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3 Reasons Companies Are Scrambling to Build a Culture of Learning

Sarah Greesonbach | 4 min read

It’s a simple fact of business that employee skills aren’t static. As technology changes, the consumer changes. And as the consumer changes, businesses need to change in order to meet their needs. So in a business environment in which most skills have a half-life of 5 years, it should be no surprise that companies in every industry are scrambling to build a culture that puts learning and development at its core.

A lifelong learning culture, or culture of learning, is a fancy way of saying a company values and prioritizes education as an intentional business strategy. It means an organization embraces the latest forms of learning technology, instruction, and development, and provides the time and resources employees need to update their skills for the advancement of the organization and their own individual role. It also indicates a commitment to always improving — to being open to adopting new strategies, approaches, and perspectives as an employee’s knowledge evolves.

But it’s not all about the employee. Only about 10% of organizations have managed to create a lifelong learning culture, but the ones that have are about 46% more likely to be first to market, 30% more likely to be market leaders in their industry over time, and 58% more prepared to meet future demand. Thanks to results like this, building a culture of learning is quickly catching on as an effective way to improve productivity, drive loyalty, build resilience — three critical competitive advantages for a wide range of businesses, from retail to tech to restaurant service.  

1. A culture of learning improves productivity

Productivity is the holy grail of our era, with businesses taking every opportunity to ensure employees have what they need to be as productive as possible (we’re looking at you, office snacks). But all too often, organizations treat productivity like a component of employee performance that exists in a vacuum, as if adding a few incentives to the employee experience can somehow universally improve productivity.

One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the productivity benefits of a learning culture is that training and development have traditionally been treated like an item on a to-do list rather than a facet of a company’s culture. Making the effort to move learning out of the zone of a task and into the zone of a lifelong experience can help organizations maximize individual employee effectiveness and drastically reduce workplace distractions.

2. A culture of learning drives employee loyalty

In a series of global surveys by Deloitte, executives consistently rank employee retention in their top five priorities, and for good reason — the value of loyalty in business is even more obvious today as employees increasingly favor job-hopping, or leaving a job within two years, as a way to gain skills and promotions.

Businesses are using a lifelong learning culture to counter employee turnover because encouraging employees to explore their specialty and helping them grow removes a lot of the attractiveness of job-hopping. In fact, when employees know they can build skills and develop their career within their current company, they’re 94% more likely to stay.

Click here to learn how Nekter Juice Bar cut its turnover rate by 2/5 after a new focus on training.

3. A culture of learning encourages creativity

In an increasingly competitive business environment, customers are more and more attracted to companies that use innovation and creativity to solve problems and market products. This has led to increased pressure to build creative teams that can work collaboratively and deliver practical results.

Wildly successful organizations like Pixar are using a lifelong learning culture to foster collaborative creativity. In an interview with The Harvard Business Review, Pixar CEO Ed Catmull describes how the company developed Pixar University, a collection of in-house courses, to train and cross-train employees as they develop in their careers. Catmull explains that their culture of learning reinforces the mindset that learning together is fun and drives increased collaboration, creativity, and mixing of ideas – the perfect recipe for creative output.

If you want to realize the benefits of a learning culture, your organization must do the work. It must build a culture that continuously encourages employees to increase their knowledge, competence, and performance, and then give those employees the bandwidth in their schedule and psyche to pursue that learning. It’s no secret that this can be an enormous undertaking but, as you can see, the benefits far outweigh the discomfort that comes with embracing such a change.

BY SARAH GREESONBACH

Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.