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Why It’s Essential to Build a Learning Culture Right Now

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Innovation. Agility. Adaptability. Right now, these are three attributes that organizations – and employees – must exhibit to best deal with the complex challenges that businesses and the world are facing.   

And of course, that’s easier said than done – especially when there’s so much focus on short-term challenges like new business models and ways of working, supply chain disruptions, new technologies and talent demands. And especially when employees are already so change fatigued.  

In fact, according to a new Gartner survey, today only 38% of employees are willing to support organizational change, compared to 74% in 2016. This is a significant dip that leaders should pay attention to.

So, what’s the solution? How do you, as a leader, get employees to change yet again to propel your organization into the future?  

The answer: Build a culture of learning.   

When done correctly, learning cultures are a way of life and people believe that their abilities can be strengthened through effort. They have a real business impact and act as the catalyst for innovation, agility, and adaptability – enabling organizations and leaders to attract and retain top talent, drive outside-in thinking, adapt more quickly to the unpredictable, increase productivity and performance, and gain competitive advantage.  

However, it’s key to not position a learning culture as another change initiative. And that’s because it’s not the same as introducing technology or refining hybrid ways of working. Rather, it is an integral part of an organization’s strategy and can provide a competitive advantage and the ability to thrive, not just survive, in this period of instability and insecurity.  

So, with the benefits clear, how can you, as a leader, get started? 

1. Review your business strategy, objectives and vision and ask yourself where the benefits of a learning culture are going to be the drivers of meeting those goals. Your business strategy is what you want to achieve, and your learning culture is how you will achieve that.  

2. Define what a successful learning culture looks like within your organization and throughout the employee lifecycle. Start with a learning mindset and involve people all the way – co-create this definition and what it looks and feels like at different points in an individual’s progression to ensure it is authentic to your organization. 

3. Understand where your gaps and barriers are to fully realize the benefits of a learning culture. What will be harder to do, where might you find resistance and from whom? An impact assessment will help you get to the route of any challenges and directly address them, increasing your chances of successful change. 

4. Put in place a culture change plan. Know that culture change does not happen overnight, it is an ongoing experience and shifting mindsets is a gradual process, with people coming on that journey at different speeds. To bring people along faster, your plan needs to include regular communication on what you mean by a learning culture within your organization, why it matters and how it shows up.  

5. Measure and track. Learn as you go and show how you are adapting your plan based on what you hear. Ensure you get both quantitative and qualitative metrics and link your measurement to KPIs, such as employee retention and job satisfaction.

As you go through this process you will need to walk the talk. In learning cultures, leaders role model and lead while being truly committed to both developing themselves and others. They embody a growth mindset, are vulnerable about their own strengths, weaknesses and growth journey, and embrace learning in different forms – and encourage their teams to do the same.   

To learn more, watch our webinar with The Conference Board on how to build a learning culture here 

Hen is a Principal at Daggerwing Group. She is experienced in organizational change and process design, particularly in the health and care sector. Since joining Daggerwing, Hen has led a range of large-scale client projects, from implementing new operating models and creating global ways of working, to working with leadership teams to define and embed their strategic direction. Prior to joining Daggerwing, Hen spent seven years working across the public and private healthcare sector to solve complex challenges. Hen holds a non-Executive post on the Board of a homeless charity and loves spending time in the mountains, whether that’s skiing in winter or walking and climbing in summer.
Imogen Yates is an Associate Principal at Daggerwing Group. With a background in Human & Organizational Development and Corporate Strategy, Imogen is passionate about marrying the people side of change with business strategy. She works to bring both leaders and employees on board to make change happen and make it last. ​Imogen’s experience includes using practical and human-centered strategies to drive tangible results for clients. She specializes in transforming company cultures and the employee experience, as well as driving both leadership alignment and team effectiveness.
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