Use Case: Learning culture
Providing employees with the right tools that enable them to acquire new knowledge quickly and continuously. A free ebook on this topic can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
1. Definition of Learning Culture
In the past, most companies regarded learning within human resources development as a task that had to be offered. Continuing education was on the agenda more through a sense of obligation than one of considered strategic benefit.
In reality, however, it was a means to an end: by participating in a seminar in a nice conference centre, the employee was given a break from everyday working life with its recurring routines. This was supposed increased employee satisfaction. No less, no more. The courses were usually not necessary for organisational success. Until a few years ago, it was sufficient to complete an apprenticeship or a course of study at the beginning of a career. The acquired knowledge was sufficient for the whole life career.
Today is different. Knowledge changes quickly. This applies to technical content as well as IT applications. And in both areas it is imperative that employees stay up-to-date. Otherwise there is a risk that they will execute their job responsibilities with insufficient know-how. Sooner or later this will have an impact on the quality of the results and in the long term the company’s success will suffer.
The future of work: skills gaps
Well-trained professionals differentiate successful companies from less successful ones. In an increasingly data-driven future, this difference will become even more pronounced. Because job requirements are shifting ever faster and will become more complex in the foreseeable future.
This is due to the fact that routine tasks are increasingly performed by machines ensuring the employee is increasingly becoming a knowledge worker. Routine human resource jobs that are easy to process will sooner or later die out. New, highly specialized job profiles are created elsewhere for this purpose.
According to the World Economic Forum, at least 133 million new roles will be created worldwide by 2022 as a result of the increasing division of labor between people, machines and algorithms. Above all, there will be a strong demand for technical skills such as programming and app development, as well as skills that computers cannot master: Creative thinking, problem solving and negotiation skills.
The point is, that when knowledge bottlenecks exist, companies can no longer simply hire new employees to lead their organization into a secure future. Because the size of the pool of available talent is shrinking rapidly.
Corporate leaders have only one option to counter this change: They must create in their organisation a culture of lifelong learning in which skills gaps are addressed before they arise and manifest themselves. Only those who ensure that their own employees always operate at the cutting edge of knowledge have a chance to counteract the competition in times of increasing pressure to innovate and global competition. These are the results of the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2018”. This makes the establishment of a learning culture indispensable.
3. Why a learning culture is gaining importance?
The demotivation cycle
Employees whose knowledge becomes increasingly outdated lose motivation for their work at some point. Due to their lack of knowledge, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to produce results of consistent quality. And since knowledge is becoming increasingly outdated in our fast-moving times, motivation also drops off quickly. Employers break through this vicious circle with a learning culture.
4. Successfully implementing a learning culture
Creating a learning culture
An important first step to implement a learning culture is: The willingness to learn and to constantly adapt to new conditions must be championed by the management. From our earliest childhood on, we learn from the model, i.e. the role model. This is no different with employees. They too need role models on which they can orient themselves. This makes it all the easier for them to get involved in new things. That’s the way humans tick.
What does learning on the model require?
- Firstly, the need for a functioning learning culture must always be communicated clearly and with conviction by the management team and in particular the CEO.
- Second, leaders must radiate the openness and curiosity to new things that they want to see at all levels of the organization.
- Thirdly, existing barriers between functions and departments that inhibit the exchange of knowledge must be dismantled. This is the only way to achieve the goal of seeking new solutions together and across departmental boundaries and to learn from each other. This requires IT systems to be standardized so that employees can always access and work with the same data pool. Communication processes must also become more integrated so that new knowledge can pulsate in the company.
„It’s highly likely that leaders will have to shed their authority-based, top-down, directive approach and show humility, even vulnerability, in acknowledging that they are not fully in control of circumstances and do not have all the answers. Their job is to release the power of collective learning through collaboration and shaping the organizational context, while modeling the behaviors they wish to see in others.”
This challenge can be mitigated by first training managers themselves to deal with the new reality: It is important for management teams to understand the learning culture as a kind of business process that needs to be understood and actively managed and shaped in order to achieve their business goals. To do this, managers must recognize that most organizations consist of a multitude of subcultures with very different motivations. Strong learning cultures value and make use of their diversity.
Accordingly, managers need completely new management skills to get the most out of their employees, to steer their creativity and thoughts in the right direction. For example, individual approaches need to be weighed up and moderated between the teams. Otherwise, there is a great danger of cultural fragmentation, resulting in inefficiencies and misunderstandings. Then ideas are no longer optimally exchanged and the creative effects for the further development of the company fizzle out. To achieve this, managers need analytical skills, empathy and creativity.
With these talents it will be possible to establish a functioning learning culture in which thoughts no longer flow from top to bottom as they used to, but also in the opposite direction and crosswise. Mission accomplished.