How to Create a Culture of Continuous Learning

Learning and development have always been vital for both employee engagement and employee retention, and their importance only continues to grow: 91% of Generation Z employees view professional development and employee engagement as leading factors when they’re picking a company to work for.

It's not hard to see why. As an individual, continuous learning helps you grow more, achieve more, and ideally, earn more.

And as a company, continuous learning among your employees makes for a smarter workforce that's:

  1. more intrinsically motivated to solve problems
  2. more innovative
  3. more able to positively impact to your bottom line

There's also a wide consensus among company leaders that knowledge growth and learning is a pressing need.

In Deloitte's Global Human Capital Trends 2020 study, 75% of surveyed organizations said creating and preserving knowledge across evolving workforces is important or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months, but only 9 percent say they are very ready to address this trend.

On the employee side, the opportunities for learning and development are a huge part of their happiness with a job. 40% of employees in a Gartner report cited the lack of future career development as a key driver of attrition, or their wanting to leave their company.

In this blog, we'll help you take actionable steps to create and nurture a culture of continuous learning in your organization and in doing so, drive innovation, engagement, and ultimately a better chance of long-term success for your organization.

continuous learning programs

1. Incorporate career development into 1-on-1s

One of the first - and easiest - ways to foster a culture of continuous learning in your company is to make learning and development a standing item in your one-on-one meeting agendas. This might sound like such a simple step, but learning and development doesn't always get this type of consistent attention in manager-employee conversations, and it should.

During the weekly, monthly, or quarterly touch-base meetings that your managers and employees regularly have, make sure that one of the talking points during those meetings is how the employee has invested in their own development over the last quarter, and what they're doing to continue to learn and grow over the next quarter.

The key is to approach these conversations with intention and to invite employees to think critically about where they are professionally and whether that matches up with where they want to be. You can ask the following career coaching questions:

  • What are you working on and interested in learning more about at this point in your career development?
  • On a scale of 1–10, 10 being the best, how well are your personal and professional interests connecting to the work you're doing day in and day out?
  • On a scale of 1–10, how would you grade your overall contributions to the team and the organization in terms of being able to do your best work every day? 
  • What would you say are three adjectives that your most respected critic might use to define or describe you as a leader and as a team contributor?
  • (For supervisors and above) If the whole organization followed your lead, would you be happy with where you took it?  
  • (For supervisors and above) Would you want to work for you? 

Once the employee has thought through what type of development gap and opportunities exist for them in the above questions, have a conversation about the specific directions they can take their career development.

  • Are they interested in cross-training to another department?
  • Are they in need of or interested in learning a new skill?
  • Would reading a new self-help, growth mindset, or leadership book be helpful at this point in their growth?
  • Are there upcoming conferences in the areas they're interested in?
  • Is there a possibility for them to take on on a new project?

Not all growth opportunities require monetary investment; challenge your team members to grow in ways that are reasonable for their workload and lifestyle.

2. Give your employees a program and a budget dedicated to learning

Talking about growth is great, but it's very challenging to create a widespread culture of continuous learning without providing your employees tangible resources (a.k.a. a reliable program and budget) to access the learning that's most relevant for their needs. Sure, there may be plenty of free professional learning resources online for employees to take advantage of, but if those are the only options you give your employees you're essentially telling them that you don't care enough about their continuous growth to actually support it in a meaningful way. That's not the message you want to send.

Giving your employees a learning and development program can be as easy as setting up a learning and development stipend that is replenished monthly. quarterly or annually (A tool like Compt can automate that for you and ensure you're tax-compliant).

Your employees would benefit tremendously if they're given both the option and necessary resources to attend conferences, participate in certificate programs, gain memberships to professional associations and purchase learning materials that are relevant and useful to their desired growth path. 

3. Educate employees on how your company approaches learning

After setting up a learning and development program, ideally that includes a clear and regular communication around growth with their manager AND a learning allowance or budget, be sure employees know exactly how it all works. They should know where to go to access their allowance or stipend, what's allowed and what's not through policy and how to know if what they're pursuing for their own development is approved. Here's a useful list of questions to run through: 

  • Can they spend time on the clock watching TED talks, attending webinars, or earning CEUs?
  • Can they apply for reimbursement for the costs of certain memberships or training programs and if so, what's the process?
  • Are they eligible to learn additional roles within the organization, and if so, how do they request to cross-train?

Employees who know what to do - and trust that they'll have organizational support when they do it - are more likely to take advantage of the benefit.

4. Set a good example

A cardinal rule for creating any type of healthy company culture is that you must lead by example. In other words, if you want your employees to prioritize growth and development, you have to do that too! This shows your employees that your commitment to learning is authentic and it also gives them inspiration for their own learning if they're unsure of what's a good path forward.

Setting a good example can look like reading the newsletters in your inbox every morning (give it just five minutes!), staying abreast of changing trends in your industry, reading books, connecting with others in your industry, choosing educational podcasts, watching TED talks, and taking time to attend meetings or conferences at least once a year in your area of expertise. And then, whenever you get a chance, share with your employees how enriching those activities are for your professional growth.

5. Recognize and reward your people's growth

Celebrate the learning achievements of team members by recognizing them during team meetings, huddles, or employee forums. Recognition can come in the form of a verbal mention during the next team videoconference, a direct Slack message or email, or even an employee spot bonus for those achievements that truly impact the company.

Some examples of learning and development milestones to recognize and celebrate include: 

  • earning a new certification 
  • attending a conference or webinar and sharing information with the team
  • going back to school or earning a new degree
  • training into a new role or a new department

6. Celebrate the lessons learned from your mistakes

No one can be successful at everything they do all the time and this is true for everyone, regardless of level of experience. But sadly, employees have a tendency to mistakes as total failure and don't spend enough time thinking about what they can learn from it. As a company leader, work against that tendency by sharing your own mistakes and the lessons you've learned from them so that your team members can feel empowered to do the same.

By owning up to your mistakes and using them to make you better, you give your team members permission to take risks in the name of innovation so that they can make mistakes and learn valuable lessons for themselves and the team as a result. This is an awesome way to foster a culture of continuous improvement, as well as a healthy culture of self-awareness.

Conclusion

Creating a culture of continuous learning doesn't have to be difficult and it really just starts with talking about and celebrating learning more often. Pair that with an easy-to-use learning and development allowance for all employees, and you're golden.


Compt is the #1 employee stipends platform that gives your people the freedom to choose the lifestyle perks that are best for them and their always evolving needs, even when remote. Interested in learning how Compt might benefit your company? Consult with our team or request a demo.

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