Whether you’re aware of it or not, every organisation has a learning culture. If you employ people, then learning happens in your workplace every day. Your company’s learning culture is essential to how it operates, progresses and thrives. But despite this, the majority of businesses don’t pay attention to their own learning culture and how it is affecting the workforce.
In this post, we’ll explore what exactly a learning culture refers to, why it’s important and how to pro-actively create a transformative learning environment in your business.
What is a ‘learning culture’?
A learning culture is a set of values, processes and practices that encourage individuals to increase their knowledge, competencies, and overall performance. The learning experiences your staff are exposed to are important to determine how they react in/different situations – challenging or otherwise – but, are these learning experiences being facilitated by your senior management or HR teams? Or are your staff having to seek out these opportunities for themselves? Whether the opportunities to learn are positive, negative, abundant or lacking is determined by the type of learning culture you establish. That’s why it’s important to develop a culture that’s strong and accepting of all methods of learning.
A learning organisation is one that provides many different opportunities to learn, innovate and grow. In the face of a well-documented skills shortage, organisations in the UK will need to spend an extra £527 million to attract the right talent over the next year, but by creating a positive learning culture you could improve the motivation of your current employees, attract exciting new hires and cultivate the potential you already have within your business. In turn, it can drastically improve staff retention – interestingly, research found that 98% of UK employees see learning as essential when deciding whether to stay with their employer.
The problem? Cultivating an environment where learning is encouraged is a huge challenge for many organisations. It requires time and attention, which can be particularly difficult within fast paced, 24/7 businesses, especially when approaching their peak periods. Recent research has revealed just how difficult businesses are finding it…
Are we failing?
At the same time, there is a skills shortage emerging in several sectors of the UK economy, which could lead to bigger problems post-Brexit as it becomes more difficult to attract those skills from other EU countries. Already, almost three quarters of service businesses are struggling to hire the people they need.
A survey by Bridge revealed that just a quarter of senior HR staff are aware of the learning culture at their company. Of the remaining three quarters:
- 11% claim they don’t have one
- 59% are in the process of establishing one
- 5% said it simply wasn’t a priority
Surveying 500 employees and 200 senior staff, they also found that six in 10 UK companies don’t monitor how learning impacts their business performance. On top of that, most businesses lack a clear connection between learning and the overall strategy of the business:
- Nearly two thirds of employees don’t understand what their employer does
- More than half of employees don’t know how their work contributes to the company’s goals
Creating a learning culture
Part of the problem with a ‘learning culture’ is that the term itself is a bit ambiguous. Companies have long thought of employee learning as something that happens in a classroom. It’s delivered by a trainer away from the workplace, with content and activities selected by a tutor who has no experience of working within your business.
This traditional style just isn’t compatible with modern companies working to meet consumer demand. With the development of new skills now so critical to business and career success, employers want faster, more effective methods of learning. The modern business needs education to be integrated into the working day, and for senior managers to get the most out of their workforce’s potential.
Learning needs to be part of the organisation’s strategic success. It must be embedded into daily tasks, integrated into the talent management strategy and support the development of staff capability at every level. Developing a continued training and learning strategy for those who want it (and sometimes for those who don’t) will ensure you have a clear vision and focus in order to meet long term goals.
Here are some key ways that we have found help to achieve this:
- Accessible content – Learning needs to be accessible and understandable rather than alienating and irrelevant. It should be taught in a variety of ways, by an experienced tutor or trainer, with real life examples and shared experiences.
- Applied learning – Learning and work should go hand in hand. It doesn’t always have to be in a classroom or away from the workplace. Topics should be relevant to the workforce and the strategic direction of the business.
- Reward Learning – Whether it’s a promotion, pay rise or simple congratulations from the leadership team, recognise learning and commitment as a way to boost performance and productivity.
Finding the right courses
Finding the right courses for your staff can be the difference between providing a positive or negative learning experience, and to do that you need to better understand the gaps and requirements you currently have. A training needs analysis (TNA) is the most effective way of figuring out what training your business needs and where you have skills and knowledge gaps. Training Needs Analysis’ can be delivered by experienced training providers who understand your industry, and who can suggest the most relevant courses available in order to bridge the skills gaps you currently have within the business, this may also uncover funding you may have available to you.
Training providers and businesses then need to work together to focus on the correct core, interpersonal and influencing skills by providing the three conditions required for a lifelong learning culture – the opportunity, the capability, and the right environment. A good training provider should be able to deliver programmes that meet all of those needs and allow for flexibility within those programmes to focus on the areas you as a business and your employees as individuals need support with.
Staffing is a constant concern for any organisation, from the smallest to the highest turnover, it’s inevitable. Filling the skills gaps can be perceived as a source of expense and lost productivity, which can be hugely detrimental to smaller businesses – but this is a perception rather than a reality. Organisations need engaged, innovative and agile employees who can think strategically and seek out opportunities for lifelong learning. Stimulate that curiosity and desire for learning within your employees and you will open the doors for innovation.
Too often we see businesses failing to see value in the training budget they are given or are unable to see the link between the learning they currently provide and the outcomes on their operation. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 aimed to help increase the uptake of vocational training but has so far struggled to bolster wide-spread interest from businesses – mainly because a lack of understanding, a fear of it being too complex a task to take on and negative pre-conceptions around flexibility driven by negative media coverage.
Bis Henderson Academy have helped a number of high profile businesses significantly improve their operations by guiding them through the entire Levy process and demystifying what can appear to be too complex.
One of our key specialisms is delivering leadership courses to bridge skills gaps in the warehouse in order to increase productivity and improve output. The courses we deliver can be paid for entirely with Levy credits – meaning the cost doesn’t touch your bottom line and doesn’t require a piece of the ‘training budget’ pie.
Whether it’s re-training or upskilling of your current staff, our programmes have been proven to foster a culture of development into every business – our team ensures businesses have the tools in place to achieve a long-term learning and development strategy for their logistics and supply chain workforce – critical in order to survive in today’s landscape of change.
- eDelivery eBook 2 – How to recruit and train for an agile supply chain
- WHITEPAPER: Tapping Into The Great Skills Dividend
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