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So you want to build a learning culture...

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

A Learning Culture starts at the top, it must, it is no one else’s job but the CEO.

What is a Learning Culture, does it matter…

‘Learning Culture’, is an often-used expression. Wistfully imagined by many to exist in the business, or hoped that current actions are building one.

But what is it, how does it emerge and what makes it happen?

Rhetorical questions like this are all over the Internet, why is a learning culture so cherished and so misunderstood.

“You can’t build business culture any more that you can build a learning culture. You can only take steps to create the environment and opportunity within the business, from which a culture may evolve.”

This follows sage comments from business thought leaders and coaches for years that said, “you can’t motivate anyone to do anything – you only provide the opportunities, within which, people motivate themselves”.

Let’s focus then what it takes to prepare the potential for a Learning Culture to evolve.

A learning culture will only potentially emerge within the business, by learners following leadership actions, thought leadership, and learning beliefs. This starts at the top, it must, it is no one else’s job but the CEO.

This is just not something, HR and L&D can build and deliver to the ‘C Suite’ in a box. If the CEO and her direct team are not focused on the actions that instill a learning culture, you won’t get one.

The CEO and leadership must act as thought leaders, with clear learning leadership styles - Is the right way to start the learning culture process.

Be learners in the C-suite. Celebrate learning in all teams, promote learning, and recognize learners for their efforts (that does not necessarily mean reward) recognition is a reward on its own.

Leading from the top and taking learning forward as a core strategy is the only way to achieve the results.

It sounds pretty pedantic, that is the reality if you want a learning culture - as in any culture you sprinkle the ‘culture starter’ on the top. Eventually it moves to the bottom.

That does not mean encouraging people to follow you and complete the LMS course to prove a point – the point just misses. It is far more encouraging and will instill the will to follow, for the CEO to learn something new every day. For all your employees to be inspired follow that lead and learn something of value to each, to the team, and to the business.

Unilever makes a deliberate effort “to get all employees, from top executives to assembly line workers personally engaged” in the strategy

In today’s fast-moving skills and expertise-based businesses, changes happening as you watch – that means, no C-suite or HR/L&D team will be able to keep pace and deliver learning to build new skills, up-skill, or even maintain the required skills across the business.

A skill induced learning culture needs to take on a ‘life of its own’.

Those in the core roles and business areas will identify new skills they need, to keep pace or get ahead of the curve. They will identify those in the business who are the SME’s (subject matter experts).

Give everyone the tools, to learn every single day, tools to connect and follow their chosen thought leaders, managers, peers and teams.

“It’s a fact, most people want to learn, it’s a human trait to want to explore, to understand. Human curiosity.”

People learning, are energized people. Exerting an energy and drive that influences their peers and direct reports with a will to learn too. It starts at the top and filters down the organisation.

CEO’s need to display a desire and actual learning, celebrate and share with all business learners their learning journeys.

Can’t say for sure you will develop a learning culture, however it sounds like a much better place to work!

John Driscoll


+61 (0)8 8311 3713

Level 3 | 97 Pirie Street | South Australia | SA 5214

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