Company Learning Culture: How to Build It Sustainably

Stefan Schulze

Two employees learning together
VIDEO With english subtitles

Disruptive trends, artificial intelligence, skills shortages - how can you remain competitive and attractive to employees in times of rapid change within the world of work? – With a positive learning culture of course! In this article, you will learn why a learning culture is so valuable for an organization and the seven steps you can take to establish it. Plus: how to measure the success of a learning culture and why a learning platform pays off.

What Is a Learning Culture?

Learning culture describes an organization's attitudes, values, and practices related to learning. A positive learning culture supports openness to new ideas, seeing mistakes as opportunities, and continuous improvement of competencies.

Ideally, a learning culture is practiced throughout the entire company, but responsibility for a comprehensive and attractive training program usually lies with the HR or L&D managers who are responsible for personnel development in the company. They create the framework conditions and shape the learning landscape in which all employees can develop.

If a new learning culture has to be created first, integrating it into existing processes and building the right mindset in the company is particularly challenging. If a learning culture already exists, maintaining and updating the offering requires a lot of resources.

But: The effort is worth it!

Why Is a Learning Culture So Important for Companies?

Digitalization, disruptive technologies, new megatrends – we live in a fast-moving environment that produces new innovations at ever shorter intervals. In order to remain competitive in the future, companies and their employees must have the necessary tools to react because:

Despite this, 43% of HR developers surveyed for an L&D survey either say that their employees have no connection to learning or that learning is not a priority for them.

A lack of resources and knowledge are also obstacles to the introduction of a learning culture. According to the Masterplan study on "Upskilling 2024", the biggest challenge in further training is a lack of time on the part of employees (55%), closely followed by a lack of/too little understanding of future-relevant skills (49%).

Simply put – it will be difficult for these companies to keep pace in the long term. In addition to productivity gains and greater innovative capacity, these are three further benefits of a positive learning culture:

  1. Further training in future-relevant skills within the company increases competitiveness.
  2. A comprehensive range of training courses strengthens employee retention and attracts new talent.
  3. Employees in a learning culture are more adaptable, more open, more curious and therefore more capable of dealing with unknown challenges.

7 Tips for Establishing a New Learning Culture

The development and integration of a new learning culture extends across several levels in the company – from the organization towards the management level, and to the employees.

These measures help to establish a sustainable learning culture:

1. Build a Mindset for Lifelong Learning

Future challenges cannot always be successfully mastered with the knowledge gained from training or studies alone. The solution: lifelong learning!

Employees need to internalize the importance of learning – not only for the company's success, but also for them personally. Allowing them time for further training and offering a comprehensive range of training courses with high-quality content promotes the development of the necessary mindset. In this way, it is also made clear that employee learning time is just as important as their daily tasks and meetings. 

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2. Make Knowledge Accessible for All Teams and Employees

The importance of the learning culture in the company is also reflected in its accessibility for all employees. Only if all teams and team members have the opportunity to learn can we speak of a learning organization.

So make sure that everyone has access to the learning content – from a C-level leader in the corner office to a blue-collar employee on the production line. Make sure that learning is possible at all workplaces, in the office and in remote work and at any time.

3. Support with Individual Development Opportunities

A holistic learning culture in a company always faces the challenge of covering different skill levels, requirement profiles and learning needs. But no matter how complex and multi-layered your organizational structure is, all employees should receive the training that will help them personally.

Help them find their way, create learning plans (together with the team leads) or show them individual development opportunities. Depending on the size of the company, this can be resource-intensive. This is why digital learning platforms that suggest tailored course recommendations to all learners are often worthwhile.

Power Skills for a Successful Duture

4. Develop Managers into Mentors

Acting as a role model – especially when it comes to learning – is one of the most important leadership skills. The best brand ambassadors for a learning culture are your own managers. If they exemplify the learning culture, employees are more likely to follow suit.

Good leaders actively and individually promote the potential of their team members. They steer learning activities by encouraging further training, making time available for further development and promoting the exchange of knowledge within the team. They regularly discuss (learning) goals and (learning) progress in personal meetings with individual employees.

5. Integrate Formal and Informal Learning Methods

Training courses, seminars, online training - all essential components of an innovative learning culture. However, the majority of skills are acquired and developed through challenges in everyday working life. To promote this, learning should be seamlessly integrated into daily work routines.

Courses in microlearning format, which convey knowledge in small chunks and can be completed between two meetings, help with this. As blended learning, knowledge can also be learned piece by piece in digital video training courses and consolidated in live or face-to-face training sessions. The right mix of these learning methods, of formal and informal formats, anchors the learning culture in the company in the long term.

