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5 Steps to Creating A Successful Learning Culture for Enterprise in 2021

Jennifer Reid
Dec 04 2020

Since the beginning of the naughties, it’s fair to say that technology has accelerated the pace of change in business: ‘real-time’ is no longer a buzz phrase and between DevOps and MLOPs and Agile and continuous development, show me an enterprise level company that hasn’t invested wholeheartedly in technology to accelerate business transformation. 

Whether it’s Marc Andreesan telling us that software is eating the world, or the late Watts S. Humphrey or Microsoft’s Satya Nadella telling us that every company is now a software company, the fact is most enterprise level companies have been or are about to be disrupted, and their businesses are now in at least some way revolved around digital products. 

This digital disruption has elevated the importance of corporate learning significantly. Without a learning culture, people will not be able to adapt and learn quickly enough to sell and service in today’s new accelerated business landscape.

True, many large enterprises have dedicated Learning & Development (L&D) departments with custom training courses that they’ve invested in significantly. But when it comes to having a culture that actually nurtures learning to drive business performance, enterprise has reached a critical juncture. Regardless of whether your business is telecoms, manufacturing, hospitality or consumer goods, if you haven’t got a learning culture whereby all employees are invested in continual learning, a once monthly or quarterly training session isn’t going to cut it. 

Technology can accelerate product, solution and service development and distribution to the nth degree, but without the knowledge needed to truly understand and promote the high volume of new products and services making their way to market, how will employees keep up? How will they truly add value for customers if they aren’t learning and understanding the value of new offerings themselves? 

Is it possible to overhaul learning in the enterprise? Of course it is! What do you need to make a learning culture work? We spoke to our Fuse experts about this key question, and they had some great advice. Read on to hear what they had to say.

1. Learning Must be Valued

If there is one thing that is absolutely fundamental to success in creating a successful learning culture in enterprise, it’s that companies need to value learning to start with. It’s the only way to create an organisation that’s actively learning, and one that is actively engaged in the process of learning.

However, learning shouldn’t be forced: people need to make the choice to learn, to be able to say to themselves “I’m going to go and actively engage.” They need to feel there is a benefit to themselves in doing this, and that they are contributing to the benefit of the organisation, and driving performance to drive the business forward.

They also need to feel secure in taking the time to learn. As Simon Brown says in his book The Curious Advantage, people need to feel comfortable in being curious and exploring that curiosity within context in the corporate environment.

To feel comfortable in being curious and to feel at ease in exploring learning, people need to know that their organisation values active learning and self development. This may happen through strong leadership role modeling, peer-to-peer trust and communication, word of mouth throughout companies, or even via line managers helping to facilitate and communicate the importance of learning. 

All of this lends towards helping to create a learning culture. Once people understand the value of learning, and see a learning culture that will support them begin to grow, it’s important that they also have the right tools to learn efficiently and in a way that will continue to help the organic growth of the culture itself. 

Learning and development platforms like Fuse can act as a catalyst to help enterprises during this stage. Once a culture is there and people make the choice to dive into continuous learning, technology can really support and enable that choice by helping people to get as much exposure to learning as possible, equipping them with the tools and capabilities to fully engage.

2. Create an Active Engagement Learning Model 

In Brandon Hall Group’s 2020 learning strategy research, 43% of companies agreed that their learners were not sufficiently engaged. Across enterprise, engagement in learning is a big problem, and it’s one that must be overcome in endeavouring to create a learning culture. 

Defining engagement is a useful first step. In L&D, people often define engagement as taking courses or consuming content. However, this frequently means engaging with digital systems. It’s an interesting technology-led perspective, but it’s not true engagement, and it won’t form the basis of an effective and nurturing learning culture. 

Engaged learning is unlikely to be the result of an aggregation of courses selected from the internet, nor is it likely to be the result of monthly or quarterly training which is delivered by an unfamiliar training manager. 

People want to feel as though they can get to know their trusted subject matter expert, and to establish a relationship with that person. Why? Because true engagement is based around having a relationship, and driven through social values and trust. 

