Development Learn Better

7 Keys To Building a High Impact Learning Culture

Written by Paul Rosevear

When Peter Cappelli published his book Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs several years ago, the Wharton Professor of Management highlighted the growing skills gap in today’s marketplace. His research showed that 50% of companies offer learning benefits, but the other half relied upon employees working independently to improve their skill sets.

Today those numbers remain virtually unchanged.

A study by SuccessFactors surveyed over 5,400 executives and employees across 27 countries and found that a majority of organizations do not have programs to develop the skills of their workforce, especially in succession planning, mentoring, and learning. The study found:

  • Only 41% of employees said they have opportunities to grow
  • 50% of companies have a mentoring program, but less than 40% of executives provide job shadowing and job rotation
  • Less than 25 % of companies use learning as a method to improve retention, engagement and loyalty
learning culture

Today’s employees are hungry for new opportunities to learn on the job.

To become the type of company that attracts and retains top talent, organizations need to initiate a high-impact learning culture. Here’s how.

  1. Develop a learning strategy. Don’t fall back on check-the-box training or basic compliance. Invest in learning programs that with a rigorous focus on efficacy, user experience, and quality. Also understand that just because you invest in a learning tool or technology, does not guarantee employee adoption and engagement. Curate the right content and have a long-term vision to build the most impactful learning program.
  2. Train and promote from within. Instead of seeking outside talent for every role, bolster the skillset of the  frontline managers who’ve been in the trenches. Building your leadership teams from within preserves institutional knowledge, reduces training and onboarding time, lowers turnover costs and frequency—not to mention gains the trust and appreciation of your established employees.
  3. Hit the ground running. Strong learning organizations execute thoughtful training initiatives early in the talent acquisition phase, like during onboarding and 1st week plans, to instill the habit of learning in employees. Training new employees is your first chance to establish a learning presence at your company and can go a long way in keeping one going well after they’re settled in.
  4. Keep ‘em learning. Promote continuous learning as part of the fabric of your company’s core beliefs. Encourage knowledge-sharing, offer learning incentives, and put a keen focus on quality training–not to mention celebrate employees who take a personal interest in learning outside of work.
  5. Use real business scenarios. Encourage embedded learning practices that stress reflective and experiential learning. Help employees reflect on and learn from actual business problems which help them retain the information, work through future problems, and solve problems on-the-job.
  6. Coach first, cut last. Coaching is a cost effective method of improving performance well before any firings are necessary. Improve performance by identifying weaknesses and offering the right kind of training and support to close observable skill gaps.
  7. Integrate learning into the corporate strategy. Companies that excel in product innovation might  emphasize autonomy or a flat organizational structure. Organizations that place a high-priority on productivity are leaders in building trust among their employees. These strategies may differ — but a culture of learning can boost all of the above as well as the bottom line. Have a plan for building a high impact learning culture at your organization and soon, the business rewards will follow behind.

Put these ideas to use, and your company will feel the difference. When learning is ingrained in a company’s values and processes, when its employees respect competence, knowledge, and performance, it can’t help but have a positive impact on a business’s bottom line.