What is a Culture of Learning (and how do I get one)? 
 
A couple of weeks ago, we asked if your organisation has a Culture of Learning, and 73% of you said you think your organisation does. In its 2020 report ‘Creating Learning Cultures’, the CPID found that only 36% of organisation believed they had successfully developed a Culture of Learning. Successfully is the key word here, because in fact every organisation has a Culture of Learning, the critical factor is knowing if it’s a positive Culture, one that empowers people to better themselves and the organisation, or if it’s a negative Culture that holds people and the organisation back? 
 
“A Positive Culture of Learning empowers people to better themselves and the organisation” 
 
Starting to build a successful Culture of Learning begins with understanding some basic principles, however it’s important to understand that some of these challenge attitudes and behaviour, rather than being problems solved with resources alone (not that a good dollop of resource hurts): 
 
1. Learning is a constant and continual process 
 
2. Learning Means Making Mistakes 
 
3. Learning Requires Change and Change Demands Learning 
 
4. Coach your Teams and Colleagues 
 
5. Access is Key 
 
Let’s look at each of these in more detail 
 
Learning is a Constant and Continual Process 
 
Life is Learning and it’s a process that never stops, as a species we are constantly learning, we are hard-wired at the most primitive level to learn, and we can’t stop. Human beings are quite literally addicted to learning, however we constantly face barriers to that learning, from our own behavioural barriers, such as self-doubt, to organisational challenges such as a lack of time. 
 
An honest assessment of the barriers to learning, at both an organisational and individual level is one of the keys to building a positive Culture of Learning. The more of these barriers you can Identify, understand, and eliminate, the stronger your organisations Culture of Learning will become. 
 
Learning Means Making Mistakes 
 
How you and your organisation manage mistakes is a key factor in your Learning Culture, as an incredibly important factor in Learning is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Just consider how many times a baby falls over when learning to walk, or how much they babble when learning to talk. Every fall and every babble is a mistake, but each one gets that baby another step closer to walking and talking. 
 
This doesn’t change as we get older, but unfortunately attitudes towards it do. Making mistakes and failing have, particularly in the world of business, gained an unhealthy and unrealistic stigma. It’s for this reason I make an agreement with every single person I’ve welcomed onto a team. It’s basically an agreement that we will all mess up, we will all make mistakes, and when we do, we need to be open and honest about them. That way we can work together to solve them and collectively learn from them. 
 
Something as simple as adopting this approach with your teams, and critically yourself, can make a significant difference in your organisations Culture of Learning. As adopting it and living by it changes everyone’s attitude, turning even the most challenging of situations into ones you can learn and grow from. 
 
Learning Requires Change, and Change Demands Learning 
 
If I had to pick the phrase I dislike the most, the one I feel is most harmful to learning, the one most likely to breed a negative Culture of Learning, it would have to be ‘We’ve always done it that way’. 
 
It instantly creates a barrier to learning, and if it comes from a supervisor or manager, it firmly ingrains a negative Culture of Learning. No process, no method, is perfect and every single one will require challenge or change at some point in time. If we, culturally, refuse to allow a process or method to be challenged we set ourselves and the organisation up for a hard fall when change forces the issue. 
 
Rather we should be constantly looking at how we operate, what we do, and asking ourselves “is the best way to do it”, “are we using the right tool”, etc. Now, the answer may well be yes, but that should never stop the question being asked. By asking and answering the question we learn, and we better prepare ourselves and the organisation to be in step, or even ahead of the curve when change does come. 
 
Very much like accepting and understanding mistakes, challenging what we do and why we do it builds an organisational culture that promotes learning, as well as being beneficial to the wider business. 
 
Coach your Teams and Colleagues 
 
The three principles I’ve outlined so far, all share one important trait if they are to be successful within an organisation. They must work from the top down, if they are not modelled by leaders within your business, they stand almost no chance of building a successful and strong Culture of Learning. 
 
One additional way that, as a leader, you can help build a successful Culture of Learning is to ensure you have the skills required to successfully coach your team members and colleagues. While it may seem quicker and easier to just ‘do it yourself’ when someone asks you how to amend that order or fix that problem, in the long term you are wasting your time and devaluing them. 
 
You waste your time because you are simply going to have to amend the next order or fix that problem every time it happens; it devalues the person because it comes across as you not trusting them to do that task, or not being worth the investment in time to show them the right way to do it. 
 
The small amount of additional effort in correctly coaching the person will more than pay-off in time saved in the long run and be even more valuable in the development of the persons self-worth and the positive value it adds to the organisations Culture of Learning. Learning how to successfully coach is one of the most important and valuable skills any leader can have, learn how to do it and practice it constantly. 
 
Access is Key 
 
You may have noticed in the four principals we’ve covered that none of them have so far specifically mentioned training materials, no eLearning, no videos or books. That’s because between 60 and 70 percent of learning is done on the job, it’s why having that positive Culture of Learning within an organisation is critical, as without it you are depriving the business of the largest area of learning. 
 
However, some skills, abilities and knowledge can’t be gained ‘on the job’, they require formal training, access to training materials and resources. When you or your people need development in these areas it’s critical that they have access to them, and just as important that they cover all aspects of the role. A fully certified technician doesn’t just mean just being up to speed on the latest EV maintenance requirements and skills, as they will hurt your business if the VHC videos they create are not delivered in a way to allow the Service Advisor to upsell. Equally that Advisor doesn’t just need to know the DMS and VHC system inside out, but also how to manage and overcome the customer objections when they are upselling that VHC. 
 
Know your people, understand what skills they need to do the job, ensure you have a skills matrix in place for them, provide them with access to the training they need and track it. And don’t just do it as a one-off, keep those skills sharp with refresher training, encourage them to challenge what they do and why they do it, understand that they will make mistakes (as we all do) and use those mistakes as learning moments. 
 
“These Principles form the pillars on which you can build a positive Culture of Learning” 
 
These principles form the pillars on which you can build a positive Culture of Learning, one which will encourage everyone within your organisation to seek out learning, to want to better themselves and as a direct result better your business. 
 
If you have enjoyed this post, please feel free to join one of our Training Focus Groups and have your say on training within the Motor Industry, contact [email protected] for details and dates. 
 
If you would like to talk more about how training can help your organisation, please contact [email protected] to see how we can help 
By Gideon Liddiard, Training Programmes Development Manager. 
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