• Why is there such a buzz around Learning Cultures?

    By Cameron Glennon – Learning Technology Consultant , Virtual College

    The phrase ‘learning culture’ is something that we hear a lot within Learning and Development, but what exactly does it mean, why do we want one, and what are the potential barriers?

    At the recent Learning Live conference by the LPI, ‘Creating a Learning Culture’ was the number one challenge identified by Heads of Learning within the industry.

    For the purpose of this blog, I am going to define a learning culture as: ‘an organisation that puts learning at the forefront of everything they do’ – but why should we care?

    Underpinned by Growth Mindset:

    In order to fully understand the concept of a learning culture, it is important to first understand Growth Mindset and how it is needed to underpin a Learning Culture. The theory of Growth Mindset has been around for a while now and has been pioneered by Carol Dweck. The theory states that peoples ‘most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work’. Dweck believes that this view creates a ‘love of learning’ and a ‘resilience that is essential for great accomplishment’. In an organisational setting, this means that our people are constantly looking to improve, not scared of making mistakes, and actively seek out constructive criticism. 

    So why do we need to create a Learning Culture?

    With the age of automation approaching us at a rapid pace, the ability to constantly improve by learning new skills and to be change agile is becoming vitally important to prevent people and organisations being left behind. The speed of change means that many traditional skills are becoming quickly outdated, leaving organisations with a workforce fit for the past and not the future. For people to fully embrace change, they need to have a Growth Mindset: be confident and comfortable with regularly updating their skills and ‘getting better at getting better’. 

    If we need our people to learn new skills and continually develop, we need to create the right environment where they can step out of their comfort zone – empowering them to make mistakes and try new things. In order to create this environment individuals, need to be able to trust their colleagues, managers, and organisation.

    So, what are the barriers to consider?

    The two main barriers to consider when trying to implement a Learning Culture are: 

    1. Lack of trust within the organisation 
    2. Organisations only focusing on the short term 

    Simply put, if you don’t have trust within your organisation then you are not going to be able to implement a Learning Culture. A major part of the creation of this culture is feeling able to try new things, share success, share failures, and make mistakes. If the last person who shared a mistake so that others could learn were reprimanded by management, I don’t think I would be putting my hand up in the future.

    The second barrier to consider is a purely short-term focus in terms of KPIs, objectives, and strategy. A short-term focus constantly places people in a high-stakes, performance environment. This means that they become scared to try new things, stifling innovation, and creating a workforce of ‘we’ve always done it this way’. Professional athletes spend most of their time in the ‘learning zone’ where they can hone their skills before delivering them in a high-stake environment – could we replicate this in a work setting? Purely focusing on the short-term performance zone will make it incredibly tough to create a Learning Culture. 

    Ultimately, organisations that choose to embrace change, support their people to continually improve, and empower them to make mistakes will be the innovators of the future. However, if you do not have a culture of trust, or your focus is purely on short-term results, then creating a Learning Culture is going to be a really difficult task.

    If you’d like to find out more about how your organisation can benefit from a learning and development programme contact us at hello@virtual-college.co.uk.

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