leadership within business functions and continuous promotion of learning content.
  • Alignment with upstream and downstream functions.
  • Implementation of industry trends or opportunities that fit the needs of the organization’s business goals.

Collaboration between organizational leadership, line management and employees, and L&D and HR teams will contribute to a stronger and more impactful learning culture in any organization.