Talent Development

Why every organization needs a learning culture

How to build a learning culture in your company

For most organizations, there’s no question that having a learning culture is important. So important that it’s actually advertised. Many job ads you read mention “learning opportunities” under benefits. Some might get more specific and include something like “stipend for training courses of your choice,” “ticket to annual conferences,” or “access to online libraries.

Citing these perks shows a commitment to training. But are these benefits enough to attract and retain great employees? And more to the point, are they enough for companies that want to grow well-equipped teams?

Offering training is an important factor in attracting potential employees. But to help them flourish and benefit as an organization, you need to create a culture of learning in the workplace. And that requires a unique approach to your training strategy.

Learning vs. Training

First, it’s important to understand the difference between learning and training. If you use these words interchangeably, you’re not alone. But there is a distinction between the two concepts.

In short, learning is the end goal, and training is the way for getting there.

Here are some factors that help better understand the two terms and how they affect the culture you’re trying to build.



Learning is strategic—it’s the solution that will help you reach company goals. It’s the reason organizations invest in training and development.

Training is tactical—it refers to what you teach and how it’s taught.

Learning is the practice of absorbing knowledge to build useful skills.

Training is about communicating that knowledge.

Learning refers to continuous improvement. It shapes employees’ attitudes toward their jobs and the future of the company.

Training refers to one-off events. You can offer specific training to employees on a given topic.

Learning is integrated into day-to-day tasks. It’s where knowledge and skills from formal training or informal mentorship and experience are applied on the job.

Training is independent of work. People take time away from the job to attend training or log in to an LMS for taking courses.

So what is learning culture? Put simply, it’s a workplace culture that supports ongoing learning. It gives employees the chance to apply new knowledge on the job and progress in their skills and understanding.

Why turn the focus on learning?

As you plan and roll out your learning and development strategy, there are lots of good reasons to focus on creating a learning culture.

  • Learning reduces resistance to change. When your employees understand that things change and that you’ll provide resources for adapting, they’ll develop a habit of learning. Their flexibility to learn and try new things will keep your organization at the forefront of your industry as you keep up with changes.
  • A learning mindset encourages your team to try new things. This mindset will help you innovate and stand out from the competition. Investing not only in training but also in implementing what is taught will increase productivity and employee retention.

To achieve these results, you need to understand the difference between learning culture and training. A company may offer training during onboarding. Or, for compliance reasons (like cybersecurity training). But standard “transmission of knowledge” training required by law or company policies doesn’t really constitute a benefit. And it can’t guarantee your employees will stay longer.

On the other hand, when you create a learning culture, you provide an environment where people learn from each other, use new knowledge directly on the job, and evolve their careers. As a result, you’re more likely to retain high-performing employees.

A learning culture shows people that you care about their development and are invested in their career success. They’ll progress more quickly and be happier on the job—which will make them more likely to stick with you for the long run.

Building a learning culture in the workplace

6 ways to build a learning culture

So, how do you make sure learning is part of the job and not just a benefit? That training is not just a box you tick, but one of the reasons your business succeeds? And how do you create synergies so that people learn from each other?

Consider the following six tips for building a learning organization.

1. Lead by example

Make sure employees understand that learning is important to your entire organization. Heavily involve leaders in the process–whether that’s having them promote upcoming training sessions or actively lead classes and discussions.

You could even involve them in some less formal mentorship opportunities such as lunchtime Q&A conversations or team coaching sessions. Knowing their leaders are committed to a culture of learning will help employees see the value and get on board.

2. Develop personalized learning plans

Make learning relevant to employees by focusing it on their personal plans. Have leaders sit down with employees and set goals around what they want and need to learn to do their jobs.

Discuss their career goals and determine what learning would get them there. Then make plans to help them achieve their goals.

3. Use the right platform

Use a learning management system (LMS) that supports learning as well as training. Find one that is user-friendly to make getting started easy. And look for features that let employees practice the skills in real-time and interact with other learners to share knowledge.

For example, a “static” platform that serves as a library for online courses will only take your employees so far. On the other hand, if you opt for a feature-rich training platform, you give your people the chance to attend live instructor-led sessions, along with courses, interact with their peers, and track their progress.

4. Promote learning collaboration

Increase opportunities for informal learning where employees can share knowledge and teach one another. For example, on-the-job mentorship or informal discussion group meetings.

When people are encouraged to talk about what they’re learning, they’ll be more engaged in the process and learning will become a part of your company identity.

5. Use a variety of learning methods

Make learning more interesting by changing up how employees engage in it. In addition to formal online courses and in-person courses, mix things up to ingrain learning as a part of the day-to-day work life.

Facilitate mentoring or group sessions for brainstorming and problem-solving during the week. The more pervasive your approach, the more naturally learning will come in your organization.

6. Measure for success

Whatever your training strategy, you can ensure real learning by tracking how well it’s performing. Download and analyze training metrics from your LMS. You can look at things like engagement, completion rates, and quiz scores to gauge how well employees are doing.

You can also reach out to learners through surveys or polls during or after courses to get their impressions. Ask about how much value they felt they got out of the course, what went well, and what could be better. With this information, you can embrace continuous learning by regularly making improvements as needed.

Commit to building a learning culture

Culture can’t be shaped (or changed) in one day. It’s an ongoing process. As you invest the time and resources to build out your L&D strategy and meet your corporate goals, you’ll create the kind of work environment that promotes learning.

And as you continue to invest in your employees and their learning, you’ll reap the benefits of a forward-thinking, adaptable workforce. Because employees who know how to truly learn will keep your company growing in the years ahead.

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