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Many of us have felt the staggering impact of job loss since the onset of covid. Coined “The Great Resignation,” nearly 50 million Americans changed jobs in 2022 in search of new opportunities, growth, and purpose. 

In fact, a desire for more development is one of the top reasons workers move to a new company — especially since professional development has become increasingly important with the fierce competition for talent. Further, research by LinkedIn shows that employees who learn on the job are more likely to be happy, successful, and confident. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the pandemic left more than 140 million people out of work — with 1.6 billion at risk of income loss. Many of the lost jobs haven’t returned to the same extent. Inevitably, organizations are increasingly feeling the pressure to retain talent. In order to stay competitive in the job market, companies must integrate an effective learning culture into their ethos. When talent is such a sought-after commodity, businesses must evolve their approach to survive.

Read: What to do about the Great Resignation

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What is an effective learning culture?

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, “a learning culture is an environment that demonstrates and encourages individual and organizational learning, and where both gaining and sharing knowledge is prioritized, valued, and rewarded, [becoming] part of the ecosystem of the organization.”

When employees are motivated, it’s easier to reach company goals. Think about it: If an employee is receiving opportunities to better their skills, they’re more likely to stay engaged in the work and more effectively helping a business meet its bottomline. Creating an effective learning culture helps employees to improve and develop — personally and professionally. This means that when employees grow, companies succeed; a win-win situation. 

When it comes to building a learning culture, there are a few key characteristics to hone in on. 

Characteristics of an effective learning culture

  1. A growth mindset

When an organization instills a growth mindset within their learning culture, it encourages employees to become passionate about learning. It also introduces a belief in the power of effort, hard work, and dedication. 

To imbue a growth mindset in a company, you can encourage folks to see failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than a reflection of limitations. This also means viewing setbacks and obstacles as temporary hurdles that, with the appropriate effort and strategy, can be overcome. By seeing challenges as simply part of the learning process, employees can recognize that they’re not something to be avoided; rather, challenges are stepping stones for progress.

  1. Continuous learning opportunities

Continuous learning opportunities are key for fostering the growth and development of employees. According to Frontiers, employees who have opportunities to grow are more likely to be committed to their work. Plus, a survey conducted by Glint, a human resources software company owned by LinkedIn revealed that over 97% of employees want to increase — or at least continue — time spent learning. 

You don’t have to spend millions to provide continuous learning opportunities for your staff. Staying committed to helping people uplevel their skills takes a lot of different forms, all of which can pay major dividends in the long run. 

  1. Leadership support

In order to create the right organizational learning culture, leadership support is essential.

To foster a supportive, effective learning culture, it’s important that senior members of the organization lead by example. When they embody what they wish to see in their company, others follow suit. For example, leaders who engage in their own continuous learning, share their experiences, seek feedback, and demonstrate a growth mindset will help to encourage others to do the same. 

Leaders should communicate the importance of continuous learning, demonstrating how it helps to increase performance, foster innovation, and benefit one’s personal growth. Plus, to demonstrate leadership support, leaders must provide resources to employees as this ensures that they have access to continuous learning. 

  1. Openness to feedback and learning from failure

To create a culture that continuously improves, openness to feedback and the ability to learn from failure is imperative. When individuals in an organization are receptive to feedback, they’re able to create an environment of emotional safety. This is key when it comes to promoting growth, continuous improvement, and innovation

In order to be open to feedback, employers must welcome different perspectives, practice active listening, deliver constructive responses, cultivate self-awareness, and of course, have a growth mindset.

  1. Collaborative and inclusive environment

Just as emotional safety is key when creating a supportive leadership environment, so is collaboration and inclusivity. Organizations should foster an environment that allows individuals to share their ideas without judgment. Employees should also be encouraged to have open dialogue with diverse perspectives, without fear of repercussions. 

Establishing clear communication channels — such as regular team meetings — will make people feel like all of their voices are consistently heard. 

Steps to create an effective learning culture

Now that you’re clear on the characteristics of an effective learning culture, you can begin implementing it through the following five steps:

  1. Assess your organization’s current learning culture

The first step when building a learning culture is to take a thorough review of your company’s current learning culture. This will allow you to take an honest look at what’s working and what isn’t. 

Try not to be hard on yourself during this step; while there may be a ton of room for improvement, we all have to start somewhere. Recognizing where your company is today will let you better plan for the future. 

  1. Define your learning culture goals and vision

Once you’ve taken an honest assessment of your company’s learning culture, it’s time to figure out your goals. The more specific you can be with your vision, the better. Remember to ensure that your goals are SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Plus, make sure that your learning culture goals make sense for your unique company and employees.

  1. Develop a learning culture strategy

Now that you’re clear on your goals and overarching vision for building a learning culture within your organization, it’s time to develop a strategy. 

Look at your goals, and then work backwards. Ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish in order to turn this goal into a reality?Then, break it down step-by-step, assigning people in your team specific roles, tasks, and deadlines. 

  1. Implement learning culture initiatives

Depending on your goals, part of your strategy should include specific learning culture initiatives. This is the ‘how’ part of your vision, and your initiatives should bridge the gap between your current learning culture and the learning culture you aspire to have in your organization. 

Some examples of continuous learning culture initiatives include: 

  • Access to online courses, workshops, and webinars to help people to uplevel their skills
  • Mentorship and coaching
  • Learning communities and opportunities to share knowledge with each other
  • Feedback and performance reviews
  • Support for further education outside of work
  1. Monitor and evaluate progress

While all of these learning culture initiatives are valuable, it’s important to be able to measure your employees’ success. Being able to monitor and evaluate progress will help you know if you’re on the right track, or if you need to pivot your plan in order to better meet your goals. Tip: use this free Employee Training Tracker to keep tabs on your employee training programs. 