6. Create Incentives and Motivate Self-Directed Learning

The strongest motivation is intrinsic motivation. If a topic really interests you or if both the knowledge and the learning itself provides added value, then further training is most effective. So build a learning culture that motivates self-directed learning.

With a learning platform like Masterplan's Learning Engagement Platform, you can achieve exactly that: cinema-quality video courses cover a huge range of relevant topics for all teams and roles. Gamification elements and quizzes within the lessons ensure interactivity and learners collect points with every course they complete.

Graphic: How to Increase Learning Motivation

7. Allow Mistakes and Give Room for Experimentation

Trying out new things, accepting mistakes, drawing valuable conclusions and learning from them is an effective measure for long-term improvement. A culture of error and a growth mindset – i.e. not being discouraged by setbacks but growing from them – support every learning culture.

Encourage employees to test new tools, turn processes upside down and take risks, and managers can also lead by example here. Positive example: Oliver Kahn, who learned a lot from his mistakes during his career.

Practical Examples: Learning Culture at Google and Co.

What does a sustainable learning culture look like in practice? How do other companies implement further training measures? And how have they built up their learning culture?

Let's take a look at three examples:

Google Logo

Google: Culture of Experimentation

Through a high acceptance of mistakes and continuous development, Google has formed a productive learning culture. Further training is implemented through a culture of experimentation and openness to failure.

For example, Google designates 20% of their employee working time to try out topics and tools that are not part of their direct job profile. This creates a framework that promotes innovation, involves employees and supports lifelong learning.

Find out more about the learning culture at Google →

Otto Group Logo

Otto Group: Company-Wide Learning Offer

As an e-commerce giant, the Otto Group employs thousands of people. The company uses a digital learning platform to manage its learning offer and make further training available to the entire heterogeneous group of employees.

With a focus on digital transformation through the use of artificial intelligence, the Otto Group provides its employees with self-produced and high-quality video training courses that deal with the specific use of new technologies in their own company. The direct relevance and accessibility of the content contribute to a successful learning culture.

Find out more about the learning culture at the Otto Group →

Dominos Logo

Domino’s: Role-Based Upskilling

Whether in the office, working from home or on the road, Domino's supports the individual development of all employees. To this end, the company relies on a digital learning platform that can be used to assign soft skills training to individual employees or entire teams.

Despite hybrid work structures, the learning culture extends across the entire company. Even mobile teams can access the learning library from anywhere and around the clock via smartphones and tablets and acquire or refresh their knowledge with compact video courses between appointments.

Find out more about the learning culture at Domino's →

A Sustainable Learning Culture – How Do You Measure Its Success?

Especially when it comes to budget planning for internal training, questions quickly arise as to what added value your own learning culture ultimately brings and in what figures you can see the successes.

Here are three approaches to making learning culture measurable:

Learning Progress, Learning Time & Completed Courses

Learning progress, learning time and completed courses provide important information about employees' learning activity. These metrics can be used to determine whether the training offered is being used and which skills gaps must still be closed.

The vast majority of e-learning tools display these learning statistics in a dashboard:

Dashboard with learning statistics

Return on Learning

The growth effects, a sub-aspect of the Return on Learning (ROL), can only be measured in (monetary) figures to a limited extent.

Nevertheless, useful conclusions can be drawn from employee satisfaction surveys or qualitative feedback on the learning offer.

Graphic: Return on Learning effects

ROI on Learning

The monetary effects of ROL include measurable factors such as cost and resource savings, productivity gains and reduced recruiting costs. These factors can be quantified and calculated.

The so-called ROI on learning is therefore an important key figure for analysing and optimizing the direct cost effects of the learning culture.

The Key to Success: a Digital Learning Culture

A company-wide and successful learning culture is made up of three distinct characteristics:

  1. Learning is part of the corporate culture.
  2. Learning is possible for all teams, regardless of time and place.
  3. Learning is interactive and can be seamlessly integrated into everyday working life.

Special e-learning platforms for companies combine these requirements in one software.

A digital learning culture is characterized by the use of technology to support and improve learning processes, using digital tools and resources to make learning more accessible and interactive.

The benefits of a digital learning culture include increased flexibility and accessibility of learning, adaptability to individual learning needs and the ability to respond quickly to changes and new requirements in the world of work.

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FAQ on the Topic

What is a learning culture?
How can companies establish a positive learning culture?
What are the challenges of introducing a new learning culture and how can they be resolved?
How do learning cultures differ in different industries and company sizes?

Stefan Schulze

Stefan Schulze is Content Marketing Manager at Masterplan. In the blog, he explains important terms from the L&D and HR world and writes about methods, concepts and developments in corporate learning.

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