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Learning & Development

The Importance of Learning Culture

The results of L&D spending are too often stymied by a corporate culture that encourages employees to simply participate in training, rather than make use of what they've learnt

It’s a scene all too familiar for a company’s learning and development teams. They spend months listening, understanding, and sometimes fending off employee requests for a new development “offering,” hundreds of people register for the course, and they even see a trickle of encouraging emails from particularly enthusiastic participants. People seem engaged and the course eventually receives high marks in the early evaluations.

But fast forward a few weeks and L&D teams often come to the painful realization that the excitement has dissipated and employees have fallen back into the same bad habits the training was designed to correct. This will understandably cause concerned professionals to rack their brains: was the exercise too long? Did the instructor seem like he lacked credibility? Was the group too big?

In reality, when L&D doesn’t produce the intended result, it is symptom of a larger problem — it’s often because there is a culture of “learning participation,” which is where learning isn’t absorbed or applied to employees’ work. Most companies today unintentionally promote a culture of learning participation, and this costs approximately $5 million in lost employee productivity per 1,000 employees per year, according to CEB data.

Four Steps to a Productive Learning Culture

Instead, L&D functions should build a productive learning culture. Employees in a productive learning culture enjoy a 12% increase in performance from their learning experiences while spending 11% less time learning, according to CEB data. This is a win-win for both employees individually and the company as a whole.

L&D teams can build a productive learning culture by doing four things.

  1. Create an effortless learning experience: Provide employees with high-quality learning that’s easy to consume, access, and applicable to employees’ careers, rather than just aiming to deliver an engaging learning experience.

  2. Build employee learning capability: Teach employees how to learn, rather than just creating and teaching content.

  3. Foster a productive learning environment: Create shared ownership for an environment that supports learning and development, rather than focusing on the individual’s responsibility to learn.

  4. Measure and manage learning impact: Assess the impact of the learning to help employees improve their performance and engagement through learning, rather than simply tracking learning participation.


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