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How to build a culture of learning in the workplace

According to a study by IBM, employees are 12 times more likely to quit if a company isn’t committed to their career goals. Even more alarming is that this number jumps to about 30 times for new hires.

The message is clear: Employees want their workplace to value continual learning, offer skills training, and help with career advancement. Otherwise, they’re willing to find another one that will.

Building a culture of learning takes time, patience and a significant financial investment. But over the long term, it’s well worth the effort and cost when you consider employee retention rates and higher productivity levels.

What is a culture of learning? 

A culture of learning goes above and beyond offering training to employees. It supports ongoing learning, allows employees to apply new information on the job, and advances their skills and knowledge. Organizations with a culture of learning encourage their employees to grow professionally while feeling supported.

And it’s something that pays off significantly for employers. Employees in workplaces with a learning culture are more engaged and productive and less tempted to leave for another company.

This, in turn, saves the company significant recruiting and training costs – plus it makes the organization more appealing to those on a job search.

 The importance of having a learning culture

The world of work is changing faster than ever, and companies need their employees to have relevant soft and hard skills to keep up.

A learning culture is among the most important factors for employees when searching for a job. The IBM study noted earlier found that 84 per cent of employees in the best-performing organizations receive training (compared to only 16 per cent in the worst-performing companies) – showing a direct correlation between a company’s success and its learning culture.

Organizations that value employee training can adapt to the changing needs of our world, develop new products and services, solve problems more effectively, and increase efficiency, productivity and profit. There’s also less staff turnover, which leads to savings in hiring and training.

 Building a culture of learning

Unfortunately, true learning cultures are still the exception rather than the norm. According to this UK study, 98 per cent of learning and development practitioners want to develop a positive culture for learning, but only 36 per cent think they have.

But at least companies are seeing the importance of building this culture. So much so that the role of learning and development specialist increased 94 per cent in three months during 2022!

If you’re looking to bring a culture of learning to your workplace, consider these tips: 

Start with an assessment

Before making any new learning strategy, you must review your current one to identify opportunities and room for improvement. Assess everything from how your employees are learning to what they’re learning to the training materials they’re being provided.

Ask for feedback from employees regarding where they’re experiencing knowledge gaps and what they would like to learn. Interestingly, leaders view soft skills – like leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management – as more important than hard skills (job-related knowledge and abilities). Consider exploring free programs like UP Skills for Work, which focuses on these soft skills.

Develop personalized learning plans for employees

Personalized learning plans make learning relevant to your employees. Sit down with staff and understand what their learning and career goals are. Develop a plan to help them achieve their goals. Employees become more engaged in learning on the job if they can see that it’s directly related to their career goals. If you don’t feel equipped to have career conversations with staff, consider engaging a career development professional who can provide these services.

Make learning accessible

From their first day at work, your employees should know how much you value the concept of learning.

Onboard new employees with well-planned and effective materials and provide mobile learning options so that employees can train at their convenience. Be sure to promote learning programs widely in your company and choose a user-friendly solution that makes training as seamless as possible.

You should also try to make your training as fun and social as possible. Experiment with new learning approaches and see how your team reacts. Measure the results of your training programs and continuously adapt them to make them better.

Prioritize its importance

With all their other work commitments, it may be difficult for some employees to set aside time to learn.

Ensure your employees know they can take time out of their work schedule to develop new skills. You can even consider setting a company-wide rule that stipulates employees must complete a certain number of training hours quarterly and have managers give friendly reminders to engage in learning.

A formal reward system can help entice all employees, not just those keen to learn something new. It can also be helpful for employees to see management engaging in learning. Leading by example can greatly impact the rest of the organization.

Promote learning sharing

Increase opportunities for informal learning where employees can share knowledge and teach one another. When people are encouraged to talk about what they’re learning, they’ll be more engaged in the process and learning will become a part of your company culture and identity.

Use the right learning platform

Use a learning management system (LMS) that is user-friendly to makes it easy for staff to get started. Look for features that let employees practise skills in real-time and interact with other learners to share knowledge.

If budget is an issue, consider a platform like the ABC Skills Hub, which offers free asynchronous learning on topics such as workplace soft skills, financial and digital literacy.

Take time to reflect

Too often, we complete a course or seminar and return to our jobs without a plan to incorporate what we learned into our roles. Encourage staff to think about their learning expectations before, during and after taking part in a training initiative. Discussing the benefits of new or improved skills will help both worker and manager understand how to make the most of the learning opportunity.


Amidst all the changes to the workplace in the 21st century, developing a learning culture – or an environment where workers are encouraged to improve their skills and knowledge – is increasingly important. Doing so helps you stay competitive in a global-wide labour shortage, have more engaged employees, and increase your bottom line.

Ready to build a culture of learning at your workplace? Learn more about our free workplace literacy programs and initiatives to get started.