I asked this question on LinkedIn the other week since the learning culture can decide if any learning initiatives succeed or fail. Of course, there is no set recipe to follow, but this is what I and others discussed:

1. Ground everything in the company strategy and its goals, and make sure continuous learning, curiosity, trust, and empathy are central aspects of doing business. If you have, as Clark Quinn stated, a Miranda culture, you will not succeed. In such a culture, everything you say can and will be held against you and people will hold back from sharing since they might be punished for it later.

2. Leaders, all the way to the CEO, must set an example and be role models for learning. People do what these leaders do, not what they say. Top management also needs to co-create and backup all choices regarding the learning platform, intended skills in relation to the strategy, providing time for people to learn and experiment, change management, and more.

3. Ensure all employees understand what learning at work is today and how to practice it openly every day. Working out loud, Personal Knowledge Mastery, Modern Workplace Learning, 70/20/10, and more will guide them to the best possible learning based on their needs. People should be talking about learning, sharing interesting things, and encourage others to do the same. Marcia Conner’s Learning Culture Audit can create a picture of where you are now and provides a roadmap for what to aim for.

4. Use the best platforms and content services available to give life to the educational guidelines and company goals above. There are many platforms out there but select the ones that are right for you. Make the training, coaching, and stretch goals relevant, timely, and, targeted (thanks Nigel Paine). Ensure that, before you launch any courses as the solution for anything, analyze how the learning transfer over to real problems will occur using Will Thalheimer’s Learning Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM).

5. Build for the future using a champions program with the people who are inspired by the above and want it to work for their team. They will, together with the leaders in step 2 help make learning a natural part of work. As Harold Jarche says “Learning is work, and work is learning”. Make sure to hire people that have this approach to learning.

Finally, as the learning culture is maturing and people talk more and more about learning, it can be easy for them to slip back to the old way of thinking where courses were meant to solve it all. An excellent source of knowledge to avoid this is Cathy Moore’s Will Training Help, where you clearly see that training is not always the answer. It might be the culture or something else that hinders people’s performance.

The post on LinkedIn is here, for anyone who is interested.

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Patrik Bergman
Privately: Father, husband, vegetarian, and reader of Dostoyevsky. Professionally: Works as Communications Manager at www.haldex.com