People learn best from other people, and effective, lasting learning is almost always the outcome of having a relationship with someone and receiving value from that person. For an enterprise to create a true learning culture, it needs to grow a community whereby employees can tap into tacit knowledge of colleagues and subject matter experts. It also needs to provide the tools for those subject matter experts to create learning resources and experiences which drive measurable value and performance.

3. Drive Learning Culture by Leadership Role Modeling

Cultural change is hard, but it can be supported and accelerated by leadership role modeling. Here’s a few examples: 

Fuse customer Vodafone understood the power of advocacy in the context of culture change and for this reason, the company pre-launched the Fuse learning platform to store managers and regional managers, giving them an exclusive first shot at using the platform. The managers saw the value immediately, and encouraged their teams to begin to interact with the platform, which helped to foster the learning culture across the organisation. 

There are countless other Fuse customer examples that demonstrate the power of leadership role modeling, and one thing many of them have in common is leadership’s dedication to creating learning content. In a successful learning culture, leadership isn’t just watching from the sidelines: they are participating in learning and their content is on the platform. 

Ultimately, people want to hear from leaders, because they’re often the experts. When their content is on a platform like Fuse, people don’t just watch it, they comment on it, and express whether they feel it’s valuable. In doing this, a learning culture forms where people want to contribute more naturally and more openly.

4. L&D, the Great Facilitators

L&D have an essential role in creating a learning and development culture, but it’s no longer the sage on the stage role: perhaps it’s a bit more ‘guide on the side.’ 

In an active enterprise learning culture, L&D are facilitators, extracting knowledge and enabling line managers and leaders in each area to share that knowledge. L&D now need to transform the company environment so that it is much more akin to a digital agency. In a sense, they are the shepherds, and technology is the landscape they play on. 

L&D need to consider content creation and how different people like to consume content: some people will like a very structured journey, whereas others require a different framework. 

The number of layers in a company is also particularly important in considering a learning culture, especially in very large companies. L&D must be in tune with the fact that, in a 5000 person company, there may only be four layers between service people and the CEO, so learning from the top down may make an impact very easily. But double the number to a 10,000 very geographically dispersed company, and all the sudden you've got a federated model where the distance between roles may hamper impact. 

These are some of the considerations today’s L&D managers must be thinking about when looking to establish and nurture a learning culture. While they are complex, the reward is well worth the investment in mobilising the skill sets of different types of learners.

5. make technology invisible 

Note that beyond leaders, part of creating a learning culture is to encourage the idea of continuous learning, and continuous teaching. Ultimately, L&D’s job should be to make sure that subject matter experts have tools and technology they need to become content contributors. 

In this sense, technology should act as an enabler and accelerate the speed at which an organisation can learn. However, the emphasis needs to be on the content and consumption of that content itself - not on the technology. If a learning platform is not seamless, it may impede the progress of creating a learning culture. If subject matter experts are caught up with difficult interfaces and workflows, they aren’t going to engage and fuel a learning culture. If learning is difficult to locate on a platform, or not positioned in the right context - learners may become discouraged. 

So, while people are at the heart of learning and technology is a big enabler, it must function invisibly and intuitively in order to keep the focus on consumers and contributors.

How Do You Create a Learning Culture for Enterprise?

  • Companies must understand and value learning in order to create a genuine, lasting and effective learning culture. 
  • Active engagement is key: for an enterprise to create a true learning culture, it needs to grow a community whereby employees can tap into tacit knowledge of colleagues and subject matter experts. 
  • A learning culture must be supported and accelerated by leadership role modeling: companies need to ask themselves - is leadership passionate about learning and wanting to contribute?
  • The role of L&D has got to change in order to establish a true learning culture. Companies need to decide whether L&D can become facilitators invested in nurturing a wide array of skill sets, as well as variables surrounding organisational models.
  • Technology is key, but it must be invisible and seamless. Companies need to assess whether technology is helping or impeding the establishment of a true learning culture.

L&D needs to start partnering with the business by tapping into tacit knowledge and SMEs in order to create resources and experiences which drive measurable value and performance. 

Check out this panel discussion with Fuse customers and learning experts as they discuss the power of SME learner relationships in driving engagement.

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