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5 Steps to Build a Learning Culture

Building a learning culture can help a business to succeed in developing talent to lead in the future and mobilizing employees to become more agile. But how do you implement a learning culture that can permeate the whole organization? We spoke with Dr. John-Maloney Phillips, an experienced HR leader to look at 5 ways a Learning Culture can be built.

Culture Cannot Be Implemented Overnight

A learning culture is an organizational environment that prioritizes and encourages continuous learning, growth, and development among its members. It fosters a mindset where individuals are motivated to seek knowledge, engage in self-driven learning, share insights, and apply new skills to improve both personal and collective performance.

Many organizations fall into the trap of buying the latest learning tools and content, thinking this will be the golden bullet to empower talent development, but without significant effort to enable and encourage uptake, this is likely to have minimal impact. Organizations are more likely to have success with a more basic set of solutions but with a strong plan in place to implement the learning that will encourage uptake, engage employees, and benefit all involved. To drive success, there are 5 steps that provide a good starting point to help build a learning culture.

5 Steps to Build a Learning Culture

1. Define Learning Goals

This seems obvious but first it’s important to understand the purpose of why you want to encourage employee and skills development. Most customers would expect the business they buy from to be at the forefront of their particular industry and up to date with the latest relevant technologies, research, and trends. However, there will be other goals such as trying to fill a skills gap in the organization or enabling employees to fulfil personal goals (e.g. budgeting) or keeping up with new trends like AI. By understanding what the end goal is, it will help define the steps to get there and the right tools and processes to put in place.

2. Communicate Benefits

In today’s world it is crucial to keep your skills up to date at every level and role. Unless you invest time in learning new skills, you aren’t, or soon won’t be employable. Communicating these benefits should help individuals understand that learning is not just about helping the organization but about helping themselves to progress within the organization or in their future careers.

3. Get Buy-in from Leadership

Leaders need to be supportive of learning to have any chance of success. As well as allowing time for their team to learn, they are key to encouraging uptake, reminding what resources are available and communicating benefits. Beside supporting learning in others, leaders also need to role model being an active learner themselves

4. Reward and Recognize

Performance management should include learning; any regular goals and reviews should have a learning element which could influence things like bonuses. Even if there is no financial reward, having learning as a key objective for individuals shows the importance that the organization is placing on development. Success should be celebrated, having leaders call out ‘learning heroes’ can be great motivation for employees to know their work is being noticed and appreciated and helps to reinforce the behaviors you want to see in employees.

5. Provide the Right Structure and Tools

Once goals are known, having effective tools that are easy to use and understand can make a huge difference. The best tools provide insight into skills gaps and areas to develop making it easy to distribute personalized development plans and provide a structured way for an organization to get the right resources in place and build transparent career development journeys.


There is no single way that a learning culture can be implemented, and each organization will have its own approach depending on their objectives but with forethought and an enabled leadership team, a successful learning culture can empower employees to take control of their careers and upskill, to the benefit themselves and the organization.

Get objective skills insights – at scale – to support your ‘build or buy’ talent strategy, and make smarter, more targeted development investments with SHL’s Skills Development Solution.


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Natalie Usher

Natalie has been heading up the Learning & Development team at SHL for 2.5 years but has worked in the learning space since 2012. She is passionate about delivering impactful learning programs and varied learning opportunities, empowering employees to own and drive their development and realize their potential. Outside work, she enjoys reading, watching films, and spending time with the people she loves.

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