How do you know your organization has a learning culture? What will you see people doing? How will people be learning? While a learning culture is an environment that’s always being developed, certain signs indicate that you are making progress. In a learning culture…

  1. Leaders are communicating the importance of learning (acquiring new knowledge, skills, and Improvement road signcapabilities) and holding managers accountable for learning and applying that learning to making a difference for the organization.
  2. Managers are helping their direct reports create an individualized learning plan linked to strategic goals of organization; managers are monitoring learning progress and providing feedback; they are structuring opportunities to apply learning on the job; and holding direct reports accountable for results.
  3. Managers are coaching; they are partnering with direct reports to develop their capacity to achieve organizational goals.
  4. Leaders are mentoring; they are using their experience to advise new and less experienced employees on how to fulfill the functions of their jobs.
  5. In recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of new employees, learning is part of the conversation; learning is conveyed as a value of the organization; expectations for employee learning and development are discussed during recruitment phase.
  6. Employees can see how their learning is aligned with the strategic goals of the organization; they understand how acquiring certain knowledge and skills will help the organization be successful; the direct link from learning to results is made clear.
  7. A wide range of formal and informal, hi-tech and hi-touch methods are being used to facilitate learning; the method used is determined by the intended outcomes for the organization.
  8. Expectations for employee learning are discussed with employees; employees know what they need to learn and why they need to learn it and what criteria will be used to monitor progress and assess results; high expectations are communicated.
  9. Learning is applied throughout the organization to continuously improve performance and achieve strategic goals.
  10. Employees and their managers are held accountable for learning; measures for evaluating impact of learning on the organization are used and the data is used to make improvements in learning methods and processes.
  11. Each learner and learning team in the organization is recognized and rewarded when the application of learning results in solving problems and achieving goals.
  12. Learning is integral to decision-making; before any significant decision, information is gathered to inform that decision and team members are learning how to make effective decisions and apply that ability to a workplace problem.
  13. Employees are encouraged to take risks as a way of learning; they are applying action-learning methods to trying out solutions and assessing the effectiveness of those solutions for their teams and the organization; if an action is not successful, the focus is on learning, not blame.
  14. Employees  are constantly experimenting with new ideas and programs for the purpose of finding out what works and what doesn’t and learning what they need to do to be successful; experimentation is valued by leadership.
  15. Explicit knowledge is documented in a way that makes knowledge easily accessible throughout the organization; tacit knowledge is surfaced through facilitated experiences with employees; knowledge (e.g., experiments, best practices, new information) is openly shared among organizational units, departments, and divisions.
  16. Stories that make up the lore of the organization are about successes and failures that resulted in individual, team, and whole organization learning; these stories communicate the value that the organization places on risk taking and experimentation.

Like road signs that tell you if you are on the right highway, these sixteen signs of a learning culture tell you if your organization is headed in the right direction. You never arrive; there is always more to do on the journey.

For help assessing your organization's culture, see our workshop, Assessing Your Organization's Learning Culture