Peter Drucker famously said, “Learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”
Nurturing a continuous learning culture is a prerequisite to an agile and flexible organization. It’s a culture where employees are continually striving to increase knowledge, competence, innovation, and performance. A stagnant learning culture, on the other hand, hinders an organization’s growth and development.
In this guide, we’ll tell you how to foster a culture of continuous learning and why it’s an initiative worth taking.
What Is a Continuous Learning Culture?
A continuous learning culture is where everyone in an organization collectively tries to increase their knowledge and integrate that knowledge to ensure better outcomes, such as superior performance, greater competency, and improved innovation.
Continuous learning culture takes many forms and an organization. Typically, employees should:
- Seek out new training
- Connect with experienced professionals on other platforms
- Seek out new articles or blogs
- Learn from subject matter experts (SMEs) in their field
- Ask questions and request feedback
- Be willing to take on new projects
- Apply creative problem-solving strategies
- Create and execute innovative learning plans
- Join book clubs
- Create training for other teammates to practice applying their new-found knowledge
When you have lifelong learners on your team, you’ll find the whole company ahead of the curve. This is in sharp contrast to a complacent workforce where there’s little to no influx of new ideas and is a waste of company resources.
How Does a Continuous Learning Culture Benefit an Organization?
Learning culture directly correlates to your business’s success.
Case in point—Deloitte‘s Leading in Learning report found that continuous learning firms are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. This makes your company a more desirable place to work, helping attract more talent.
In fact, 62% of tech employees agree training and learning opportunities make them more motivated to provide high-quality work, and younger workers consider skills training as a top perk when choosing a company to work for.
In addition to attracting talent, continuous learning culture also helps you retain it.
Providing employees with on-the-job learning opportunities has a significant positive impact on staff retention. It makes them feel valued, ensuring they stay with your organization for the long haul. Plus, adaptive and proactive learning create long-term dividends for career development.
To put things into perspective, nurturing a continuous learning environment in your company helps you build a reliable and skilled workforce who feel valued, in turn, improving staff attention and overall business success.
What Does a Culture of Continuous Learning Look Like?
The primary concept of a continuous learning culture is to have employees continually review resources until they reach mastery. Unlike traditional learning, there’s no deadline or exam date—or a percentage—to worry about.
Here’s how continuous learning works: employees take a diagnostic assessment and make a personalized learning plan until reassessment. Ideally, they continue the cycle with a new personalized plan until they master the skills they want.
Note that the whole foundation of continuous learning is consistency.
Human beings have a tendency to forget anything they learn within a short span of time, which scientists call the forgetting curve. Continuous learning involves employees consuming bite-sized learning modules regularly, helping them reach a high level of proficiency and integrate their skills into their daily lives.
What are the Benefits of a Continuous Learning Culture?
Once you foster a culture that values growing every individual’s skills and knowledge, you’ll see an active shift in your work environment for the better.
While we’ve lightly touched on the importance of continuous learning culture, here’s a more detailed breakdown of some benefits you can expect:
Employees are likely to stay with organizations they feel are invested in their growth, development, and success. If you close this gap for your workforce, you can hold on to your company‘s most valuable asset: your people.
Another benefit of continuous learning is it creates a sense of healthy competition between teammates, with every employee challenging each other and striving for improvement.
A competitive drive also enhances your employees’ productivity, producing innovations and ideas and finding quality proposals from every level of your organization. This works wonders to keep you ahead of the competition.
The more obvious benefit of promoting continuous learning is a deeply engaged and skilled workforce.
Once employees start enjoying learning, which is achievable if you offer interesting courses and learning opportunities relevant to them, they’ll start participating more. And learning from SMEs and internal and external leaders will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to facilitate their professional development.
5 Steps to Foster a Continuous Learning Culture in Your Organization
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of cultivating a culture of continuous learning smoothly and with stakeholder and employee buy-in:
Step 1: Identify Skill Gaps
Identifying your organization’s skills gap is an understandable first step to creating a culture of continuous learning. It gives you a clear vision of outcomes and knows what skills your employees have (and lack) to define your approach to a skills framework.
