Have you got a non-learning culture?

By Peter Williams July 24, 2018

Trying to create a learning culture is a widespread challenge. In research released at the end of November 2017, ‘How Can L&D Managers “Learn to Learn”?’, Towards Maturity found that while 91% of managers want to learn, only 61% claim they have the time to do so. An organisation that can’t find the time to learn doesn’t have a learning culture. If this problem is widespread, it is not a new one.

What culture do you have?

To create a learning culture you first must know where you are now. The well-known learning consultant Nigel Paine suggests that if the L&D team doesn’t know or can’t describe the organisation’s learning culture then the first step is a learning culture self-audit. 

A learning culture is one where people are listened to, whatever their role, and they are invited to ask questions, tell stories, share successes – and failures. It is where the capacity for learning is one reason for hiring and promoting, where senior management will participate in learning and where customers’ input and feedback is routinely sought.

But what is a non-learning culture? Look out for characteristics such as information being shared only on a need-to-know basis, little attention being paid to reflection or learning lessons, people being treated as resources, the default position being scapegoating and defensiveness and that even if customers’ views are sought, they are often ignored.

Use the (digital) tools

Digital is now essential to create a learning culture, in particular using digital tools to facilitate communication and collaboration. But digital learning should be seen as part of the wider concept of creating a digital workforce.

The main advantage of digital is empowering learners – giving them choice of where, when and how they learn, and part of this change in culture requires a radical mind shift by the organisation. Good learning is about giving learners the same experiences they have in their everyday lives, which means using the same tools – smartphones, tablets as well as laptops. It also means the look and feel of the learning should increasingly align itself with the consumer-style user experience (UX) digital users have every time they are online shopping, searching for information or getting immediate help with directions to their next meeting.

As part of a successful learning culture, L&Ds are seeing their role as creating and curating, hence the expression ‘resources and courses’. Resources include support tools, which allow for training that can be requested at any time. In these cases, training is produced in bite-sized chunks that make it easy to find the exact information you need when you need it. The applications are wide, reaching into every L&D experience – and this is not exclusively about online learning, as digital tools have a crucial part to play in blended learning, in supporting, coaching and mentoring, for example.

Providing the real deal

L&D at its best is innovative, creative and deeply practical. When it achieves those three characteristics it creates the sort of learning that fits in with the reality of working lives in the 21st-century economy.

The classroom course is being replaced by a worker-centric approach to learning: whether they are in an office, a call centre or a retail space, workers are short of time, with short attention spans, and they want to collaborate but also want just-in-time, independent learning.

If L&D can recognise the changes that are taking place in business and the workplace, then, by working with others, it can create the learning that is needed now.

This is an extract from The Curve – Issue Six. Click here to download the full magazine – for leaders in learning.


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