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5 Ways Managers Can Create a Culture of Learning in their Organization

As children the level of questioning and inquisitiveness is a very powerful tool to constantly learn. As we grow up our brain inquires less and it becomes harder for individuals to learn more. The pain of making mistakes doesn't roll off easily and many adults view learning at work as something extra, something that just adds on to the extra workload. The main question here is how do managers create a culture that fosters learning?

First and foremost managers need to make learning a way of living - not an option. Learning helps people broaden their knowledge perspective and they become less reluctant to change. When individuals gain extra knowledge on any topic, the earned dogmatism effect sets in, causing us to be more close-minded and to disregard new ideas and perspectives. Thus enabling training and development programs for employees is not enough. Managers have to go far beyond creating a supportive environment that encourages a learning and growth mindset on an everyday basis. This in turn will not only improve the company's culture but will result in more employees having a broader perspective towards the company's future.

In today's globalized business world the in-built skills of employees which were an asset to company's three years ago are not even in demand at the moment. The bottom line is as the world is changing, the global economy is developing and countries are growing, businesses today have to shift from their traditional methods of learning towards more innovative and agile means. As a result, there is now a premium on intellectual curiosity and learnability, the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable.

What you know is less relevant than what you learn, and having the ability to ask the right question is more necessary than answering those questions.

However, true learning cultures, defined by CEB as “a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization,” are still the exception rather than the norm. Only a few companies have been successful in establishing such a culture while many others are still struggling. Here are five science-based recommendations to help you create a learning culture on your team or in your organization:

  1. Be a Vocal Role Model.

A good starting point is to simply talk about your personal development. When managers open about their personal learning experiences and areas for improvement it becomes easier for employees to adapt and follow the same. Employees become more comfortable with expressing themselves and do not consider it as a challenge. Furthermore if managers are able to talk about learning as being enjoyable, and set a playful tone to it they will encourage more employees to learn authentically and behave differently.

Ways Managers Can Create a Culture of Learning in their Organization - Bessern

2. Reward Continuous Learning.

The human brain is more or less attracted to rewards and it becomes easier to foster deliberate changes in your team's organizational structure once you put in place formal reward systems. Note that rewarding curiosity is not just about praising and promoting those who display an effort to learn and develop; it’s also about creating a climate that nurtures critical thinking, where challenging authority and speaking up are encouraged, even if it means creating discord. This is particularly important if you want your team to produce something innovative.

3. Create a Safe Space to Learn.

Employees today appreciate transparent practices in the workplace. They want their peers to be honest with them, to accept their mistakes, to get feedback on their growth and to provide a safe place that is judgement free for them to experiment and learn. Leaders that aim to build an organization that is adaptable and care on people's upskilling over time, are those who not only are honest about their own failings but also create an environment of psychological safety for their employees so that they are comfortable making mistakes as they learn.

4. Celebrate Growth and Learning from Failure.

The best way to determine what you enjoy and to grow from it, is to try new things. Even when employees are confronted with challenging tasks the best way to motivate them is to make them excited about the task itself. A successful learning environment celebrates growth for growth’s sake. One way to develop this kind of culture is to recognize employees when they make progress on a new initiative even if it means achieving success only in a small part and not the entire initiative.

5. Give Meaningful and Constructive Feedback.

Feedback whether positive or negative is necessary for the employee's overall performance and growth mindset. It is often hard to improve when you are unaware of where you're going wrong. Sometimes the best way to improve employee performance is to tell them what they are doing wrong. Managers often avoid this difficult conversation and end up always giving positive feedback instead of negative ones which confuses the employee.

According to the latest 2021 Global Leadership Forecast only 11% of companies have a strong leadership bench - as a leader how can you create a learning culture that allows people to develop their credentials as future leaders?


Vipasha Balani.

Digital Communication Associate, Bessern

Check out this video on how to Create a continuous learning culture in your organization.


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