Employees want to learn and grow on the job. More than 86 percent of employees say training is important to them. For 36 percent of employees, training is so essential they would quit a job if it lacked learning opportunities.
A learning culture is important for employees, and it’s also crucial for company culture. In today’s digital world, skillsets need to change and grow rapidly. Ten years ago, employers hadn’t contemplated many of the skills most valued by employers today. A company that learns together is more adaptable because employees have the aptitude they need to keep themselves and the company competitive.
As many employees remain virtual, a learning culture has an additional benefit: It helps engage and connect employees. Connection is especially imperative in our remote age when many employees can’t meet for a coffee in the breakroom. In a recent Intuition survey, nearly 40 percent of Gen Z respondents craved connection and wanted their companies to host virtual social activities, including skill-building classes.
In this article, we’ll cover ways successful companies have created a learning culture within their workforces. Then we’ll reveal ideas for how employers can implement expanded learning opportunities to better engage their workforce.
What is a Learning Culture?
A company with a learning culture encourages active, continuous education. It supports employee growth and prizes employees with an open mindset who want to continue to expand their knowledge on the job. It may help employers hire from a larger, more diverse pool because new hires can fill experience gaps through the company’s extensive learning opportunities.
A learning culture is about more than just formal training modules. A company with a learning culture often provides its employees with increased access to books and other educational materials, mentorship, and informal classes.
A learning culture helps employees reach their fullest potential. For that reason, employees in learning cultures may be happier and more engaged, and companies may enjoy higher retention rates.
Learning Culture Pioneers
Companies that nurture their employees’ desire to grow and learn on the job may be more likely to be market leaders in their industries. Google is the most famous example. Before its IPO, Google announced 20 percent time. This policy encouraged employees to spend 20 percent of their time exploring or working on interest-based projects that had no immediate benefit to Google but could lead to success in the future. Through this policy, Google’s employees developed Google News, AdSense, and Gmail.
Google continues to focus on learning on the job. It pioneered a peer-to-peer training model called Googler to Googler (informally called g2g). In this program, employees educate their colleagues in all areas, not just job- or skill-based subjects. Googlers teach classes such as kickboxing, meditation, and parenting.
Etsy, an online marketplace for creative goods, offers employees a similar program called Etsy School. Employees lead and take classes on a broad range of subjects from tap dancing to navigating difficult conversations.
A company doesn’t need to focus on employee-to-employee learning to develop a learning culture. Companies can show they value learning and growth by doing something as simple as encouraging their workers to read. Buffer, a fully remote company that helps customers build a social media presence, offers employees a free Kindle and unlimited Kindle books. This perk is part of its core value to “improve consistently.”
Softwire, a U.K. tech firm, created a library in its office, complete with sofas, coffee tables, and calming colors. The library houses more than 500 books, and Softwire encourages employees to add to the library at the company’s expense.
How a Learning Culture Boosts Engagement
Employees are placing increasing importance on the value of a learning culture. More than 75 percent of Gen Z employees believe learning is the key to a successful career. This statistic isn’t surprising because learning can boost employee engagement. Engagement not only increases productivity, but also supports employees’ mental well-being and makes employees more likely to stay on the job.
A learning culture boosts engagement in several key ways.
1. It increases internal mobility.
In LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 35 percent of employees reported using learning programs to help find new opportunities within their organizations. Mobility is important for continuity and also for engagement. Employees who move into new jobs internally are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged than those who remain static in their positions.
2. It nurtures a sense of belonging.
Employees who feel a sense of belonging are 5.2 times more likely to be engaged than those who feel removed from their coworkers. But as the workforce shifts to remote working, companies need to make community engagement a more intentional process. Employers can help encourage a sense of community amongst remote workers by offering opportunities to learn together. Learning from others, chatting about a book, and even partaking in a virtual exercise class can help foster a sense of community.
3. It builds skill sets.
Technology is changing quickly, and employees need to be able to keep up. Last year, the World Economic Forum estimated that 40 percent of the core skills workers need for their work will change in the next five years. To be successful, employees must be adaptable, and they need to be able to learn and grow on the job. A learning culture makes these goals easier to achieve.
Bottom line? If you want to boost engagement at your company, instill an atmosphere that encourages growth.
Ways to Help Remote Employees Learn and Grow
A Intuition poll recently revealed 60 percent of employees want their organization to provide a structured learning environment versus keeping things open-ended. While a learning culture takes time to grow and organize, your company can take immediate steps to show you value and facilitate learning with the strategies below.
1. Encourage reading
One easy way to start your company’s learning journey is to encourage employees to read. Voracious reading builds intelligence and may inspire innovation. Good reading habits can also make better leaders, increase critical thinking skills, and even reduce stress. You can encourage reading among employees with these initiatives.
- Build a digital lending library
Introduce a corporate digital library. Personalize the selections by finding the books most meaningful to the company’s culture, founders, and employees. Encourage your employees to read at least one book a month, and reward them for doing so.
- Offer book stipends
Even if you can’t afford to buy your employees a Kindle and unlimited books, you can encourage them to read regularly by giving them a monthly book budget. Encourage them to cash in on their budget, and even set aside times in the workweek to focus on reading and development.
- Start a company book club
A company book club gets employees reading, and it encourages idea sharing and togetherness. Make the book club during work hours to encourage more employees to come and engage with each other.
2. Invest in on-the-job training
Another way to build a learning culture is to invest in on-the-job learning opportunities. Learning new skills together can help your employees improve their memories, boost their moods, and increase their confidence.
- Build out blended online learning offerings
Blended online learning combines synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. With synchronous learning, a virtual instructor leads employees in real-time group training opportunities and engagement. It allows for increased employee engagement, team building, and questions and answers. With asynchronous learning, employees work online at their own speed to enhance the skills they’ve learned.
- Start a weekly lunch-and-learn
Host a weekly lunch and invite interesting speakers to talk to your team. Encourage your employees to lead some of the talks and to think big on which topics to speak about. Sweeten the pot by providing a voucher code for Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, or another delivery company.
- Encourage curiosity
You can have no budget and still encourage workplace learning by making teaching and curiosity a part of your company’s daily routine. Here are two ways to do it.
- Share ideas
At the beginning of meetings, ask employees to share summaries and takeaways from books they’re reading or courses they’re taking to spark curiosity and conversations.
- Encourage interest-based work
You don’t have to be Google to institute a 20-percent policy. Encourage employees to pursue interest-led work for a few hours a week. This initiative gives employees room to grow, and it could lead to groundbreaking innovations for your company.
Creating a learning culture doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start today. Encourage reading, share ideas, offer courses, and boost mentorship opportunities at your company. You’ll show your customers you value learning and your employees.