Read: Top 3 Ways to Track Employee Training (And Why It Matters)

Best practices for fostering a learning culture

Now that you have some tangible steps for creating an effective learning culture, it’s time to learn some best practices that will help you effectively implement your strategy and see it succeed. 

  1. Encourage employee ownership of learning

When people are accountable for their own learning and success, they’re more likely to be motivated and take responsibility. Rather than making continuous learning a “to-do” in your organization, consider providing incentives that encourage employees to pursue learning. 

  1. Offer diverse learning opportunities

Each of us have different learning styles. Some people love to learn via audio, and others need to watch a demonstration, read a text, or learn by actually doing the task — making mistakes along the way. To account for all learning styles on your team, offer diverse learning opportunities. Your team will feel like they can choose a learning program that excites them and meets their needs instead of trying to fit into a box, helping them to stay motivated and accountable. 

  1. Recognize and reward learning achievements

To encourage accountability and motivation, recognizing and rewarding learning achievements is key. You could share an individual’s wins with your whole team through a community forum like Slack or Thinkific Communities. Or reward learners with gifts, bonuses, or something more specific to your organization.

  1. Promote knowledge sharing and collaboration

To create excitement about building a learning culture, it’s helpful to create an environment that promotes — and celebrates — knowledge sharing and collaboration. Encouraging teamwork and having employees share their successes will help to keep the spark of learning alive.

Real-life examples of learning culture in organizations

We’ve covered effective learning culture characteristics, best practices, and implementation steps, but what does this look like in practice? Here are three examples of recognized brands that have fostered a strong learning culture and how they achieved it. 

  1. Google

Google is a leader for its emphasis on continuous learning and innovation. The company offers various learning and development programs, including the famous “Google University,” where employees can access training and educational resources.

  1. Netflix

Netflix’s learning culture encourages employees to take risks and learn from their experiences. The company supports continuous learning through vicarious initiatives that provide employees with the freedom to explore new ideas and learn from failures.

  1. Adobe

Adobe prioritizes employee learning through its “Learning Fund” program. This program provides financial assistance to its employees for professional development activities. Plus, Adobe hosts internal learning events, workshops, and offers access to online courses and resources.

Overcoming challenges in building a learning culture

Implementing a learning culture isn’t always smooth sailing. Here’s how to overcome the challenges that may arise as you begin your implementation phase.

  1. Address resistance to change

For many people, change can be challenging. You may face resistance when trying to introduce new technologies or team practices. Try addressing the resistance head on by highlighting the benefits of the implemented learning initiatives, adding incentives, and supporting folks along the way. 

  1. Ensure learning aligns with organizational goals

To choose effective learning initiatives, it’s important to align the learning method with your organizational goals. For example, just because many companies are hosting webinars, it doesn’t mean that that will be the right method to share your message. By getting clear on what your goals are, you’ll be able to more easily align the learning initiative with what makes the most sense for your company.

  1. Manage time and resources 

Many organizations struggle to effectively manage their time and resources when it comes to building a learning culture. We suggest erring on the side of caution; assume you will have less time and resources, and create a strict schedule and budget for yourself to stay on task. 

  1. Measure and share the impact of learning initiatives

Not only is measuring the success of your learning initiatives essential, sharing that impact can increase buy-in within the organization. Gather feedback, measure key performance indicators, and evaluate employee morale to get a sense of whether or not your efforts are working. Measurement isn’t always super clear but get creative. Use surveys, individual performance evaluations, and tie educational efforts to relevant successful projects. And when the positive indicators emerge, share them widely.  

Learn about Thinkific Plus

As you can see, committing to building an effective learning culture is key for retaining and attracting talent, as well as helping your staff meet your company’s goals. 

To learn more about investing in building a learning culture for continuous improvement at scale, consider signing up for Thinkific Plus. With the ability to onboard, scale, and develop your workforce more efficiently, you can replace in-person learning without sacrificing employee experience. 


Q: What is an effective learning culture?

An effective learning culture is one that encourages individual and organizational learning. This culture is one that encourages a growth mindset, continuous learning opportunities, leadership support, openness to feedback, the ability to learn from failure, and a collaborative and inclusive environment. 

Q: Why is a learning culture important for continuous improvement?

When employees are motivated, it’s easier to reach company goals. Creating an effective learning culture helps employees to constantly be improving, developing, and becoming better — personally and professionally. When employees grow, businesses succeed.

Q: How can I create an effective learning culture in my organization?

To create an effective learning culture in your organization, you must take the following steps:

  • Assess your organization’s current learning culture
  • Define your learning culture goals and vision
  • Develop a learning culture strategy
  • Implement learning culture initiatives
  • Monitor and evaluate progress

Q: What are some examples of organizations with strong learning cultures?

Google, Netflix, Adobe, Microsoft, Airbnb, and Salesforce are all organizations with strong learning cultures.

Q: What challenges might I encounter when building a learning culture, and how can I overcome them?

When building a learning culture, there are a number of challenges you may face. These include resistance to change, measuring and sharing the impact of learning, managing time and resources, and ensuring learning aligns with organizational goals. To overcome these challenges, it’s important to have clear and effective communication with your team, accurately measure the progress of your learning initiatives, budget your time and resources accurately (and pivot when needed), and seek advice and support when determining which learning initiatives would best align with your organizational goals. 


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