From Learning to Leading: Building a Culture that Drives Success

In today’s fast-paced world, the key to long-term success lies not just in maintaining the status quo, but in fostering a culture of continuous learning. When businesses prioritize learning and development, they unlock numerous benefits that extend to both employees and the organization. However, there is a disconnect between what businesses claim is important and the actions they take: while 90 percent of organizations are concerned about employee retention and believe providing learning opportunities is their top retention strategy, 59 percent of workers report receiving no workplace training. From enhanced innovation and competitiveness to improved employee performance and engagement, a learning culture is essential for staying ahead in the market and ensuring sustained growth.

Open laptop on a table with "Learning" written on the screen. Text under image reads: "We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn." Peter Drucker author of Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices"

Why is a Learning Culture Critical to a Successful Business?

Many workers want to gain new skills but say a lack of time is their biggest obstacle. However, building a culture of continuous learning benefits all employees and their employers – no matter where individuals are in their career.

1. Enhanced Innovation and Competitiveness

Skilled learners tend to innovate more easily and quickly that workers who are not continuously learning new skills and behaviors; individuals focused on constantly improving themselves rarely say, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Research from Deloitte shows that high performing learning organizations are 92 percent more likely to innovate and are 46 percent more likely to be first to market a new or improved product or service. Employees encouraged to learn and experiment are more likely to develop innovative ideas, processes, and products, keeping the organization competitive in the market. At these companies, trying something new and failing is not only OK, but actively encouraged. Innovation happens when leaders embrace learning from mistakes.

2. Improved Employee Performance

Leaders using a learning-focused approach to overall management make learning part of the organization’s mission and strategy by providing opportunities to meet the development needs of their workforce. According to Gallup, companies that invest in employee development increase their profitability by 11 percent. Organizations that foster continuous learning are more adaptable, flexible, and innovative. They are also more likely to embrace change and less likely to be risk-averse than competitors. Continuous learning leads to skill enhancement, better problem-solving abilities, and increased productivity. Employees equipped with up-to-date knowledge and skills perform their tasks more efficiently and effectively. 

3. Increased Employee Engagement and Retention

Recent research shows that 93 percent of employees will stay at a company longer if it invests in their careers. Continuous learning is a key driver of employee retention, particularly when linked to employee development and upward mobility. When employees believe their employers value their personal and professional growth, they are more engaged and committed to their organization. A learning culture boosts job satisfaction, reduces turnover rates, and attracts top talent. Research from LinkedIn shows that employees who spend time learning on the job are:

  • 49 percent more likely to feel productive and successful.
  • 47 percent less likely to be stressed.
  • 23 percent more able to take on additional responsibilities.
  • 21 percent more likely to feel confident and happy.

The results highlight that employees are much more likely to be engaged in an organization that makes learning a priority. Workers need to feel they are working toward developing skills and intellectual capabilities, and continuous learning helps them achieve goals that lead to greater job satisfaction, dedication, and engagement.

Street window with quote from Sugar Ray Leonard: "If you never know failure you will never know success." Text under image reads: ""Remember, any organization that has a 'zero tolerance' policy toward mistakes will only succeed in creating a culture where employees do not feel valued and are so fearful of failure that innovation cannot thrive." Matt Tenney, author How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process"

4. Cultivation of Leadership

Establishing a sound succession plan requires a culture of learning to develop future leaders. Over time, retirements and other changes leave gaps in upper management positions. However, only 33 percent of businesses have internal mobility programs to train future leaders, and only 20 percent of employees are confident they can make an internal move in their company. Culture continuity is important during times of change, and a culture of learning can ensure successful transitions. Continuous learning develops future leaders by providing opportunities for employees to grow and take on new challenges. This creates a pipeline of capable leaders who can drive the organization forward.

5. Recruiting Top Candidates

A Gallup study reveals that 68 percent of workers believe employer-provided upskilling is crucial when considering a new job, and 48 percent would switch to a new job if it offered skills training opportunities. Emphasizing learning is key to attracting new talent, especially with Generation Z and Millennial workers reporting that learning and upward mobility are key motivators in deciding where they apply to jobs. Today’s most highly skilled job seekers are attracted to organizations that provide opportunities for professional development. Forward-thinking leaders include their learning culture in recruitment materials so jobseekers easily see their dedication to a culture of learning and continuous improvement, offering real support to employees pursuing development opportunities. 

6. Increase Customer Satisfaction

A leadership team that encourages curiosity and innovation at all levels helps employees gain an improvement mindset, making them more invested in an organization’s mission and better able to cultivate successful relationships with clients. Managers and employees who prioritize learning are better at finding new customers and determining the best ways to serve them.

Three people sitting around a table looking at printouts of graphs and charts. Text under image reads: "It is no longer enough for employers to run the odd lunch-and-learn session every few weeks. What's needed is a detailed L&D strategy that promotes learning as part of the organization's culture." Ola Kolade, Director, Employment and Skills Business in the Community"

How to Create a Culture of Learning

1. Leadership Commitment and Role Modeling

Set the example. Leaders must demonstrate a commitment to learning by actively engaging in continuous development themselves. This can include attending training sessions, seeking mentorship, and sharing their learning experiences with their teams.

Support and encourage learning. Leadership should communicate the importance of learning and development, integrating it into the organization’s vision and values. Providing time, resources, and encouragement for employees to pursue learning opportunities is crucial.

