Last updated: 21.07.22

Building positive learning cultures in organisations - is it actually a problem?

Following our roundtable event, Jez Anderson, Learning Solutions Consultant, summarises what he felt were the key take aways from all the discussions that took place around developing a learning culture. Here are his thoughts...


Last week I had the great pleasure of this event on behalf of Virtual College. The discussion with 21 likeminded L&D colleagues focused on one topic, developing a culture of learning and one question – “How do you ensure you embed learning at an individual, team and organisational level?”

Learning culture is, and probably always will be a bit of hot topic for L&D; and whilst I don’t think anyone really thinks there’s a quick fix, we do seem obsessed with trying to reduce the challenge of building a learning culture, in the quest to find as simple a solution as possible.

However, what became very obvious during our event was that in practice we don’t seem so seduced by the ‘single solution’ or ‘silver bullet’ as some would believe. If the colleagues who shared their thoughts and experiences are typical (and I’m sure they are) as L&D professionals we are pragmatic, creative and realistic about the things we can do to engender positive learning cultures in our organisations.

As a commentator it’s tempting to try and boil the outputs of our discussions into a three-step model or something similar.  But then I’d be as guilty as others who try to reduce what is a complex and difficult concept to the lowest possible denominator. So rather than fall into that trap I thought I’d share some of the practical things our colleagues are doing to build learning engagement and create positive learning environments and cultures.

  • Produce a weekly 7-minute video briefing (which includes some learning) and send it to everyone so it can be discussed in team meetings – the goal being to make learning part of the working week and not a ‘special event’
  • Produce and curate 1-minute short micro learning snapshots about the important topics of the day and send them to people’s desktops – not intended to deliver on specific learning outcomes but to create professional curiosity
  • Produce a regular podcast and some short videos that can support self-directed learning – attempting to reach people with different sorts of material and content when and where they can and want to access it - ‘get people at different points in the day’
  • Using the learning platform to send out 2 personalised questions a day for everyone to answer – practical use of basic AI to tailor and personalise ‘mandatory’ content

Okay, some of these may not be either appropriate or in your grasp, so if not, what are the other practical things you can do to build your learning culture?  Our participants had a few ideas there too.

  • Getting the genuine support and advocacy of senior managers and leaders
  • Listen to the learners – not just in terms of their content requirements but how, when and where they want to engage in learning
  • Social Learning has its place but to get it right it’s about creating and nurturing the right conditions not just providing a shiny new ‘social networking’ tool
  • Understanding why a learner wants to learn is an important part of getting and maintaining engagement – if they don’t perceive they’re getting any value from it they are more likely to disengage

So, what did I take away from our session? Firstly L&D teams have got on board with technology and are using it creatively and pragmatically to help their learners learn for themselves.  Whilst formal learning is still alive and well, we seem to have woken up to the fact that learning is happening all the time and our role is to encourage, enable and support – not own, control and police. I’d say that learning cultures are doing just fine.  Maybe L&D leaders should worry a little bit less about ‘developing’ it and maintain their focus on supporting their teams who are delivering it?