Actionable Ways to Build a Workplace Learning Culture

It is said that the ability to learn faster than competitors is the only sustainable advantage you have. If you want to build a powerful organisation, you need a solid foundation for learning and growth.

For any organisation, prioritising a strong culture of learning across the entire team is a critical part of ensuring success for individuals and for the business as a whole.

In years gone by, earning a certificate, diploma or degree was often enough to land people the job they wanted and keep them there. After leaving school or graduating, they would enter the workforce where the skills they learned in those early working years would often be enough to support their career.

However, times have changed. We live in a fast-changing, innovation driven world now. Many jobs have become obsolete, while a raft of new ones continue to appear. Indeed, many traditional jobs are approached differently using new technology. Our 24/7 access to information, social media, a global economy and the pandemic are among factors which have led workers to upskill and reskill quickly and often.

Why do upskilling and reskilling matter?

Gartner TalentNeuron™ data shows the total number of skills required for a single job has been increasing by 10% year-on-year since 2017. Furthermore, one in three skills in an average 2017 job posting are already obsolete. Emerging skills gaps due to ongoing business disruption and rapidly evolving needs have accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report by Harvard Business Publishing found that 54% of the workforce will need upskilling or reskilling by 2025. In the same report, 85% of employees said they know where they have skills gaps, but only 41% believed their managers understood their gaps.

For several years, PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey has highlighted concern amongst CEOs that skills shortages threaten their companies’ growth. These shortages stunt innovation, hurting quality and limiting the pursuit of market opportunities.

The recently released PwC 26th Annual Global CEO Survey reports that talent and technology have become a key focus for CEOs as 39% globally (22% in the UK) say their business will not be viable within a decade unless they change course. Placing people and technology at the heart of their plans, 74% of UK CEOs are investing in upskilling their company’s workforce in priority areas.

We hear so much about ongoing global talent shortages. However, it is not necessarily workers that are in short supply, but rather workers with the necessary skill sets to propel organisations into the future. With organisations unable to hire their way out of the talent crisis, they must grow their own future workforce from within.

What is a learning culture?

While there’s no unifying definition of a learning culture, it is in essence a work environment where the employees share a communal mindset of growth. In organisations with excellent cultures of learning, all employees are eager to apply new lessons to their operations, share their knowledge with their co-workers, and seek new opportunities to improve their abilities.

According to the CIPD, there are some key themes which underpin this:

  • A learning culture is one that embeds learning into how things are done at an individual, team and organisational level.
  • It requires strong leaders to follow a strategic model for learning and to support employees towards a collectively shared vision and positive change through open dialogue and reflection.
  • The factors that underpin a learning culture could be reframed as the ‘learning environment’, allowing workplaces to tie these factors to tangible practices and behaviours, rather than attempting to undergo dramatic cultural change.

The importance of a learning culture

It’s no secret that training and development aligns strongly with positive business outcomes. According to an IBM Smarter Workforce survey, 84% of employees in the best performing organisations report receiving the training they need, compared to just 16% in the worst performing organisations. A focus on learning to ensure a well-trained workforce is a common-sense way to improve business performance. Top performing companies not only recognise the importance of their people, but also the need to provide the right skills to enable their people.

So, it’s clear that key to greater employee satisfaction and better business performance is a culture of learning but creating one can be hard. Indeed, it’s often cited as one of the top challenges for L&D professionals.

12 steps to building a learning culture

To build a successful organisation, you must prioritise learning and growth. So how do you embed a culture of learning?

1. Assess your current learning strategy to identify gaps and weaknesses
Before you can create a learning culture, you need to assess how your employees are currently learning, what they’re learning, the training materials that are being provided etc. By doing this, you can identify your organisation’s learning strengths and weaknesses. You can then start to create a strategy that nurtures powerful and effective learning across the business.

2. Plan what you need and want your employees to learn
First and foremost, all training should be aligned to the organisation’s goals and strategic objectives. Some learning will be organic and informal. But it’s also essential to have structured and formalised learning too. For example, in product specific training, codes of conduct or onboarding, these should all be well planned so that your employees acquire the knowledge needed.

Importantly, this planned training helps you establish a baseline of knowledge throughout the organisation as everyone will have received the same resources, and you can measure its impact too.

