How to create a workplace learning culture that drives growth

Discover how learning and development professionals are putting their teams in the driving seat to establish a learning culture that leads to growth

04 July 2023

The benefits of establishing a strong learning culture in the workplace are well known, linked to everything from increased staff engagement and retention to encouraging creativity and fostering collaboration. But is your workplace learning culture driving organisational growth?

This is a question that Maggie Matthews, the associate director of professional coaching and training organisation The Oxford Group (a City & Guilds business), discussed at the recent CIPD Festival of Work conference.

‘Implicit in this question is that the right learning culture will drive growth,’ Matthews explains. ‘We wanted to consider this premise so we consulted the academics – and even asked ChatGPT – what constitutes a learning culture, why you would want one and how to go about creating one.’

What is a learning culture?

A learning culture is defined by the Centre for Creative Leadership 2022 as: ‘An environment that demonstrates and encourages individual and organisational learning, and where both gaining and sharing knowledge is prioritised, valued, and rewarded.’

Could this environment drive growth? According to Matthews’ research, the answer is yes: ‘While asking ChatGPT offered some interesting but incomplete responses, there was agreement that learning culture is a driver for growth because it drives engagement and performance at an organisational level.’

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3 tips to help you create a learning culture that drives growth 

Here, Matthews looks at what direction you can take from this and poses three challenges to help you think about how to lead the way for learning in your organisation. 

Challenge 1 – It starts with you!

‘Leading by example can help establish trust and engagement, so start by thinking about how you reflect your organisation’s attitude towards learning. Ask yourself:

  • What is your attitude to learning and how do you show up as a learner to your colleagues and to the wider organisation?
  • When was the last time you learned something formally and shared that with others?
  • When did you have and share an "aha!" moment at work?
  • What do you not say about learning in the flow of work that leaves it open to interpretation?’

Challenge 2 – Identify the learning style of your teams

‘When it comes to learning, we can be divided into three categories – tourists, volunteers and hostages.

Which category someone comes under can hugely impact not only their openness to learning but the depth of their experience when presented with learning situations.

Ask your teams (and yourself), when they are in the space where learning could happen, what is their attitude?

  • Volunteers are open to learning most of the time and looks for opportunities in everyday experiences for themselves and others.
  • Tourists are not averse to learning but maybe don’t always think about it or take the opportunities when they present themselves.
  • Hostages have shut themselves off from learning and don’t take time out at all and feel hostile to most situations where learning could take place, like in everyday interactions with colleagues and managers or more formal situations such as mentoring, coaching and 1:1 conversations with line managers.’

Challenge 3 – Tailor your strategy to your business

‘As a leader or learning specialist what can you do? Work on converting some of your tourists to volunteers, hostages to tourists, and on converting your existing volunteers to advocates.

We asked some of our clients this question, and they shared some innovative examples of what people are doing on the ground:

  • One charity we spoke to provides budget and training options. Individuals get to choose where they spend their own budget – a great way to convert hostages into tourists and tourists into volunteers.
  • Another client organisation targets their learning to specific talent groups, it feels special and targeted, again creating volunteers who step into the space of their own accord and helping everyone to become a volunteer.
  • Our final client organisation in the tech sector breaks down the key skills or experiences needed to be successful in a variety of roles (competency framework or job descriptions) and provides clear options for team members to improve their skills, knowledge and mindsets in those key areas. When they see “Ability to work with ambiguity" they know exactly where to go to learn more about that and how they develop it.

All three of these examples offer an element of choice to the learner, which creates greater ownership. It puts each team member in the driving seat, so you don’t have to be the only one championing the learning agenda'.

To find out more information about how we develop the skills, behaviours and mindsets of managers and leaders worldwide request a call back from our team of experts at The Oxford Group.