We have previously emphasized that the skills of the future will require lifelong learning. As such, companies will need to establish cultures focused on personal growth in order to keep pace with rapidly evolving markets.

Most organizations understand the importance of learning cultures but the question is how to build and foster learning culture?

Create links between performance and learning

Everyone wants to do well at their job. Most companies and organizations maintain their own methods of evaluating employee performance, and these methodologies are inextricably linked to the kind of culture the organization aims to live by.

One of the ways to cultivate a learning culture at work is to tie learning into performance. At each review (annual, or more frequent one-on-ones), it is worth establishing learning and development goals for employees.

Make sure these goals are documented and can be measured. They can be as simple as cross-training in another department or as ambitious as attaining an advanced degree.

Identify subject matter experts

Most people learn at work through their peers. By identifying subject matter experts, organizations can integrate them into the learning environment. This can be done through peer-led training or simple on the job shadowing.

Linking learning activities with core competencies through subject matter experts helps foster growth as well as increases institutional knowledge.

It also encourages mentorship and cross-generational collaboration, and helps to future-proof your business. As leaders and subject matter experts move on or retire, you don’t want that knowledge to go away with them.

Encourage collaborative learning

Culture is shared. To create a learning culture, it must be collaborative. Shifting learning away from individualistic and course-centric to collective and practice-based can help develop more effective leaders.

This can be accomplished by assigning group projects or establishing internal organizations where people from different departments (or disciplines) can work together.

Create a formal rotation program

One of the best ways to integrate continuous learning into company culture is to establish a rotation program. Many top companies have established rotation programs where up and coming leaders can work throughout various departments, typically over the course of one year.

Rotation programs often end up in a promotion or job placement where the company needs to fulfill a current need. Reward of a promotion motivates the best employees to apply for rotational programs.

Companies reap the benefits of investing in such programs through knowledge sharing and developing employees who are well rounded in all facets of company operations.

Glassdoor ranked some of the best global companies with rotational programs ranging from Deloitte (consulting) to NFL (sports) to Abbott (biotech). These programs often require participants to work at various offices around the country or even better around the globe. Holding these programs in high esteem further integrates learning into organizational culture.

Don’t stop at entry level

Rotation programs and more immersive training tend to focus on up and coming, entry level employees. However, stopping in the early years means missing out on bigger opportunities.

Some companies offer programs for managers or senior leadership to cross-train and to work on challenging global projects. It’s not uncommon for professionals to change careers or direction later on and it’s unfortunate if companies lose talent as a result of that.

Providing ways for mid-career professionals to change gears not only makes employees more well-rounded but prevents turnover among senior leadership.

Add tuition assistance to benefits

Offering tuition assistance as a benefit encourages employees to learn. Unfortunately, education from advanced degrees to certification programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Footing the bill is often enough of a deterrent for many people to even think about continuing education.

While it’s rare for companies to fully reimburse employees for degrees, many offer to at least subsidize education up to a certain amount. As the future of work requires more continuous learning and skill building, it will require companies to invest in their own people to keep up with the pace of markets, technology and customer demands.

Make learning a strategic initiative

Emphasizing learning as a strategic initiative will help employees understand why taking time out of their busy days is important for overall company performance. It’s key to communicate what specific skills are required for each job and to support the company strategy.

Create an environment where feedback flows both ways from employees to managers to senior leadership. Give employees tools to identify gaps in their learning and where they can improve to allow them to reach their maximum potential.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash.