How to Create a Learning Culture in the Workplace
To infuse your business with the pursuit of knowledge, show that you're still learning too
Creating a learning culture in the workplace is all about fostering an environment that empoweres people to pursue knowledge. This is important for individual evolution, but it’s also important for the growth of a company as a whole.
According to Deloitte, companies with continuous learning cultures are 46 percent more likely to be first to market and 58 percent more prepared to meet future demand. Plus, they also have a 26 percent greater ability to deliver quality products and they experience 37 percent greater employee productivity.
So if you want to foster a learning culture at your business, here are some good places to start.
Teach your team how to give feedback.
For there to be a culture of learning, your employees need to learn how to effectively give and receive feedback. Many managers and team members only give out positive feedback, because sometimes it's just easier to let things slide. They're afraid to give negative feedback for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, getting pushback, being disliked or having their own authority questioned. But, there’s power in negative feedback. Employees need to be be made aware of their limitations to spark their curiosity and eagerness to learn and improve.
But importantly, negative feedback should be given in a constructive way. According to The Journal of Health Specialties, constructive feedback needs to be:
Seen as “helpful”
Most importantly, constructive feedback needs to include concrete, suggested plans for improvement. When your team can give and receive constructive feedback, they’ll be able to continuously learn from each other and improve their skills. As a leader, one way to get the ball rolling on constructive feedback is to give managers and team members a formal structure for critiquing each other's work, and have meetings in which you demonstrate the ideal process.
Use peer-to-peer coaching.
Along with teaching your team to give constructive feedback, you can also use peer-to-peer coaching to create a learning culture in the workplace. You can facilitate peer-to-peer coaching by simply pairing up a senior team member and a junior team member to work on a particular project together.
Or, you can take peer-to-peer coaching to the next level by implementing a program similar to Google’s. The “Googler to Googler” program allows for employees from all different departments to lead classes on work and extracurricular topics such as management, mindfulness, design thinking and even kickboxing. With a peer-to-peer coaching system like this, your employees are able to take charge of their own learning by choosing what classes to sign up for. Plus, the “teachers” of the classes are able to share their knowledge and personal passions, and build their leadership skills at the same time.
Provide online autonomous learning opportunities.
Rather than forcing your team members to attend an workshop or lesson, you should provide them with autonomous online learning opportunities. According to research from the University of Birmingham, employees with higher levels of autonomy in their work reported positive effects on their overall well-being and higher levels of job satisfaction.
For example, you can use a learning management system (LMS) to pull together learning materials for your team. This can include documents, videos, recordings of webinars, slideshows and more. Then your employees can access the platform any time and from anywhere to start learning at their own pace. The more materials you provide in different formats, the more likely your team members will find something that interests them.
Lead by example.
Perhaps most importantly, if you want to create a learning culture in the workplace, you need to practice what you preach. If you're trying to instill constructive feedback or peer-to-peer coaching in an environment where this behavior has not been the norm, it may require ongoing leadership efforts to demonstrate the sorts of behavior you hope your team members will replicate.
For instance, at our company we hold monthly “Town Hall” meetings to share company news. At the end of these meetings, team members are able to ask any questions they may have. Often, employees take this opportunity to ask me if I’ve learned anything interesting at a conference, workshop or meeting I recently attended. This is a great way to share the new things I’m learning, and also to have team members to discuss or engage with these ideas. Perhaps the most important way a leader can foster a culture of learning is by showing that they are still listening, and are open to learning from their employees. This can be demonstrated in group settings, but also in more personal interactions. If you discover that a team member has a hobby or well of knowledge on a topic you're interested in, make a point of asking them about it. Let them teach you something.
Related: The Benefits of Learning as a Team