The terms training culture and learning culture appear similar on the surface, but they both mean very different things in the modern workplace. What are the differences, why are they important, and what are the benefits of a learning culture over a training culture?
In answering these questions, it is first important to look at the current training and development landscape that exists in many organisations.
The Need for Change
Upskilling your workforce has never been more important. To remain competitive in the market and relevant to your customers, you need to upskill your team at a pace that is aligned with digital and business transformation.
Achieving this rate of upskilling is becoming increasingly difficult with traditional training strategies, even if those strategies utilise technologies like e-learning. Instead, you need a different approach, where you transition from an organisation with a training culture to one with a learning culture.
The Difference Between a Training Culture and Learning Culture
An organisation with a training culture is where the company takes the lead in staff training and development. It is the company that decides on the learning pathways of each employee. This inevitably means there are a limited number of pathways and employees are largely treated the same, regardless of individual goals, capabilities, or interests.
In organisations where there is a training culture, learning is typically instructor-led, centralised, and event-based. Learning is also often siloed, where individuals and teams hoard information and knowledge at the expense of others.
Measurements of success in a training culture typically centre around the delivery of training materials, i.e., the courses that are provided and the number of people who complete those courses.
A learning culture differs in every aspect.
Rather than being rigid, instructor-led, and centralised, a learning culture fosters a situation where individuals and teams take responsibility for their own learning, seeking out the skills and knowledge they need. This could be skills and knowledge needed immediately or where there is an anticipated future requirement. In this situation, the organisation and its instructors become facilitators of learning rather than dictators of learning.
Rather than being event-based, an organisation with a learning culture works on the basis that learning happens all the time. This could be through formal e-learning and instructor-led courses, but it could equally be on-the-job training, learning from mentors, and through experimentation, i.e., trial and error.
Where Knowledge is Shared
Rather than being protective of knowledge, information is widely shared in organisations with a learning culture. This includes sharing successes and failures across the organisation so that everyone can learn from them. The development of new skills is also embraced, encouraged, and facilitated.
Based on Outcomes
Rather than measuring success on the number of courses delivered and completed, an organisation with a learning culture measures success on outcomes, new skills acquired, learner satisfaction, and the achievement of strategic goals.
The Benefits of Moving to a Learning Culture
Transforming from a training culture to a learning culture will improve productivity as skill levels will improve. Skills development will also become more efficient and less costly, and employee satisfaction rates will improve.
Innovation, core competencies (such as problem-solving, leadership, and communication), and talent retention can also be improved by transforming to a learning culture.
How to Successfully Transform from a Training Culture to a Learning Culture
There are three essential components that are required when transforming from a training culture to a learning culture:
- Change must come from the top
- The focus should be on learners
- Learning content should be available when it is needed
Change Starts at the Top
Cultural change has to come from the top of an organisation and transforming from a training culture to a learning culture is no different. Your senior leadership team needs to buy into all aspects of the approach, and they should champion the promotion of self-directed learning.
Focussed on Learners
To successfully transform to a learning culture, you should focus on learner needs. This means not restricting learning opportunities to those that have a direct benefit to the business within very narrow parameters.
It is better to help learners develop a wider range of skills – skills that interest them as well as those that will be beneficial to the business. Even if there isn’t a direct, narrowly focused reason for facilitating the learning, the business can still benefit.
Available When It’s Needed
You should also make learning content available to learners when they need it. Your employees are likely to be very familiar with this form of learning, as many people turn to Google or YouTube in the moment when they want to find out how to do something. Your organisation should harness this capability for self-directed learning by providing e-learning courses that learners can complete when they need them most.
Transforming to a Learning Culture Benefits Learners and Your Business
Most of the people in your organisation probably already engage in self-directed learning, even if it is on a small scale. You will find that when you start to build structures around this desire to learn that skills levels in your organisation will improve. Learners will also report higher levels of satisfaction with their learning experiences, and the business will benefit overall.