3 Ways to Evaluate the Learning Culture in Your Organization

evaluating learning culture

As pressure mounts to embrace new technologies and adapt to the new world of work, the concept of a learning culture has never been more relevant or more essential than it is right now.

Training employees to incorporate new technologies, embrace updated policies and procedures, or understand changing industry or government regulation has always had its challenges. When teams are dispersed and lack the usual form of in-person interaction, it makes learning and development efforts much more challenging. With continuing economic uncertainty, it is critical that employees acquire the mindset and the resources to quickly pivot in response to unexpected change.

A true learning culture empowers the organization to live in a constant state of growth. By fostering a culture that encourages a constant quest for knowledge, improvement, and forward movement as a team amongst employees, organizations can foster a true learning culture that delivers outsized, bottom-line results.

How do you plan, organize and execute an L&D audit that provides valuable insights and actionable recommendations? Download this free toolkit, which includes templates and checklists, for the planning of your L&D audit.

What is a Learning Culture?

A learning culture or learning organization is one in which all employees are encouraged to explore new ideas and consider new ways to address problems at hand.

More than just encouraging a diverse set of viewpoints, a learning culture advocates for the learning of new skills and knowledge whenever possible. With everyone focused on both individual and group betterment, the organization is able to pursue innovation, find new opportunities for revenue, and achieve higher ROI.

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, popularized the term learning organization in the early 90s.

According to Senge, “learning organizations [are] organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

Learning organizations have a deep commitment to learning processes and structures. This commitment is shared by both managers and employees alike. Further, L&D is not the only team tasked with training employees; instead, skills and knowledge development is a shared responsibility with the business units and even among senior management.

In a learning culture, knowledge is baked into several internal apps, wikis, intranets, and the like in order to provide access to learning content whenever needed. These needs might be very well on the fly, or “in the flow of work,” so that even the tiniest of skills can be acquired throughout the workday in a natural, unobtrusive manner.

In a learning organization, learning never stops.

Aligning L&D performance with organization wide KPIs requires a deep dive into what training the business truly needs. Get started with this downloadable training needs analysis template.

How to Evaluate the Learning Culture in Your Organization

Measuring the dimensions of the learning culture within your organization might prove challenging, as it is not 100 percent quantitative and data-driven. The strategies below can help provide insights not only for L&D but also for business partners, consultants, and senior management.

Incorporate a Training Intake System

Training shouldn’t be the elephant in the room: L&D shouldn’t have a vague idea of what employees need, and employees shouldn’t be on their own to manage their own training. Having a system in place that tracks requests will go a long way in understanding who needs what—and why.

Some organizations think that a training intake system is simply a digitized version of an employee suggestion box: the higher the number of requests, the stronger the learning culture. This is likely, but a training intake system provides much more insight.

A well-planned and executed training intake system essentially requires the requester to provide as much background information about the requested course as possible. In fact, even if a course does not end up being greenlighted, this extra background information provided serves as a type of audit of the state of learning across the organization.

Obtain performance data from HR

This is perhaps a more classic strategy to measure the results of learning and development programs. As employees undergo training, and as their managers measure performance at regular intervals, those reviews will most likely be included in the employee’s HR file.

To capture a deeper understanding of the strength of the company’s learning culture, learning leaders can develop a system to measure the results of the effects of training on the organization at a macro level.

On the flip side, analyzing more granularly, learning leaders may uncover situations where the employee did not undergo formal, company-sponsored training yet there was a dramatic performance improvement. The employee’s manager can communicate with both L&D and HR as to why: perhaps the employee sought training on her own, or the team developed its own training. Such insights can also help the organization understand more about its learning culture and how employees incorporate training into their roles whenever possible, even informally.

Leverage the xAPI protocol

As cited above, a learning culture encourages learning in the flow of work. How is it possible to track learning in all of these different types of environments? Some of these include:

  • Attending in-person or eLearning classes
  • Reading books, both print and electronic
  • Practicing on their own, in person or via devices
  • Speaking with mentors and peers, both on and offline
  • Reaching out to strangers on the Web or social media 

Historically, the only part of this process that L&D professionals could track was whether learners showed up to an in-person class or passed their e-learning course. According to eLearning Industry, many learning leaders are unfortunately limited to measuring only 10 percent of formal learning experiences—those that are recorded in the learning management system (LMS).

However, the xAPI specification offers the ability to track up to 100 percent of learning experiences. This specification is a protocol that can capture data in a consistent format about a person or group’s activities from various technologies.

Indeed, the more informal learning tracked, the stronger the signal of a learning culture.

Download this free eBook, The L&D Audit: How to Ensure Your Learning Organization is Ready for Change, to assess and improve L&D fundamentals, such as your learning strategy.

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