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Is it time for the death of learning culture?

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Learning culture has been a ‘new concept’ for a while now. But is it time for the ‘learning culture’ we’re familiar with to move forward, asks Coaching Culture CEO Jo Wright.

7th Feb 2022
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But is learning culture already on the decline? The title might be a little extreme, but there is an undeniable and critical change happening in the world of organisational development right now.

Learning culture is certainly not dead and gone, but it might be time for a death and rebirth to force a shift to a more relevant approach, 

No longer is it acceptable to just send your employees on a training course so that you can tick the ‘personal development’ box. Nor is it acceptable for employees to believe they are only being developed if they’ve been sent on a course. 

People consume their learning in so many different ways now. Learning opportunities are endless, sometimes even overwhelming. It’s certainly not a one size fits all solution. 

Not only that, but the arrival of the internet and social media has changed the way we learn forever. I don’t know about you, but Google is my best friend. There is just so much information at our fingertips. 

Create a set of values and the processes and practices which facilitate and encourage learning for the whole organisation

It’s time for the learning culture to move forward

I often get into debates about the term ‘learning culture’. Interestingly, there seems to be a number of definitions and I think our understanding of what a learning culture is has started to change. 

For such a long time, learning has been something that organisations have wanted to push, hoping that employees develop as a result of it. That’s just not been the most effective approach. 

Our definition of a true learning culture is about the organisation creating a set of values and the processes and practices which facilitate and encourage learning for the whole organisation. Not simply giving people more access to more training. 

L&D is competing with Google

L&D practitioners are on a new journey. They are now competing with my best friend, Google, and on-demand learning. To stay relevant and to ensure that they add the most value to an organisation, L&D needs to offer something that Google could never do and become the indispensable function rather than the first one to go when times get tough. 

L&D needs to think like marketers

This might take a shift in thinking, but L&D practitioners should want to change behaviours for the long term, not just provide a temporary sticking plaster solution. In order to do this, learning opportunities must be tailored for individual needs. L&D needs to think like a marketer. 

What does this even mean? Marketing is ultimately about influencing buying behaviour. Learning practitioners are there to influence personal, team and organisational growth by building capability, providing the right skills and tools, and shifting mindsets and behaviour for the long term. The principles are the same. 

L&D should curate, not create

L&D departments need to become curators of expert content to support their employees. Everybody has different learning needs. It’s time to promote L&D departments as true enablers of organisational learning mindsets, rather than content creators or organisers who send people on courses. 

It is all about facilitating an organisational mindset to raise levels of self-awareness, so individuals can choose their own development and the appropriate learning interventions to suit them. 

The answer has been there all along

And it’s coaching. Specifically, building a culture where everyone has the capability to have coaching conversations, so they happen day in and day out: conversations that help others to raise their self-awareness and to think through their own solutions. Coaching conversations not only lead to learning; they lead to growth. 

Our definition of a coaching culture is ‘a place where authentic leaders and managers help people to grow, thrive and perform through effective conversations and honest feedback, underpinned by trust’. 

Learning needs to take place within this context: a context of self-awareness and deeper insight into personal values so people can make the right choices throughout their careers. It’s about knowing strengths and weaknesses, values and behaviours, motivational drivers, career aspirations and so much more. 

We have been entering the era of the coaching culture for a long time now.

From tell to ask

Capability building and the desire to learn run deeper than simply acquiring knowledge and skills. More and more organisations are now recognising the value in true development when people are empowered to think for themselves and create their own solutions, because when they think for themselves, they change their behaviours. The pandemic has taught us so much, putting issues like wellbeing and resilience not only on the agenda but at the top of the priority list, and coaching conversations are a great way to build trust with our people and really get to know what matters to them.

Coaching has the potential to transform organisations

We have been entering the era of the coaching culture for a long time now. This is how we’ll develop our people to be great leaders and managers. This is how we’ll attract the right talent and retain it. This is how we’ll foster the right cultures to succeed in the fast-moving world we live in. 

The world has changed and the way we all now learn and develop has transformed. And we want organisations to recognise the incredible potential that has to offer.

We’d love you to join our Coaching Culture Community for further insights and resources and to share your views with us!

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