2. Provide Access to Learning Resources

Offer diverse learning opportunities. Offer a variety of learning resources, such as online courses, workshops, seminars, and conferences. Catering to different learning styles and preferences ensures that all employees have access to effective development opportunities.

Implement a learning management system (LMS). Implement an LMS to centralize learning resources, track progress, and provide personalized learning paths. This helps in organizing and streamlining learning efforts.

Open laptop on table with "Never Stop Learning" on it. Text under image reads: "In a learning culture, the goal of training isn't just regulatory or industry compliance, or ticking off the right checkboxes or putting enough ‘butts in seats.’ The goal, as J. Wood puts it...stems from 'a desire to improve performance, morale, explore human potential, attract, develop, and retain talent, create a learning, questioning culture and drive innovation.'" Bryant D. Nielson CEO, Web3 Certification Board (W3CB)"

3. Encourage Knowledge Sharing

Create collaborative spaces. Foster an environment where employees can share knowledge and experiences through regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and informal gatherings.

Use mentorship and peer learning. Establish mentorship programs and encourage peer-to-peer learning. Experienced employees can provide valuable insights and guidance, while peer learning promotes collaborative growth.

4. Integrate Learning into Daily Work

Encourage on-the-job learning. Encourage learning through everyday tasks by promoting problem-solving, critical thinking, and innovative approaches. Assign challenging projects that require new skills and knowledge.

Provide time for reflection and feedback. Regularly incorporate reflection and feedback into the workflow. Encourage employees to reflect on what they’ve learned and how it applies to their work, and provide constructive feedback to guide their development.

5. Recognize and Reward Learning

Acknowledge achievements. Recognize and celebrate employees’ learning milestones and achievements. This can include certifications, course completions, or successful application of new skills.

Incentivize learning. Provide incentives such as promotions, bonuses, or additional responsibilities to employees who actively engage in learning and development activities.

Smiling person wearing glasses sitting at desk with open laptop. Text under image reads: "By removing all barriers to learning and creating an environment for everyone to succeed, a learning culture sets an organization up to be constantly evolving and devloping. In my experience, that can translate to increased employee motivation, engagement and retention, people and business resilience, increased innovation and problem-solving and ultimately improved overall business capacity." Joanna Swash, CEO, Moneypenny"

Final Thoughts

Creating a culture of continuous learning is not just a beneficial strategy, it’s a critical imperative for any business aiming for long-term success. By committing to the development of their workforce, companies can drive innovation, enhance performance, and foster a more engaged and loyal employee base. This investment in learning not only attracts top talent but also ensures the cultivation of future leaders and the satisfaction of customers. As businesses navigate a changing marketplace, those embracing and promoting lifelong learning will stand out as leaders, ready to meet new challenges with a skilled, motivated, and forward-thinking workforce.

 

Related Blogs

Engagement Matters: Turning the Tide on Workforce Discontent  

Business Communication: The Lifeblood of Organizational Success

Soft Skills: The Secret Weaspon for Career Success 

 

Resources

“2022 Retention Report: How Employers Caused the Great Resignation.” Accessed 6/19/24. Work Institute. https://info.workinstitute.com/hubfs/2022%20Retention%20Report/2022%20Retention%20Report%20-%20Work%20Institute.pdf 

Bersin, Josh. “New Research Shows ‘Heavy Learners’ More Confident, Successful, and Happy at Work.” LinkedIn. 11/9/18. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-happy-work-spend-time-learning-josh-bersin/ 

Kolade, Ola. “How HR professionals can build a culture of lifelong learning.” HR Magazine. 3/20/24. Accessed 6/17/24. https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/comment/how-hr-professionals-can-build-a-culture-of-lifelong-learning

“Leading in Learning: Building capabilities to deliver on your business strategy.” Deloitte. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/gx-cons-hc-learning-solutions-placemat.pdf 

“Mapping the Careers of the Future in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.” Gallup. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www.gallup.com/analytics/354374/the-american-upskilling-study.aspx 

McKenna, James. “Build a Strong Learning Culture on Your Team.” Harvard Business Review. 6/6/23. Accessed 6/17/24. https://hbr.org/2023/06/build-a-strong-learning-culture-on-your-team 

Nielson, Bryant D. “Your Learning Culture is Killing Your Company.” LinkedIn. 3/23/15. Accessed 6/18/24. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-learning-culture-killing-company-bryant-nielson/ 

“Peter F. Drucker Quotes.” Goodreads. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/861169-we-now-accept-the-fact-that-learning-is-a-lifelong 

Ratanjee, Vibhas. “4 Ways to Continue Employee Development When Budgets Are Cut.” Gallup. 8/3/20. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/309284/ways-continue-employee-development-covid.aspx

Tenney, Matt. “Why A Learning Culture Is So Important For Success.” Business Leadership Today. Accessed 6/18/24. https://businessleadershiptoday.com/why-is-a-learning-culture-important/ 

Villa, David. “Why Training Is An Investment, Not An Expense.” Forbes. 8/14/25. Accessed 6/19/24. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2023/08/15/why-training-is-an-investment-not-an-expense/ 

“Workplace Learning Report: 2024.” LinkedIn. Accessed 6/19/24. https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report 

 

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