Step 2: Get Stakeholder Buy-In
Stakeholders and business leaders set the tone of the organization, enabling employees to thrive. It’s why they should understand the importance of and support a continuous learning culture. Otherwise, all your efforts will be in vain.
Even better if you can get leaders to demonstrate their own continuous learning journey to inspire and motivate employees. This models both acceptance and expectations, showing your workforce that their superiors encourage, celebrate, and reward learning.
Step 3: Create a Learning Plan
Make a learning plan outlining strategies and an implementation plan for your chosen employee learning initiatives.
Doing this sets clear objectives and defines processes, making it easier to streamline operations and achieve objectives. It gives direction and clarity, and since it’s custom-made according to your organization and its needs, you get a headstart to create a culture of continuous learning.
Step 4: Allocate Resources and Time to Implement Your Continuous Learning Plan
Another important aspect of cultivating a culture of continuous learning is setting aside some time and resources for planning and implementation.
Create a budget and internal marketing plan to get buy-in from employees. Introduce them to the tools and tech (for example, learning management systems and eLearning platforms) they will use to manage their own learning schedules.
Regardless of how you choose to run your continuous learning model, make sure it’s easily accessible to your employees. They should be able to easily select what they want to learn and when they want to learn. This ensures they gain maximum benefit and use resources optimally to improve the success rate.
Step 5: Encourage Employees and Make Them Comfortable
Ensure your employees feel comfortable and can easily navigate your chosen continuous learning model. If accessing content is challenging, adopting continuous learning into office culture will also be slower.
Ideally, the learning experience should be tailored to your employee’s individual needs. Employees will be more likely to be more committed and embrace learning actively.
5 Effective Strategies to Enhance Continuous Learning Culture
Nurturing a culture of continuous learning also involves building systems that make learning opportunities feel interesting and widely accessible. Here are a few proven ways to engage and immerse your employees in constant learning:
1. Microlearning Modules
Research suggests 58% of employees are more likely to engage with shorter learning modules. So the fact that microlearning lets you deliver learning content in small learning units makes it great for training in a limited time period. It’s also less demanding for employees with busy schedules and, therefore, encourages adoption.
2. Push Notifications
Continuous learning has an automatic leg up over a traditional LMS tool—one you can push to your employee’s mobile device. Consider sending employees reminder notifications to increase attendance for in-person classes or finish their microlearning modules.
3. Lunch and Learns
In addition to being an excellent workplace perk, lunch and learns is also handy for launching learning initiatives at your organization.
These activities are supposed to take place at lunchtime on a regular cadence. You can have an internal or external person running present a topic you think would benefit the attendees. Think of it as a low-pressure way to promote a sense of belonging while fostering a culture of continuous learning that’s both collaborative and engaging.
4. Adaptive Learning
Adaptive learning is the next level of personalized learning. While the latter uses a pre-test at the start of a course, the former focuses on improving your employees’ learning experiences and performance during the course.
It’s a great approach to help learners adapt and master the material. Plus, as employees don’t review the information they’ve already learned, they’re also more engaged during the session.
5. SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
SMEs are experts at their jobs who not only are a powerhouse of knowledge but can also creatively position the value of continuous learning. While you can also get external professionals, you likely already have people internally your employees love hearing from and can pioneer your organization’s peer-to-peer learning initiatives.
Internal SMEs should ideally be ultra-high performers or most tenured staff. You can also appoint individuals who have proven their worth by achieving substantial milestones to interact with and help your employees.
Final Thoughts About Continuous Learning Culture
If you want your organization to remain competitive despite the dynamic market changes, prioritize your employees’ learning and development and create learner-centric goals.
Continuously upskilling employees and making learning collaborative and relevant will help you build a highly skilled workforce that’s willing to learn and adapt to ensure your organization thrives in the long run.
Here are additional QuickStart guides that will help you build an adaptive, more agile workforce: