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The DNA of Learning Culture and how to build yours

What’s the DNA of a learning culture and how do you create a strong one? Dive into our ultimate guide for everything you need to know.

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The DNA of Learning Culture and how to build yours
January 17, 2023
The DNA of Learning Culture and how to build yours

The DNA of a strong Learning Culture

What is a learning culture, and how can you build a strong one? In this guide we dive into the essentials of a learning culture, the five elements of a learning culture’s DNA and steps you can take to improve yours.

What is a learning culture?

Glad you asked! A learning culture values knowledge and skills. It goes beyond training people in your company’s software packages and preferred methods of operation. It actively encourages broader development for all staff.

This ‘everybody in’ commitment is key. No one is left behind. In a workplace with a strong learning culture, all employees from the CEO to the most junior recruit are willing to take up opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills.

Welcome in the learning

No doubt you are offering your employees some sort of learning right now. Courses on leadership skills, for instance, or how to improve teamworking. But is it having a tangible effect? Or are your people falling into the all-too familiar trap of just going on the occasional course without truly engaging in learning?

In businesses with a strong learning culture, learning is encouraged, facilitated – and welcomed.

It’s the opposite of an employee turning up for a training day, going through the motions, then heading back to their work station to carry on as if nothing had happened.

In a learning culture, everyone sees learning as a plus. They actively seek ways to learn – for their own career advancement, and for the benefit of their team.

Collaborate to accumulate

Your business is made up of a variety of people – and each brings their own skillset to the table. A learning culture encourages employees to share what they know. It builds a work environment where sharing expertise is part of the everyday routine.

And that’s good news for the long term. If your employees are used to collaborating with team members, they’ll be more likely to take a pro-active approach to solving problems, improving internal systems, and coming up with new ideas.

Open to learning, open to new challenges

If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that businesses have to be ready to adapt to unexpected change. Whether it’s a global pandemic or a cost-of-living crunch, circumstances beyond our control can rapidly affect a company’s bottom line.

If your staff are open to learning, they’ll be open to new challenges. After all, any change has a learning curve. That ‘learning’ mindset will stand your company in good stead; whatever challenges are thrown in its path.

Does my organisation need a learning culture?

Creating a learning culture could be the single most important thing you do to boost your company’s performance. Consider the benefits: a strong learning culture can drive innovation, increase profits and improve employee retention.

Do employees want to learn?

According to a 2019 report from LinkedIn Learning, 94 per cent of employees surveyed said they would stay longer at a company that invested in their learning.

A 2021 report from Glint backs up these findings. Having opportunities to learn and grow is now the number one factor that people say defines an exceptional work environment. When the same question was asked in 2019, learning came in at number nine. That’s a significant uptick in only two years.

And the best part? Your company can join the ranks of those with a strong learning culture.

How can we make learning more effective?

Some people think learning happens on the training course. That’s a myth. Learning happens when people practice what they’ve learnt in the context of their work. For training to be effective, it must be connected to operational reality.

The litmus test for a successful learning culture is whether it’s making a difference. And for that, you need to get into the DNA of learning.

What is the DNA of a learning culture?

At Stellar Labs, clients come to us in search of new frameworks to help them steer a course through these challenging but exciting times. To help them achieve this, we base our solutions on five key factors – the elements we consider to be the DNA of a successful workplace learning culture:

  • People
  • Science-based learning
  • Evidence-based processes
  • Technology
  • Data

Stellar Labs DNA

Let’s take a look at each element of a learning culture’s DNA...

People Icon

People are our greatest asset

It’s an oft-repeated line on company websites, but how many organisations apply this sentiment to their learning strategy? Your employees are the glue of learning. Everyone impacts on performance, so everyone is part of the learning culture.

The C-suite needs to recognise the business value of effective training – for themselves and their staff.

Managers and supervisors need to motivate their team members to get trained despite the challenges it creates for them in operational downtime. They must also find opportunities for people to apply their new skills in everyday work situations.

Peer-to-peer learning is also essential, so employees need to share their knowledge. There is enormous value to be had in cascading your new knowledge and skills to your teammates so they can also develop. And remember, often the most effective way to learn is to teach.

Science Icon

Apply the science

Science-based learning is natural. Learning happens in our brains and bodies, and for your learning interventions to have any impact, they need to build memories and create new habits. When you don’t know any of the science to do this, your training interventions are more likely to be hit and miss.

To give you an example, IKEA asked us to overhaul their e-learning programme to see how they can apply a more science-based approach to topics ranging from food safety to facilitation skills. While the quality of the learning experience was already high, they recognised it wasn’t improving performance because people quickly forgot what they’d learnt. By applying science-based principles, we inserted spaced repetition into their e-learning courses to help employees remember processes or product features for the longer term.

Process icon

Follow the process

You can greatly increase the effectiveness of learning by following evidence-based processes. These processes ensure learning sticks and translates to future-proof skills. For a learner to change the way they work they must:

  • feel motivated
  • experience memorable, sensory, emotional input
  • explore and experiment
  • practice regularly with feedback
  • have support and guidance
  • apply new skills at work
  • regularly repeat, recall and reflect.

Technology icon

Tweak the technology

Technology can enhance learning, but only if it’s properly geared up to do so. The ability to search vast content libraries is not enough.

We strongly recommend you ask your technology suppliers deeper questions about learning science and processes. What elements of an evidence-based learning process do they support and what can’t they support? Armed with that information you can make informed choices about what else needs to happen to genuinely accelerate performance in the flow of work.

Data icon

Don’t just gather data, use it to show ROI

One major advantage of technology is that it allows us to collect data.

The secret is to use that data to enhance your learning culture and drive business success. Use it to measure progress, personalise learning and show return on investment. Link it back to business objectives and KPIs. Apply data analysis to see how, when and what elements of the training are having the most impact in the workplace – then report ROI to the senior team.

Next steps

You’ve started your journey through the DNA of an effective learning culture and seen our perspective on how to build one. Organisations with a strong learning culture attract – and retain – the top talent. When you invest in your employees’ development, the whole business reaps the rewards. What’s good for the employees is good for the company and, ultimately, good for profits.

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