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How to Create a Learning Culture in Your Organization

🕑 5 minutes read | Apr 20 2023 | By Craig Gerdes, TTA Learning Consultant
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Peter Senge popularized the term Learning Organization in his book, The Fifth Discipline. What is a learning organization? It is an organization where top leadership, including every manager at all levels, regularly encourages and supports every employee to be committed to lifelong learning. The central goal is continual personal and professional growth leading to improved skill development and overall organizational achievement and success.

One key aspect of a successful learning organization is creating and maintaining a culture of learning. A learning culture is one in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.

One of the most important reasons for creating a learning organization and a culture for lifelong learning is the rapid change of pace that we face in society and the workplace. For example, technology is constantly evolving, corporate hierarchies are frequently reshaped, and job responsibilities are always shifting. For survival, organizations must continuously look for ways to learn and improve.

The Leaders Role in Lifelong Learning

If you are responsible for leading people in the workplace, it is important to model your own commitment to lifelong learning and continuous development. That means you demonstrate a dedication to setting goals for learning and achieving them.

This approach sets a good example by showing employees how important lifelong learning and continuous personal and professional development is to you personally and to the organization’s overall success.

When a leader has high targets for employee learning and provides a solid template or framework for staff to follow, they help their employees identify gaps in knowledge and skills with expected performance, set challenging learning goals, and motivate them to achieve success through a personal action plan.

Transfer of Learning

Transferring learning into workplace productivity, therefore, should be a top priority for everyone involved from the CEO all the way down to the individual employee. This process includes two key steps, one before the learning event and one after the learning event.

Before Learning:

1. Employees and managers should meet and jointly:

  • Identify critical areas of task responsibility
  • Recognize any performance gaps
  • Develop learning goals

This coaching relationship should take place before the learning event but also be maintained throughout the learning process up until personal proficiency and learning transfer have taken place.

After Learning:

2. The employee should intentionally look for opportunities to transfer knowledge, skills, and tools learned back to the job and workplace in relevant and meaningful ways.

Strategies for Successful Learning Transfer

It takes time to apply new knowledge and skills in the workplace. Furthermore, learning is more than a one-time event. Leaders and managers should be committed to helping their employees successfully transfer new learning to their job.

Outlined below are several ideas to guide employees in this process. Creating a Post Course Learning Activities Checklist like these recommendations can provide learners with suggestions on things to do within days, weeks, and months of returning to the workplace from a learning event and assimilating new skills and knowledge in their job.

  • Complete an individual Action Plan within 5-7 days. List your goals, action steps, success criteria, timeframe, and resources.

Action plan

 

  • Create an Infographic to help you reflect on your learning, improve your knowledge retention, increase workplace transfer, and focus on future learning/training goals within 1-2 months. You can create an Infographic on any topic or process.

 

infographic

 

  • Read related Blogs for insightful articles, useful tips, additional resources, and other helpful materials.
  • Complete a Skills Inventory within 5-7 days. Take note of the skills you learned, as well as the ones you still need to improve.
  • Schedule a Debrief Session (or write a Summary Document) with/for your manager within 1-2 weeks. Discuss the content you learned, share your action plan, identify opportunities to apply new skills, and determine additional training or learning resources needed for continued and further success.
  • Get Coworker Support as you put what you have learned into practice within 1-2 weeks. Share with them what you learned. Teaching others is a fantastic way to aid in retention!
  • Schedule an optional Follow-up Checkup with yourself (or better yet with you and your manager) within 5-6 months to provide responses to several questions such as:
    • Please give the details around 1-2 specific examples where you successfully applied a skill (or tip, trick, “golden nugget”, etc.) learned in class to complete existing work tasks on the job more efficiently. Did you edit documents or revise some methods to make them more beneficial and/or simplified?
    • Please describe how you shared/taught the skills you learned with others in your organization.
    • Please explain in depth how your manager reinforced your learning experience and/or encouraged you to apply your new learning in your workplace. Include any company processes or systems in place such as coaching. Were you rewarded with a promotion or pay increase for applying your new skills?
    • Please describe the impact of the learning on your confidence in using the software (including experimenting and troubleshooting), on your job performance (efficiency, quality, etc.), and/or any other direct or indirect results, such as opportunities to create new processes or documents.
    • What post-course learning activities (action plan, debrief session/summary document with supervisor, skills inventory, learning transfer activity, including learning journal or infographic, blog postings, etc.) did you find most helpful in validating, sustaining, and/or promoting your continued learning? Why?

A Win-Win

When leaders establish and maintain an effective learning culture and environment, everyone wins. The learner gains valuable new knowledge and skills, and the organization gains a motivated employee capable of achieving organizational goals and objectives with confidence.

Remember it is important for the leader to assist the employee to focus on learning transfer so everyone can:

  • Validate learning impacts by successfully applying a new skill learned to complete existing work tasks on the job more efficiently.
  • Sustain learned knowledge in the workplace through increased confidence and competence in using software, including experimenting and troubleshooting, improved job performance (quantity, quality, etc.), and any other direct or indirect results such as opportunities to create new processes or documents.
  • Reflect on learning to promote lifelong learning and an organizational culture of continuous employee development

An employee’s success at learning and transfer depends a great deal on their willingness and attitude, however, a leader also plays a significant role. Achieving personal learning goals directly tied to organizational objectives is a win-win for everyone!

Reflection Questions/Action Plan
  1. On a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent), how would you rate your willingness and ability to be a lifelong learner? What can you do differently to become more effective?
  2. What strategies will you use to be more effective at learning transfer after your next learning event?
  3. If you are a leader, what can you do better in establishing a culture of learning and an effective learning organization?

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