3. Empower subject matter experts
One of the most common stumbling blocks businesses experience when creating a learning culture is the learning materials. There’s plenty of information you want to offer your employees, but creating the materials is a big task.

Draw on subject matter experts and get them to recommend and create content for your employees to gain knowledge from. Subject matter experts can create the most impactful materials and point you in the right direction of where to find the best resources.

4. Ask employees what they want to learn
Learning should be learner-driven. Your employees have a wealth of information that can help you create a better learning environment, so involve them in the process. By finding out where they’re experiencing knowledge gaps, what skills they would like to learn, and where they believe learning can be cultivated, you’ll discover directions to tailor learning and meet their needs.

You can capture this feedback in a number of ways. Face-to-face, via email, or if you have a learning management system, surveying your learners is a fast and efficient way to collect this information.

5. Make training easily accessible
Employees won’t want to learn if the process is arduous. You need to ensure that it’s as seamless and friction-free as possible. If you’re delivering courses through an LMS, choose a user-friendly solution. It should be effortless to log in and start training, the dashboard should be intuitive, and your employees should be able to train when and where they want.

6. Set aside time to learn
Employees are busy. There are tasks to do and deadlines to meet. A lack of time is the number one reason why employees feel held back from learning. To foster a learning culture, you must encourage and facilitate learning time. Some companies implement a policy that gives employees a certain number of hours of training a week or month.

7. Lead from the front
If you want to demonstrate that continual learning is important, lead by example. When it comes to culture, it starts with the tone set by leaders and management. By taking part in training, directing training, and investing in training for yourself, you’re showing team members what you value.

8. Experiment with learning methods
There are a multitude of ways to introduce and encourage learning in your organisation. For less structured learning, there is one to one coaching, workshops etc.

Face-to-face training sessions and online training courses via an LMS are widely used for more formalised training types. Both are effective when used independently or when brought together in a blended learning model.

Through these different learning methods, you can also mix up the content you’re delivering and take the learner from passive to active. Videos, webinars, slideshows and more, brought together they create a dynamic and interactive learning experience that engages your learners.

9. Make it on-demand
On-demand training enables your employees to access learning materials anywhere and at any time. For a modern, distributed workforce, it’s more flexible than traditional training as it’s based on their schedule.

On-demand learning can mean different things to different businesses. For some it’s offering an LMS that lets learners access the courses that they’re enrolled in. For others, it’s offering a selection of courses within an LMS and your learner can pick and choose the courses they want to complete. Either way, as long as you are making training easy to do, your employees are much more likely to be engaged.

10. Keep it continuous
Businesses often decide to invest in learning, but then only offer a course or mentoring session once every six months. Or they roll out a few courses, but never add more. A learning culture isn’t a one and done practice. It needs to be continuous, constantly worked on, with new courses and resources being offered so that it becomes embedded in the culture.

11. Give and get feedback
To get and keep an employee engaged with learning, give them continuous feedback. When they’ve completed a learning session, let them know how they’ve done, where they can improve, and importantly, reiterate how the learning process can help them reach specific goals.

Conversely, ask for feedback from your employees too. Did they feel a course helped them? Is the information applicable to their role. Learning is a two-way street and feedback is one of the best ways to nurture it.

12. Measure and adapt
If you are focusing on formal learning via an LMS, remember to measure its success. It’s one of the most powerful tools you have. Through measuring engagement, completion rates, training histories etc, you can discover the real impact learning is having on your employees.

This continuous monitoring will enable you to tweak and adapt your courses to ensure they’re meeting both the learner and business needs.

Final thoughts…

A strong workplace learning culture has a myriad of benefits. From increased employee engagement and skills development to improved retention and greater profitability, there are countless reasons why every business should consider continuous learning as integral to its company culture.

Real success comes from placing employees at the heart of a culture that treats learning as a continuous process, not an episodic event, and as a company-wide responsibility, not one confined to HR or the L&D team.

By doing this, organisations will not only thrive today, but reap the long-term benefits, drive competitive advantage and future-proof their business and workforce.

At Digital Bricks Learning, we design, develop and deliver dynamic learning experiences to suit every audience, every budget and every sector. We can create tailored learning or provide our off the shelf solutions to suit individual business needs and objectives.

We’d love to talk to you about your learning needs and help you build a sustainable learning culture that supports employee and business success. Contact our friendly team to find out more at

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