Despite more businesses realizing the untapped value of online education, some learning professionals still face a challenge in the form of company-wide buy-in. While this uphill battle will be challenging, you can take steps to get the ball rolling, and it starts by creating a learning culture.
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What’s a Learning Culture?
Creating a learning culture starts, and to some degree ends, with your ability to understand — and articulate — what, exactly, it is.
From a high level (and probably the best way to explain it to someone who doesn’t fully understand the value), a true learning culture is one in which everyone in your organization wants to seek, share, and apply knowledge to improve performance.
Creating a Learning Culture: Strategies to Get Everyone Excited
While creating a learning culture seems like a no-brainer to you and me, that sentiment isn’t ubiquitous. And that’s ok. Creating a learning culture won’t happen overnight, nor should it. Great things take time. But don’t let that stop you from setting the foundation for a learning revolution. Here are a handful of steps and strategies you can implement right now to start transitioning a learning-averse company into a learning-first one.
Understand Why You Need Learning
Don’t go rogue. Arguably the most important thing you can do when trying to cultivate a learning culture is to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. And no, “it’s the right thing to do” or “everyone else is doing it” aren’t good reasons.
Getting to your “why” doesn’t have to be a vast philosophical journey either. Simply ask yourself: Why is a learning culture important to my target audience? Your answer should be some form of “to make them more successful.” Suppose your learning culture revolves around your customers, your “why” is to make them more successful with your product. If you’re looking internally at your employees, your “why” is to accelerate onboarding and help them thrive in the workplace. Never forget the why; without it, any semblance of an authentic learning culture will always be just out of reach.
Make Learning Fun & Easy
You could jump through a thousand flaming hoops to bring learning to life, but if you’re not doing it in a way that encourages engagement, you’re not going to get anywhere. Your goal, especially at the start, is to make the learning experience as fun and easy as possible.
If you’re delivering courses through a learning management system (LMS), you can enhance the learning experiences in a multitude of ways:
- Use learning paths to guide your users through the content.
- Provide materials in different formats (e.g., videos, slides, infographics, etc.).
- Make the experience mobile-friendly so your users can learn when they’re on the go.
- Notify users when a new course is available.
- Make materials available on demand so that your learners can learn on their own time.
That said, there’s more to it than just content delivery. An impactful learning culture also relies on intangibles. For example, you must ensure that your learners aren’t afraid to take risks and fail; if they’re constantly walking on eggshells, they certainly won’t be having fun and won’t proactively learn.
Get Complete Organizational Buy-In
No one is immune to learning. For learning to stick, all levels of the company need to be invested. This starts with getting buy-in from the leadership team. Sit down with them and help them understand that learning is a win-win situation. It’s also vital that you get an executive sponsor. Bringing the entire leadership team on board is important, but having an internal champion is your key to longevity.
When you’re talking to leadership, ask them:
- Which metrics they use to measure success and company health.
- How they make strategic decisions about the go-to-market strategy.
- Where they see the company in one month, three months, six months, and beyond.
Once you understand how the top of the company is thinking, you can start tailoring your learning culture accordingly so that you’re ultimately walking in unison.
No matter your use case or target audience, learning isn’t a straight line. Your path from “aha, we need to invest in learning” to “we have a full-fledged learning culture” will have countless zigs and zags.
The best way to accelerate this process and decrease time to value — for you and your learners — is to ask for, and encourage, feedback. Are your courses too long? Are they not engaging enough? Do they fail to address the actual pain points? Are they delivered in the correct format? Are they addressing suitable topics? Your learners are a wealth of knowledge, so use them. Every piece of feedback is a gold nugget you can use to foster an exceptional learning culture — just make sure you’re taking the feedback seriously and making it known that you’re using it.
Measure Every Step of the Way
Your learning culture will evaporate if you can’t prove that it’s working and generating a positive return on investment. While you know it's working, others may need you to prove it. These metrics will serve as the pillar from which you build your learning culture.
Focus on real-world metrics:
- Increasing conversion rates
- Reducing onboarding time
- Increasing productivity after onboarding
- Increasing profits
- Boosting retention
- Ensuring compliance
- Increasing revenue
- Improving satisfaction
You can also measure aspects of your learning program. For example, which methods are performing the best? Which courses have the lowest success rates? These metrics help you prove the value of learning and help you evolve in the best interest of your users.
Reward & Celebrate
Are you surprised? I mean, who doesn’t like to be rewarded? Your learners are no different. Show them that buying in and investing their time in learning is valued. By strategically introducing rewards, you can increase the chance of your culture taking hold.
These can be soft rewards — think public recognition and badges in your academy. They can also be hard rewards — think a gift card or an extra day of vacation for completing the entire course. Experiment with different types of rewards and see what your learners respond best to and then follow through.
Don’t expect to throw a bunch of content at people and for everyone to engage. When it comes to learning, one size doesn’t fit all. While it’s not realistic to tailor everything on a one-by-one basis (unless you have unlimited resources), personalize the learning experience to your target audience’s unique needs and demands. If your learners feel like you’re investing the time and energy to create an unforgettable experience for them that helps them reach their goals, they’re more likely to engage and continue learning.
Make Learning the Expectation
An authentic learning culture must start on day one. You need to ingrain learning into their minds and show them that this is what it takes to be successful. Getting to this point begins with the onboarding process. Once up and running, make sure managers — or others working directly with a new customer, employee, channel partner, etc. — have the tools and knowledge they need to continue learning into the day-to-day grind.
It’s also vital that you remember that you’re in this for the long haul. If you spend a ton of time with initial onboarding but fail to scale it as your learners grow, it’ll become evident that learning isn’t nearly as important as you made it seem. To this end, add new courses, introduce new rewards, and experiment with new content formats. Keep your learners on their toes and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Real-World Examples of Learning Cultures
If you’re like me, it’s easier to visualize the future state of something — learning included — if you have real-world examples you can look toward for inspiration.
- HubSpot: HubSpot has figured it out. The HubSpot Culture Code instills a set of shared values, beliefs and practices that help the company be the best it can be. Then, the public-facing HubSpot Academy helps those outside of HubSpot’s walls become inbound marketing, sales, and customer success champions.
- Shopify: Shopify understands its customers: Business owners who don’t have a ton of time to untangle the intricate webs of online business. Shopify Academy serves that need by providing its users with a one-stop shop they can always rely on to be successful.
- Pixar: Everyone’s favorite sibling of Disney, Pixar, has built an unparalleled culture of learning that continues to help the company churn out blockbuster hits. Not only does Pixar University offer training as well as optional classes for different disciplines, but the company fully supports its directors and empowers them to put development into their own hands by having a “creative brain trust” of filmmakers.
- Etsy: In “Etsy School,” employees teach and learn classes on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, tap dancing or how to navigate a difficult conversation. The end goal? Help people find a focus for their career development.
- Bonobos: Bonobos has four programs that make learning and developing at the forefront of its company culture. For example, Learn.Know.Bos was a week-long learning and development initiative with speakers in a TED-like environment talking about hiring and emotional Intelligence, public speaking, retail math and more.
Creating a Learning Culture: The Key to Business Success Now and into the Future
If the shifting sands of the business world are causing you to scratch your head, know that that’s ok. Making sense of the new normal and how you’ll navigate the unprecedented challenges will take time. That said, there’s one aspect of business that you don’t have to think about: your need for a learning culture. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this, which puts the onus on you to create a learning culture no one can ignore.
Looking for the right LMS? Book a quick Northpass demo to see how we can help you create the learning culture you dream about.