Learning culture: The culture every modern workplace needs

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American pioneer Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Learning is an important part of what it takes for both individuals and organizations to grow, develop, and keep up with the times. Especially in the highly dynamic and highly competitive environment we are in, learning is a never-ending process. This is why it is important for companies and organizations to foster a kind of working environment that fosters learning culture for ALL employees — from the rank-and-file to the top brass. Learning culture ensures that no one rests on their laurels, and will be open to knowing, learning, and doing new things. This is key to what makes a brand sustain itself through another never-ending process: the constant changes in the market.

Today, learning culture makes all the difference in determining which companies are able to break free from stagnation and which ones get left behind. Even large companies that have enjoyed massive success throughout the years have seen themselves fall from grace once they began to be complacent. One might say that learning culture is the antidote for getting left behind and the key to becoming industry leaders. Just look at many the leading companies today — Apple, Google, Facebook — many started from relative obscurity, but a drive to constantly learn, acquire new skills and innovate have catapulted them to the giants they are today.


So regardless of what industry you are in, it is important for every organization to ask itself if it has a transformative and dynamic learning culture that drives it toward success. Or is it the kind of company that has neglected learning culture, resulting in stagnation and a lack of innovation? These are the kind of hard questions organizations today should ask themselves, lest they fall into oblivion like the many others that failed to establish their own learning culture.

Learning culture is the key to keeping business strong

For much of the late 90’s and early 2000s’, Finland’s Nokia was a dominant force in the mobile phone industry worldwide. While the company was established in 1865 originally as a paper mill, the company managed to weather the storms of time and changing markets, hitting its stride around 1992, when it launched the Nokia 1011, the world’s first mass produced GSM phone. The company continued its push for mass produced phones, coming out with its 2100 series of phones a couple of years later. Nokia only projected to sell around 400,000 units, but demand exceed expectations — the company went on to sell a whopping 20 million handsets worldwide. By 1998, the company was selling 41 million units, primarily of its highly popular 6100 series phones. Nokia net sales were constantly increasing, sometimes by as much as 50% year-over-year (which many company executives will tell you is no easy feat, especially today). Operating profits were up by around 75%, and the company’s stock price skyrocketed by a mind-boggling 220%.

Nokia was virtually unchallenged — EVERYBODY knew that when it came to mobile phones, the company was king. There was a time that it was valued at $150 billion. But just a few years ago, Microsoft snapped up Nokia for $7 billion, a paltry sum considering its past valuation. Today, only GenX-ers and the older millennials really remember Nokia with fondness, with the smartphone market now dominated by names like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei.

What happened? To put it simply, the company became complacent. Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, talking to the BBC about Nokia’s history said, “Complacency had kicked in. they felt they could do no wrong.” 2007 came and Steve Jobs presented the very first iPhone to the world, the first nail in Nokia’s coffin. By 2013, Nokia’s market share fell to just 3%.

The rise and fall of Nokia is a testament to how destructive a failure to learn and innovate can be to a company. Apple, which continues to be a learning culture oriented company, has kept its market dominance and solid customer loyalty through the years, even in a much more competitive operating environment than Nokia ever experienced. The same goes for another market leader today, Google, which is still one of the most valuable companies in the world. It constantly innovates. Learning culture is ingrained in the way the company operates.

In this kind of market we have today, it’s a cutthroat world. Companies not only need to survive, but they also need to flourish, innovate, and become market leaders in order to enjoy true success. That means being a step (or two) ahead of what customers and consumers want and demand. And it’s not easy trying to stay ahead of this dizzying constant shift in consumer trends and preferences. This is where learning culture helps — helps a lot, in fact.

Companies with a learning culture accept change and adapt to those changes much faster. They don’t cling to the old way of doing things or traditional methodologies. As such, they need employees who are creative and have minds that are more accepting to new knowledge. Learning culture means investing in your organization’s talent pool, driving them to excel, learn, create and innovate — which is basically a win-win scenario, both for your employees and the company itself. You employees get to grow their skills and feel more valued by the company they work for, and in turn they become more motivated and equipped to deliver superior and excellent output — output that puts the company ahead of the competition. Data supports that assertion — companies that support learning culture increase its chances to become a market leader by at least 30%.

