Creating a Learning Culture

Man pointing to words ‘never stop learning’WHAT IS IT?

This free guide provides tips for creating a learning culture in the workplace, to build team capability and performance.

All leaders are accountable for the results of their team: the value and impact of these results can be significantly increased by the leader taking accountability for developing an effective learning culture.

This guide will specifically:

  • 1. Encourage you to develop an effective learning culture
  • 2. Explain how to maintain a learning culture within your workplace team

Why use our learning culture guide?

As a leader you may have some of the organisation’s top talent working within your team who will undoubtedly seek personal development and career advancement. There is always a risk you could lose some of this talent base if individuals feel their career goals are not being satisfied or are being frustrated. This guide will help you to effectively manage these challenges.



The guide has been designed to make the best use of your time with information presented in a concise format.

1. Develop a Learning Culture

To date, you may or may not have had the benefit of working for a leader who actually did create a culture in which continuous learning was encouraged, recognised and rewarded. If you have, and you’ve also experienced the opposite type of culture, then you’ll already be aware of the acute difference between the two – and the subsequent consequences on motivation and results.

So what will help create a learning culture? We recommend the following:

  • Application of certain behaviours – each of which have triggers
  • Re-enforcement of behaviours

Detailed below are 5 recommended behaviours that will encourage the development of an effective learning culture in your workplace:

  • 1. Asking questions
  • 2. Suggesting ideas
  • 3. Being transparent with how things are
  • 4. Talking about learning
  • 5. Taking risks and experimenting

You could easily add many more, such as exploring opportunities, converting mistakes into learning, reflecting and reviewing, demonstrating ownership or personal development, admitting inadequacies and mistakes etc.


Possible triggers for each of the 5 behaviours:

Recommended Behaviours
1. Asking questions
Invite your team members to question you.
2. Suggesting ideas
Seek ideas. Be receptive and open to ideas.
3. Be transparent about the way things are
Be transparent yourself. “I will tell you how I see it and I would be pleased to hear how you see it”.
4. Talking about learning
Talk about the lessons you have learnt from your experiences.
5. Taking risks / experimenting
Keep asking your team members how tasks can be done differently or better


Once the behaviour has been triggered, you need to re-enforce that behaviour. Here are some suggested re-enforcers for these behaviours:

Recommended Behaviours
1. Asking questions
Provide full answers wherever possible. If this is not possible always find out the answer preferably by a date which you have specified.
2. Suggesting ideas
Support and build on ideas which come from your team. If you do not like an idea, explain why and solicit new ones
3. Being open about the ways things are.
Congratulate your team on being honest. Do not in any way become defensive or annoyed.
4. Talking about learning
Make a note about what your team members say and find an opportunity to refer to it.
5. Taking risks / experimenting
Give your team positive strokes if they have tackled tasks in a different or better way and explain the benefits of taking risks. If something did not work, take a positive attitude and explain that if the activity was not tried, then you would never have found out what works and what doesn’t. Encourage your team members by asking them what they are going to try next.

As a leader, you should always encourage your team towards the benefits of continuous learning. When the above recommended behaviours have become daily practice, you should identify other behaviours which can further enhance your team’s performance. Similarly, you should generate new re-enforcers to complement existing behaviours if the ones you utilise become overused or taken for granted.

2. How to Maintain a Learning Culture

One effective method for maintaining a learning culture in the workplace, is to form and develop strong learning partnerships.

The partnership can extend to parties such as learning buddies, coaches, mentors, colleagues, programme facilitators etc., but the relationship between an individual and their manager (both matrix and line) is critical for future success.

The stronger the relationship, the greater the impact on performance and results.

Leader Accountabilities
Actions for Win-Win Partnerships
Nurture a learning culture
  • Communicate – discuss with individual team members ‘how’ and ‘why’ and ‘where’ they each learn best.
  • Make learning part of the job – encourage all members of your team towards continuous learning by actively recognising significant daily experiences as opportunities for learning. ‘Diet not injections’.
  • Share learning experiences – incorporate into team meetings an agenda item to focus on “what have you learnt from individual experiences this week?” If everyone shares their individual experiences then everyone is able to gain additional learning from hearing about others’ experiences.
  • Lead by example – perception is all important so practice what you preach by actively demonstrating your accountability for your own personal development, coaching individuals at all suitable opportunities and actively sharing your own learning experiences.
Support ‘formal’ learning processes
  • PDP – encourage team members to create ‘smart’ development objectives and to keep these up to date and discuss the implementation and evaluation of these plans throughout the year.
  • Coaching – if coaching is an integral part of your daily activities then you are using one of the most effective methods to maintain a learning culture and building capability.
  • Pre and Post Course Discussions – take a few minutes with individuals prior to them attending training workshops to double check their objectives and which areas of job performance these should impact. Similarly take time after course attendance to discuss their confidence in actually delivering the agreed objective and what, if any, additional help they may need.
Recognise and Reward Payback
  • Success leads to more success – well implemented development plans will in most cases achieve the desired results. Recognize, celebrate and reward individual and team payback from learning and the impact on results on an appropriate basis.


  • Take accountability for developing your team – you’re empowered.
  • Experiment with the behaviours recommended to create and nurture an effective learning culture within your team and utilise the ones you personally find the most effective.
  • Strive to cultivate effective learning and development partnerships with each member of your team by fulfilling the leadership accountabilities of this partnership.

We hope this guide to developing a learning culture in the workplace will assist your personal development and help to build your capability and performance.



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Written by Stephen A Isherwood