Here’s why you’re failing to create a learning culture

by | Jun 30, 2017 | Articles, Featured

A learning organisation is one that learns, innovates and grows, whilst attracting and retaining the best talent. But developing a learning culture is a huge challenge for many organisations. In this article, we share five common mistakes to avoid that can stifle culture when it comes to learning.

This year’s Learning Benchmark Report, Unlocking Potential, was designed to help by presenting the research around five key outcomes that both learning leaders and business leaders are looking to deliver: improving efficiency, fine-tuning processes, boosting performance, cultivating agility and influencing culture.

We have taken this approach in order to provide practical and pragmatic advice on how to positively influence each outcome. In our previous 2 articles we looked at how learning leaders can boost performance and cultivate agility through learning – both stepping stones to creating a culture of learning.

This week, we look at how we influence culture at the deepest level and why organisations are failing in their efforts to create a learning culture.

Creating a learning culture builds on boosting efficiency and cultivating agility. But it is so much more. It is about creating a workplace in which staff want to work together differently, solve problems and drive innovation. This is about creating a workplace that attracts the very best talent.

Of the five business outcomes we address in Unlocking Potential, influencing culture is the hardest to achieve. The average achievement of goals relating to culture is 17% and this does not rise to great heights (46%) for Top Deck organisations – the top 10% of performers on the Towards Maturity Index.

So what’s going wrong? Our data shows that L&D teams are failing to do the things that evidence shows works. Here are five mistakes to avoid.

You don’t trust staff to manage their own learning

L&D has its part to play in creating a learning culture. But L&D is just one part of the jigsaw (and it is a small part); everyone in the organisation shapes the culture and the biggest group – all your colleagues outside of HR and L&D – have the most overall influence.

What we’re seeing is a gap between how L&D and employees perceive learning.

For example, 82% of employees told us they know what they need to learn to do their job, but 62% of L&D leaders in our 2016 Benchmark Study believed their staff lack skills to manage their own learning. Counter to this, 89% of staff consider that they are responsible for managing their own learning.

Furthermore, 78% of employees say support from managers is essential or very useful to learn what they need, but only 26% of L&D teams are equipping line managers to help their teams maximise learning opportunities.

Isn’t it time we recognised that fact and support the learning culture that our staff have already started to create?

You are stifling staff contribution

91% of learners like being able to learn at their own pace and they are more than capable of searching for the information they need. Pushing content at employees who are already learning for themselves is no way to create a learning culture.

Sadly, many organisations push content and resources out to employees, rather than trust them to find and share what they need to do their jobs better.

Our data shows that ‘culture achievers’ (those in the Towards Maturity Index who are achieving their goals around changing culture) are twice as likely to create an environment in which users can contribute to the learning of others.

Some 66% of culture achievers are supporting user-generated content (vs 29% non achievers) and 49% are supporting learning across a wide range of media including podcasting (vs 25% of non-achievers).

Your content is inaccessible

Accessing resources is currently a huge challenge. 82% know what they need to learn, but only 68% know how to access the relevant resources. People want to access help easily and quickly. A learning culture can only develop if you get these basics right.

Even if you do have great resources to support employees, are you making it easy to find them? Nurturing a learning culture means making it easy to find the resources people need to improve their performance.

Our data shows that successful organisations ensure that useful resources can be accessed and found faster using technology. For example, curation strategies to help staff make sense of the resources available to them are being used by 35% of culture achievers (vs 11% of non-achievers) and 47% use tags and meta data to make it simpler for people to find what they need (vs 24% of non-achievers).

You take learning away from work

Seeing learning as a one-off event has an an unintended consequence: it denies learners the opportunity to make learning an ongoing process. By relating learning directly to work and enabling employees to put new skills and thinking into practice, you embed learning. Without this, you snuff out any chance of building a learning culture. One-off learning events do not on their own create a learning culture.

Culture achievers understand this – 68% develop challenging stretch tasks to embed learning in behaviour (vs 22% of non-achievers) and 63% actively encourage staff to take on new work experiences as an opportunity to learn (vs 35% of non-achievers).

You don’t reward learning

To develop a learning culture, you have to recognise and reward the right behaviours and share successes. You have to make visible the great work you do otherwise you will have little impact on culture. Sadly, many organisations fail to reward the behaviours they are trying to encourage.

Of our culture achievers, 46% agree that individuals are rewarded or given some recognition for their achievement (vs 20% of non-achievers) and 67% regularly communicate learning successes to line managers and supervisors (vs 36% of non-achievers).

Remember, success breeds success: without sharing what works with the wider organisation, L&D cannot sow the seeds of change, promoting what’s possible and what can be achieved.

Developing a learning culture takes time and requires us to focus on efficiencies, process improvement, greater agility and better performance. Get these elements right and the right culture will develop. We see the evidence of this working in Top Deck organisations, who are six times more likely than the average to influence culture.

That’s why benchmarking is so important – how else will you know what areas of your learning strategy you need to improve on?

Compare your L&D strategy with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check

Compare your L&D strategy

Review your L&D strategy to discover your strengths and opportunities for improvement with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check.

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