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Creating a Culture of Learning

Creating a Culture of Learning

By Colleen Mulvihill, Member Services Manager, NAED

The world moves fast, and trying to keep pace with the changes is a definite challenge. The ability to adapt has become a necessity – especially when it comes to the workplace. This rapidly changing business environment keeps the pressure on businesses to try and learn faster in order to keep a competitive advantage. Encouraging a learning environment will help keep associates up-to-date with the latest trends and technology. It will also help them become better at their jobs and keep them with their employer longer, which has a positive impact on the business’ bottom line.

What is a culture of learning?
Building a culture is weaving people, systems, and processes together with the values and behaviors prevalent in the business. In a culture of learning, the business’s mission, vision, and values align to encourage associates to continuously increase their knowledge and develop their skills. There is a concentrated focus on fostering an environment that supports individual development. “In this environment, associates are encouraged to learn and apply that new knowledge to their daily work,” said Catherine Viglione, NAED Education & Research Foundation assistant director. “They are also encouraged to share that knowledge with the rest of their team.”

How is that culture created?
Creating a culture of learning involves more than just sending associates to training classes or participation in a webinar. “For this type of culture to flourish, it has to come from the top,” commented Viglione. “The president/CEO must set the example and must begin nurturing a mindset that encourages curiosity and questions.”

Associates want to learn and grow. They want to build upon their experiences and apply new concepts to their daily tasks.

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), there are seven habits that can be used to create a culture of learning.

1) Encourage risk taking – As long as the risk supports growth, learning cultures encourage and support them, even when they fail.

2) Enable communication – Open and honest communication fosters knowledge sharing.

3) Support social learning – Share what you learned and your ideas with others to get their feedback.

4) Manage resources – “I don’t have time to help employees learn,” should be answered culturally and unanimously with, “You can’t afford not to help employees learn.”

5) Build trust – Employees need to feel safe in trying new things. Making mistakes is how people learn. Managers’ involvement in coaching and supporting is critical to success.

6) Engage stakeholders – Break down the silos and ensure everyone is committed to the same goal.

7) Facilitate feedback and reflection – This can come from surveys, performance data, and manager feedback.

NAED Delivering Training that Matters
“We are working hard to ensure all our training is engaging and applicable by creating these real world experiences for our learners to complete as part of their training,” said Viglione.

NAED is moving toward a 70:20:10 learning model. That means 70% of what an employee learns happens on the job, 20% from coaching and only 10% is actual classroom training.

“My vision for the future is that we’ll create more tools that get to the 70% on the job (OTJ) experience whereas traditionally we’ve focused on the 10% in our eLearning platform but used OTJ experiences in our flagship programs like EPEC.”

When you have a culture of learning, attending a training session isn’t a “check the box” activity that you do today and forget tomorrow. “In strong learning cultures employees look forward to participating in training because they really believe that it will help them grow in their current role or prepare for a future one,” Viglione explains. “Application is key.”

Five Tips to Build your Culture of Learning

  1. Train toward the advancement of each individual, instead of training for the sake of training; tailor programs to the needs of the individual. Address the gaps in the associate’s knowledge, performance, confidence, productivity, and experience.
  2. Cater to learning styles and preferences; one associate may learn best in an instructor-led environment. Another may excel in an online, self-paced program.
  3. Offer some autonomy. Encourage associates to step out, learn something new, and explore new or varied business interests. Hidden talents and interests can be revealed when associates have opportunities to grow and expand.
  4. Instill in each associate that they are the CEO of their career, and encourage ownership of their own development, growth, and success.
  5. Offer mentors, track progress, schedule time for training opportunities and share knowledge. When everyone in the organization makes learning a priority, the culture of learning expands.


Check out the latest edition of The Current for more information.



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