How Leaders Can Encourage a Cross-Organization Culture of Learning

June 22, 2023 | New Workplace Leadership | 4 min read

Core values like transparency, acceptance, and innovation often top the list of cultural “must-haves.” But in an era where employees want to grow right alongside their employers, learning as a core value can be a key differentiator.

Let’s take a look at what defines a learning culture, and how leaders from the top down can encourage learning across their organization

What Does a Learning Culture Look Like?

It’s easy to say your organization has learning culture, but making that claim a reality is a different story. Companies that make learning a central part of their culture often share the following characteristics:

Continuous Learning

Within an organization, learning is viewed as a lifelong process and employees are encouraged to continuously seek out new knowledge. At organizations like these, employees frequently participate in professional development activities, like workshops, conferences, or online courses.

Open Communication

Open and transparent communication across an organization helps employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, asking questions, and seeking feedback. A strong emphasis on collaboration, knowledge sharing, and constructive discussions is key. Leaders actively listen to their employees' perspectives and encourage dialogue.

Accessible Resources

This is a big one: A company with a learning culture provides employees with easy access to learning resources and tools, including in-demand tech and leadership skills.

Today, a well-stocked library of passive materials is not enough. Employees need online learning platforms, mentoring programs, and in-house training sessions. Research shows organizations that invest in learning infrastructure not only save in employee retention, they also see ROI. CGI, for instance, demonstrated $8.2 million in ROI by upskilling its workforce with Skillsoft.

Opportunities for All

A learning culture is inclusive, recognizing that learning isn’t limited to specific roles or positions. When every employee is given the opportunity to learn, they're empowered to expand their skillset and knowledge, helping further their own careers, while also benefitting their employer.

What's more, it provides opportunities for people to reskill and upskill to fill gaps in areas that the organization needs most at a time when recruiting talent remains trying.

A learning culture emphasizes the importance of feedback and evaluation. Employees regularly get constructive feedback on their learning progress and are encouraged to reflect on their learning journey. Evaluation tools, like assessments, performance reviews, and specifically, skills benchmarks, are used to gauge the effectiveness of learning and identify areas for improvement.

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How Can Leadership Show Up for Learning?

Upskilling a workforce isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But good leadership can create a formula for success. Good leaders empower their employees, regularly take stock of their teams’ effectiveness, and lead by example—developing their own skills through training.

Other ways leadership can support a culture of learning:

  • Foster a learning community — Facilitate interactions where employees feel comfortable seeking help, sharing insights, and learning from each other.
  • Recognize and reward learning — Public praise, bonuses, promotions, and other incentives can work to encourage engagement.
  • Embrace a growth mindset — The belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work encourages employees to step out of their comfort zones and embrace challenges.
  • Create a safe learning environment — Create an environment in which employees feel free to ask questions and make mistakes without fear of judgment or repercussions.
  • Align learning with organizational goals — Connecting to the bigger picture puts learning in context and shows the importance of new skills.

As a Leader, You Must Provide Opportunities

Part of nurturing and developing teams as a leader is presenting opportunities.

People across disciplines want the chance to test themselves, learn, and grow. In practice, this can mean designing specific learning journeys that connect development with guided paths. It can also mean making curated content and resources available based on employee interests.

Providing opportunities also requires designating specific time for learning within your teams. Employees can’t be expected to dedicate time to learning if they’re bogged down with work deadlines.

  • Make priority lists
  • Delegate or rotate tasks
  • Block off calendars for training

Effective time management and communication skills are key to building in time for learning. If employees struggle to make time for learning, coach them on their priorities and help identify ways to build training into their schedules. And don’t forget, lead by example.

Show Up as a Mentor and Coach

Every employee needs to act as a leader. Providing coaching opportunities across the organization helps communicate the importance of learning, provides support to employees, and contributes to building a learning and leadership culture. However, this starts with you. Be your team’s coach. Mentor them. Show them ways to improve their skills, manage their time, and become a leader.

Coaching for employee development can:

  • Help develop a growth mindset
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Scale leadership across the business
  • Generate positive business outcomes
  • Increase employee engagement

Skillsoft has a fully customizable, executive-quality coaching platform that helps build leaders both through one-on-one and group coaching.

Want a Culture of Learning? It All Comes Down to Leadership

In short, building a learning culture within an organization comes from the top down. By leading by example, providing learning opportunities, fostering collaboration, and embracing a growth mindset, leaders create an environment where continuous learning is valued and encouraged.

By investing in their employees' development, organizations can adapt to changing circumstances and drive innovation. See how Skillsoft helps organizations foster a culture of learning through leadership training solutions.