Building an Employee Learning Community geometric cover image

Building an Employee Learning Community

Wisetail | 6 min read

A strong corporate culture is one of the top priorities for both employees and management, and one essential value is a commitment to forward movement. That means investing in people and helping them avoid feeling stagnant or stuck by creating a culture of continual learning. Learning communities create a harmonious workplace in which employees are challenged, engaged, and interested in the work they do and how they can do it more effectively.

The importance of a learning community

A culture of learning creates an ongoing dynamic in the workplace — one where employees seek professional development outside their current role and are eager to grow with the organization. Providing an environment where learning and skill-building are embedded in the expectations and experiences of every employee is foundational to a learning community. How important is it? Consider where learning may lead.

Learning lends itself to a culture of innovation. In the current economy, companies must focus on staying relevant, and continuous innovation is crucial in fast-moving markets. Innovation helps customers stay engaged and interested as they watch your organization stay ahead of new trends, ideas, and technology. When employees are motivated to learn, they are also motivated to be more creative and innovative in their roles. Continual learning opportunities create momentum in a continual learning cycle as employees gain new skills and find new ways to function in their jobs.

Improved productivity is a high priority for business leaders, and one way to achieve it is through providing a learning culture for employees. As they learn, team members become more fully immersed in their roles. Motivation and engagement are important drivers of productivity, and an abundance of learning opportunities provides both. A learning culture also allows you as a business leader to utilize more internal talent resources, reducing the costs of recruiting and mitigating the risk of attrition. Continuous learning options improve employee morale, as the learning culture invigorates employee interest in job roles and supports advancement and succession.

Leadership shapes the learning community

A learning community doesn’t develop organically. It must grow through strategic and intentional decision-making, and it must start with leadership. Team leaders who cultivate a growth and learning mindset shape the learning culture, benefitting the entire workplace community. A growth mindset is a belief that one can improve their talents, abilities, and intelligence through education and dedication. Leaders who demonstrate a growth mindset are mentally prepared to take on challenges, accept criticism, seek the most effective problem-solving strategies, provide constructive feedback to employees, and make ongoing efforts to achieve goals.

A learning mindset involves enthusiasm about improving one’s competence and mastery of new skills. Leaders with a learning mindset are mentally ready to increase their competencies and will be flexible, persistent, and cooperative with their teams. 

Most leaders have learned from years of successes and failures, and those stories are interesting and important to the employees they work with. Sharing their journey, including the obstacles they have overcome along the way, is one way a leader can build trust and encourage resilience among team members. Leaders are there to lead — but they should never be afraid to learn along with other employees. 

When designing and cultivating a learning culture, ensure your strategy aligns with organizational goals. A learning community means fostering a long-term investment for your company. Clarify how the investment will contribute to your company’s vision and mission. Team leaders who personally demonstrate the trust and goodwill accompanying the financial investment will create a learning culture where employees naturally seek and share knowledge. 

Designing a learning community

How can your organization elevate learning from a mandatory requirement to an ingrained part of your company’s culture? It begins with a purposeful strategy for developing your learning programs.

  • Emphasize accessibility. As always, leadership sets the tone for the company-wide adoption of any cultural value. Executives and other leaders must lead by example, actively demonstrating their commitment by engaging in training and learning opportunities themselves. They also need to function as teachers, sharing the expertise and knowledge that allowed them to advance in their positions. 
  • Focus on individual needs and skill sets. Corporate learning can be uninteresting, minimally relevant required training that leaves employees with a handful of printed materials and a feeling of wasted time. Or it can be personalized to fit the needs, requirements, roles, and varied learning styles of those who work in your organization, leaving them with a sense of accomplishment and a new set of tools they can use to fulfill their responsibilities more effectively. Personalized education ensures much higher engagement and success. Gamification allows even further refinement of information delivery, offering another method of personalizing your training efforts. 
  • Teach your leaders how to teach. The more internal training and mentoring your leaders offer, the better. Your organization already has internal experts with information to share. Not everyone is a born teacher or mentor, though, so make sure to provide them with the tools and training needed to become effective, enthusiastic teachers. 
  • Create learning communities. Social media dominates our culture today, and that’s not all bad — it offers a highly effective method of building strong communities around common interests. Leverage this fact by building social media-based learning communities within your organization. These communities allow knowledge sharing, provide support networks, and generate open discussion that reinforces and expands upon formal education. 
  • Make it measurable. It’s important to measure the success of your learning programs. One crucial measure is employee satisfaction, so feedback from employee learners is vital. Give employees ample opportunities to provide feedback, and make reasonable efforts to apply the feedback you receive to improve your training programs. 

Designing and curating a learning community in your company will create a more cohesive, innovative, and enthusiastic environment, with everyone committed to the company’s overall success as well as their own personal growth.

To further support your employee engagement and retention strategies, join our webinar “Uncovering Effective Employee Retention,” the first part of our Putting the Human Back in HR series.  Learn how to cultivate sustainable people operations strategies, especially during these times of rapid job market changes. Led by Dr. Casey Cox, gain insights into the evolution of employee retention, the big myth surrounding it, its benefits, and how to improve retention rates.