10 reasons why a ‘learning culture’ is crucial to your organisation

Learning CultureWorking with many organisations with varied cultures reveals that there are two basic attitudes which inform a company’s approach to learning:

  • Compliance with mandatory legislation and industry regulators. This is important; particularly for an organisation’s survival and reputation! If compliant, the company may well survive if the industry wide pace of change / innovation doesn’t make it irrelevant
  • A desire to improve performance, morale, explore human potential, attract, develop and retain talent, create a learning, questioning culture and drive innovation.

Merely completing compliance training does not mean an organisation has a ‘learning culture’.

So before we examine why a ‘learning culture’ is important, let’s be really clear on what we mean by ‘learning’.

Learning is an active, participative process rather than a passive filling of vessels with information. There should be less emphasis on ‘teaching them’ than on supporting and facilitating the growth of people through their own processing of information into knowledge, values and skills.

Learning involves:

  • Questioning
  • Problem solving
  • Developing the full potential of employees (human capital)
  • Fostering an innovative and responsive environment
  • Idea sharing to stimulate and develop best practice
  • Learning events followed by ongoing coaching, to continually better performance
  • Mentoring and developing talent; continuously, and with an  eye on the future
  • Developing successful habits via the process of learning and embedding. Repetition creates habit and then discipline “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”  (Aristotle)
  • A mindset of ongoing learning; for practical reasons, and, for the  pleasure of it.

In any organisation the ‘learning culture’ is crucial. It affects the performance of the organisation.

Here are 10 reasons why:

  • 1. Developing morale and motivation – being valued is crucial to employee satisfaction. (Motivation is more important than pay to many employees)
  • 2. To aid staff retention and lower costs. People may or may not leave your company – but do you want loyal, yet low-morale, staff staying and only giving you some of their potential? If they stay you definitely want them to be motivated, competent and engaged. Firing on all cylinders. People now need to learn throughout their lives to remain employable. And, to meet your needs as valuable employees of your organisation
  • 3. Learning and development go hand in hand. Learning helps develop sound working practices aligned to organisational goals. The company pulls in the same direction
  • 4. Learning fosters understand and appreciation of other perspectives, by challenging rigid opinions and behaviours, thus helping avoid destructive silo mentalities
  • 5. Learning at a rate faster than change is critical. Ask yourself; ‘why have so many big organisations (such as HMV, Comet, Kodak have recently failed?’ The pace of change over last few years is astonishing and will probably only accelerate in the near future. Companies such as Apple and Google are flourishing. Is this by accident?
  • 8. People, service and attitude are increasingly important to organisational success. These factors differentiate organisations in an age when products are increasingly similar / quickly copied
  • 9. If a company’s Board of Directors don’t have a learning culture they become irrelevant; stale, rotten. To avoid the fish rotting from the head (see Bob Garratt’s excellent book) leadership and learning need to be embedded in the cultural DNA via a ‘Learning Board’
  • 10. Learning and change are inextricably linked. A ‘learning culture’ helps:
    • identify problems with products / services and resolve them quickly
    • ‘out-innovate’ and out manouvre competitors
    • focus in on service quality
    • rapid corporate growth and assists the leap frogging of others (read this).

So; what is your organisation’s ‘learning culture’?