  • Learning culture helps retain top talent. One of the most effective ways to retain top talent is to increase learning and development opportunities. And we don’t mean just through token in-house seminars — employees want and need to learn from outside sources too. This keeps them in the loop about the latest industry trends, and allows them to connect with peers and develop relationships within the industry. Especially for millennials and younger workers, salary isn’t the primary driver for staying at a job — the opportunity to learn and make a difference in the organization is. Millennial employees want opportunities to have healthy careers where they feel valued by the company they work for and they are able to increase their skills and improve their knowledge.
  • Learning culture keeps skills learned and investment within the company. A big advantage of learning culture and retaining top talent is that all the skills and growth of these employees over the years is kept within the company — giving a priceless return on investment, in a sense. Instead of losing valuable and skilled staff to other companies, organizations with a learning culture benefit from the growth their employees have over the years. In a nutshell, as individuals and teams grow because of new learning, they automatically return the favor by being the catalysts the company needs to grow, evolve, and further succeed.
  • Learning culture sets the stage for top level performance and high productivity. People who want to learn also tend to want to put those skills to use as creatively and as often as possible. The results are high performing individuals and teams. Plus, knowing that the company is willing to invest in them is another source of motivation for many. Individuals who thrive in a learning culture seek out opportunities to grow and set ambitious and creative goals — and often meet them.
  • Learning culture sets growth within and alongside business goals. One of the best things about organizationally-supported learning culture is that the company can align the learning and skill-growth with its own business goals. For example, if a company wants to expand in a different industry or wants to develop a different product or service, it can look inside its organization for people who want to learn more and support the company in its growth goals. What’s great about learning culture is that the company is better equipped to have a knowledge management strategy where further learning is aligned with the organizations business goals and vision.

While it’s not unheard of for companies that neglect learning culture to survive, and even be profitable in the short term, it is always hard-pressed to retain top talent. It struggles to keep customers, much less expand its customer base. In the end, they never thrive and always lag behind the competition. In contrast, organizations that promote learning culture maximize the potential of the organization itself, as well as of the people that comprise it.

Creating a learning culture

If you want to create a culture of learning in your organization, you need to have the right building blocks to make it happen. Many leaders today understand the value of constantly improving the skills and knowledge of the members of the organization, but they don’t necessarily know where to start.

Individuals who love to collaborate are key

One of the key elements of a learning culture is to have employees who are open to collaboration and learning. You simply cannot have people who feel they already know “everything there is to know” about something or the way something is done. Collaborative-minded employees not only are more open to helping their colleagues and the organization in general, but they possess the best mindset for absorbing AND imparting knowledge. So when hiring or making employee assessments, ask employees how willing they are to teach new skills to co-workers or ask how they’ve stepped in to help and teach a colleague in the past. Employees who also have experience using collaboration software are a plus, especially for companies who are just starting out implemeting learning culture initiatives.

Develop initiatives to further learning

You can opt to put up a scholarship program for further education, sponsor either in-house seminars, or support employees who find resources for skill enhancement like classes or conferences. These are just some examples of initiatives that help foster a learning culture (a positive side effect is that employees also have the opportunity to get out of the office once in a while and even market your company while they’re at it). You can also put up focus or support groups in within the organization where employees can swap stories and share tips on how they tackle challenges. Then there is also reverse mentoring, where younger employees teach older colleagues about newer technologies and tools. But regardless of what method/s you employ, the important thing is that there are initiatives instituted in the organization that proactively support and encourage a learning culture.

Be open to feedback

Part of learning culture is having two-way communication. There is no true learning culture in the company if leadership and management aren’t willing to listen to the voices of the other people in the organization. A healthy feedback system (supported by the kind of tools provides, for example) will allow the company to learn and in the process be more aware of what’s happening in the organization. This in turn will help leadership be more equipped to make informed decisions and look for ways the company can improve. For example, at Mastercard, certain executives hold training sessions with regional employees to provide information on the brand’s digital platform. These sessions also serve as a way for general management to receive feedback about what products or service resonate with customers, allowing them to tweak their strategy and apply any necessary changes to their products or services.

Foster a learning culture mindset


Encourage employees (and even executives) to help each other and organically and freely share knowledge when needed. Provide positive reinforcement and commendation whenever you see instances like these. Reward people who take the initiative and take learning opportunities outside office hours or outside programs the company provides.

Have the right tools for the job

Initiatives for shared learning can only be fully maximized and the benefits fully enjoyed when the organization is equipped with the right tools that help any sort of learning initiatives be implemented smoothly. has an innovative suite of tools help organizations accomplish this, as many of its features are perfect for both individuals and teams who collaborate.

Datasets can be generated for tasks completed and pending, allowing both teams and their respective managers and leadership to assess progress and points of improvement. The transparent nature of’s communication tools help everyone stay on top of any important updates or information, and keeps everyone in the loop. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To see what can do for your organization to meet your specific needs, check out the free trial here.

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