A learning culture is key to retaining talent. Here are five ways to create one

As the war for talent intensifies, a growing number of organisations are realising the importance of establishing a learning culture in order to recruit and retain the best and the brightest


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01 Create psychological safety

What it means
In a learning organisation, people must feel safe to ask questions and experiment.


How to do it
An atmosphere of psychological safety involves regularly asking team members for their ideas and showing appreciation for their input. Most importantly, leaders must give people permission to make mistakes by reframing them as opportunities to discuss, learn and improve.


Reading recommendation
Courageous Cultures, by Karin Hurt and David Dye, longlisted for the getAbstract International Book Award 2021: “Our favourite definition of cul- ture comes from Seth Godin, who says culture is simply: ‘People like us do things like this.’ In a courageous culture, people like us speak up. They are willing to share their ideas. The default is to contribute.”


Why it’s important
“For criticism to be effective, leaders need to create an organisational culture that accepts it,” says Michael Wiederstein, executive editor at getAbstract.

02 Obtain leader buy-in

What it means
For a learning culture to flourish, leaders must set the tone, emphasising that learning is a central tenet of the organisation’s values and making their own learning part of their daily habits.


How to do it
Managers should incorporate learning in team members’ goals and acknowledge when they’ve mastered new skills, while also enabling them to dedicate a portion of their working hours to learning.


Reading recommendation
Change Your World, by John C. Maxwell and Rob Hoskins, shortlisted for the getAbstract International Book Award: “Transformation is possible for anyone willing to learn and live good values, value people and collaborate with them to create a positive values culture.”

Why it’s important
“Humans are purpose seekers. We all need to feel connected to a higher purpose,” says Paolo Gallo, author, executive coach and adjunct professor at Bocconi University, Milan.

03 Create an inviting environment

What it means
An effective learning ecosystem provides a variety of learning formats in order to meet the individual needs of team members. It must also include collaborative tools to leverage peer-to-peer learning.


How to do it
Instead of pushing formal training, organisations should give team members the tools to pull learning content from systems and from each other. With a centralised learning hub, learners can find content, access support and share knowledge.


Reading recommendation
Burnout Fix, by Jacinta Jiménez, short-listed for the getAbstract International Book Award 2021: “True leisure is not compensatory, nor is it what theorists refer to as ‘spillover’ leisure such as laying on the couch and scrolling on social media. Real leisure is all about psychological and physical replenishment: You walk away from your time feeling more rested, centred and restored.”


Why it’s important
“It seems counterintuitive, but structure begets flexibility. The more structure you have around how work happens, the more flexibility you could have in terms of when and where that work happens,” says Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and New York Times best-selling author.

04 Foster curiosity and a growth mindset

What it means
A curiosity culture makes organisations more innovative, as people ask questions and listen. This nurtures collaboration, cooperation, and trust, improving performance as people translate their innate desire to learn into action.


How to do it
Business leaders need to make internal and external knowledge readily available and encourage team members to seek out information. They should invite creative investigation with open-ended observations such as “I wonder why…” or “I wonder if…”


Reading recommendation
Return on Ambition, by Nicolai Chen Nielsen and Nicolai Tillisch, shortlisted for the getAbstract International Book Award 2021: “People who report a high return on ambition are very good at balancing achievement, growth and wellbeing over time. Our book helps people gain greater self-awareness and make more deliberate choices regarding their ambitions.”


Why it’s important
“Boiling ambitions and objectives to one guiding principle will free you up to reach for the stars – without going astray,” says Sara Kuepfer, staff writer for getAbstract.

05 Promote a mentorship and coaching mindset

What it means
During the 1960s, the Center for Creative Leadership outlined the 70/20/10 ratio of learning: people accomplish 70% of their learning from challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from a mentor, coach or other influential person and 10% from formal instruction, such as classroom work.


How to do it
Leaders should listen more rather than giving instant advice and should aim to ask questions that guide their mentees to discover their own best answers.


Reading recommendation
Lead. Care. Win., by Dan Pontefract, shortlisted for the getAbstract International Book Award 2021: “To become relatable – to be a beacon of forgiveness and kindness, to be humble enough to ask for help – affects the very heart of your leadership.”


Why it’s important
“Developing new leadership mind- sets, capabilities and behaviours is one of the most important things HR can do to set the organisation up for success as we emerge from the pandemic and transform our businesses,” says Josh Bersin, founder of the Josh Bersin Academy.


What is a learning culture?

A learning culture includes fostering a curiosity-driven environment that supports a growth mindset. Organisations benefit from improved employee engagement and talent retention. Employees in turn benefit from development opportunities that can support vertical or lateral growth, and the chance to pursue new and relevant skills.

The pandemic has launched a global battle for talent, the likes of which haven’t been seen for many years. Over two-thirds (69%) of employers are reporting difficulties filling roles, a 15-year high for the second consecutive quarter, according to a survey published in September by Manpower Group. Meanwhile, research by HR software provider Personio reveals that over a third of employees (38%) are looking to change jobs in the next six or 12 months.

Remuneration and perks have a role to play but in order to recruit and retain talent, develop greater loyalty and improve productivity, more and more organisations are realising that it’s essential to create a learning culture in their teams.

getAbstract discovers, rates and summarises knowledge from a wide range of sources, including books and articles, to help people make better decisions at work and in their private lives. In this feature, based on the getAbstract white paper, Build a Learning Culture in 5 Steps, authors and contributing experts offer their top tips for creating a vibrant learning culture.


For the past 20 years, getAbstract has helped organisations build cultures that prioritise learning and growth. Download the white paper, Build a Learning Culture in 5 Steps, at getab.li/117e


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