Why Creating a Learning Culture Is an Opportunity for Change

Summer Salomonsen

Head of Cornerstone Studios at Cornerstone OnDemand

Have you noticed that over the past year, conversations around major incidents of unconscious bias and sexual harassment have almost always included learning as part of the solution?

It's more important than ever to create a culture of learning within our workplaces, because only through a culture of learning can we adopt new mindsets, behaviors and skills that make workplaces inclusive for everyone. And who better than learning practitioners to lead this charge within their organizations?

There have been countless articles reporting the same thing: employees expect learning as part of their daily jobs. And as learning practitioners, we need to embrace this opportunity and truly elevate ourselves into a strategic position within the company.

Embracing this opportunity, however, can be challenging. I get it. I've been in your shoes. I've previously been an L&D practitioner, a learning consultant and have built and delivered courses for global organizations.

Whatever challenges you have with creating a culture of learning, I've likely have them, too. Here's what I've learned along the way:

Get Out of Your Own Way

Sometimes we, as L&D practitioners, can be our own worst enemy. Historically, learning practitioners have rooted our value-add in the complex learning programs we've built for our organizations. Yet those programs are often misguided—we over-architect and over complicate them, which alienates our employees and complicates our ability to gain strategic buy-in. Instead, we need to focus on creating intuitive and simple learning programs.

Learning programs shouldn't focus on the theory of learning, but the practical implementations for employees. Remember, learning builds trust among employees, so build programs with your employees in mind and focus on their needs. As much as we'd like to think that people are motivated to learn because they are told to, or even expect it as part of their jobs, we still need to make content relevant to them. The content within our learning programs should allow every employee to find meaning and tie the ideas presented to pre-existing knowledge, which will drive natural behavioral change.

At the end of the day, to truly create a learning culture, we need to get out of our own way and focus on simple learning. We need to realize that our value-add isn't creating programs; it's enabling people to achieve business goals.

Think practically about what works, and what drives business goals: This is ruthless relevance. Let it be your north star as you build programs to support the organization. In business, we don't have the luxury of learning for the sake of learning. We learn to grow and be agile.

Modern Content for a Modern Workforce

Learning content isn't what it used to be. While I cannot say that the days of cheesy content are fully gone, modern learning approaches are quickly becoming the norm.

From a quick Google search to watching a three-minute YouTube video to attending a webinar, there is learning content everywhere. According to Google, there are 500 million views of learning-related content and one million learning videos shared on YouTube every day. We must act as curators in addition to content creators. We must help our people by sourcing the best content that aligns to our goals. This means ensuring that the content we invest in is high-quality, engaging, insightful and easily consumed. We are serving a sophisticated population of content consumers.

One way to help ensure you're creating modern content is to use a modern process. Implement an agile framework that has been tested and validated. Rather than over-architecting another learning program, create short-form content that can be adjusted after deployment. The goal here is speed. Identify a viable product, deploy it and build in feedback loops as well as review cycles to improve it on the fly.

Give People the Learning They Crave

Keep in mind, high viewership of virtual content isn't a threat to formal L&D—it's a call to action and a model we should understand and utilize to build engaging content and foster a learning culture.

Employees want an opportunity to learn. This is our chance to help them thrive and grow. So, let's focus on creating a learning culture that fosters a growth mindset.

Photo: Creative Commons

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