Building a Culture of Learning at Work

By Joseph Derr posted 05-25-2022 14:55


Connect community: if you are interested in building your skills and developing your talents – and who isn’t?! – then (newsflash!) you are interested in being a part of the culture of learning.

All of us need to keep learning and growing – as volunteers, community members, and professionals – and being part of Connect can help you do that.

It has been fascinating for me to witness the current shift towards building a learning culture. Back when I first entered the corporate workforce, the “on-the-job training” I got was the same as any other. Training, as it was called, was handled by Human Resources (HR), and it stressed uniformity. It was a sort of “check-the-box” culture of going through the motions and getting everyone “onboarded” as soon as possible: show people how to handle tasks and send them off to produce. If you wanted to learn, then you had to pursue an advanced degree or certificate program outside of work—and hope that you could get reimbursed for the tuition.

A revolution in workplace learning

These days, it’s thankfully a whole new world. Many HR departments now have an L&D (learning and development) section, and those folks are quite busy these days.

They are replacing corporate toxicity with new approaches that are attracting and retaining top candidates and performers.This workplace revolution is fostering a robust learning culture focused on cultivating interests, sparking curiosity, and enhancing problem-solving and experiences—sometimes beyond your job description. In the learning-centered workplace of today, workers expect to be challenged as they continuously learn and expand skills on the job, or else they won’t stick around (Exhibit A: the Great Resignation.)

It’s also part of the movement that emphasizes diversity in the workplace; in addition to having a diversity of gender, race, physical ability, and other backgrounds, we need diversity in perspectives and approaches. The unique KSAs – knowledge, skills, and abilities – that each member brings shouldn’t be the same so diversity of KSAs is a part of the solution.

The power of the individual

Building a culture of learning is not just about how workers contribute, but also how they learn as individuals. Recognition of the individual’s learning needs is key to keeping the workforce happy and engaged, so self-paced learning programs are growing in popularity, especially for Gen Z and Millennials. Letting employees learn at their own pace avoids scheduling problems, promotes work-life balance, and accommodates busy schedules.

Learning in short, digestible spurts – called microlearning – is also becoming the strategy of choice to absorb new information on the job. It has less to do with short attention spans and more about how we might naturally learn and retain information.

Checklist to build a learning culture

Do microlearning and self-paced programs seem out of step with your organization? Before you quit your job, consider these three ways to engage your organization and yourself!

  • Refresh: Talk to your L&D department and encourage a refresh of outdated training approaches. Tell them that new strategies such as experiential learning and peer-to-peer learning are important to you and worth the investment.
  • Set goals: Call a meeting with your supervisor to set learning goals in addition to performance goals. You stay engaged and curious, and they benefit from your enhanced knowledge. Everyone wins!
  • Hire a coach. Even with the emphasis on individualized learning, sometimes all of us need support and help. Enter the professional coach. Ask your supervisor if this can be part of your professional development. Not only is it a lot of fun to take tests like Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Kolbe A, but having someone who is not your boss help you learn how you learn is key to being successful as an individual.

How are you building a workplace culture that fosters learning? What did I forget? Let us know – and we will all learn here together!