Creating a Learning Culture

Wouldn’t it be great if all your employees were rockstars? What if your company had minimal drama, an entire team of employees willing to go the extra mile, an attrition rate below 10%, and a roster of creative thinkers that could solve any problem you came across? Most business owners look at these goals and shake their head as dollar signs add up in the back of their mind.

In reality, these goals can be achieved through offering training and through creating a learning culture as much as through monetary incentives. Investing in your team can mean more than simply lining their pockets. Take the time to invest in their career growth and a culture that supports exploration. Studies show that companies with a strong learning culture have better employee retention, higher ROI, and are generally more innovative and adaptive.

It just takes a few simple steps to show your employees you care. Then you can advance your team’s skills and reward their hard work at the same time and for a single cost. Interested yet?

Step 1: Analyze your current learning initiatives

59% of employees claim they had no workplace training and that most of their skills were self-taught” according to a study by Lorman. In our experience, most companies offer some sort of onboarding and a few days or a week of shadowing before abandoning their employees to figure out the rest of their new role. This system leaves the company vulnerable to inefficiencies caused by inconsistent processes and to high turnover rates when frustrated employees leave.

When you think about it, if you want to build a relationship with someone that will last the next five to ten years, you need to invest more than a week’s worth of time. Good relationships are built of mutual trust, understanding, and appreciation, and your employee’s relationship to your company is the same. You can establish check ins and support avenues where employees can get help in needed areas as their roles change. These small changes will provide the added benefit of alerting you when there is a problem or downtrend in your market and helping you find hidden potential in individual employees that can be leveraged into rockstar skills.

Sound like a lot? That’s okay. Creating check points and support-based learning opportunities doesn’t have to be the job of the CEO alone. It can involve every team member at every level of the company and can occur in varying degrees of frequency. The first step is realizing that learning is an ongoing process, especially in the corporate setting.

Step 2: Establish ongoing learning

That said, ongoing learning doesn’t mean you need to provide training every week. It means you need to create touchpoints through team meetings or additional programs that enable your employees to grow their skills.

74% of surveyed employees feel they aren’t reaching full potential at work due to lack of development opportunities.” Ongoing learning gives your employees a chance to learn from each other. This builds an environment of collaboration, which has been proven to make teams more successful and prevents the island effect, which lowers attrition. That means less turnover and more invested workers.

If your onboarding ends after a few weeks, consider adding something as simple as a weekly team check in where similar role types can compare notes on how to be more efficient and on what challenges they may be collectively facing in that position. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs to be dedicated time for them to discuss and improve. Once that is in place, you can take the next step and incentivize longer learning programs.

Step 3: Incentivize learning

“62% of adults in the United States seek career development opportunities when considering job opportunities,” but small companies can struggle to fit everyone into higher-level roles, and it can be unsustainable to give endless raises year over year when revenue is low. Instead of incentivizing your team with rewards trips, raises, and PTO, you can incentivize learning goals. That way, learning is a reward for exceptional team members and the reward itself trains those team members to take on more responsibility. That means you always have fully trained team members ready to step up when roles open up, and you can give monetary incentives alongside additional responsibilities. It’s a win for everyone involved.

Start by creating a leadership development program, whether it be for team leads or managers or whether it just covers basic leadership skills that can be applied across the board. Employees can enter the program one of two ways: enterprising individuals can request access, proving their drive to succeed, or managers can recommend the quietly dedicated employees as recognition. Membership in this semi exclusive program should be widely celebrated, which shows those employees how valued they are.

Once employees have completed the program, those employees are then eligible for promotions and raises. This creates a clear growth path—even if a higher-level position isn’t open when an employee enters the program—limits workplace drama over who was promoted and why, and allows businesses to have a testing ground for potential leadership. Many companies face difficulties with promoting excellent employees who are rockstars at their role but who struggle to deal with the adjustment to management responsibilities. Incentivizing learning allows the company to feel out the right fit, which brings us to the final step in creating a learning culture.

Step 4: Embrace mistakes

In general, people do their best to avoid, cover up, and downplay mistakes at every opportunity. While this seems like a good practice on the surface, it actually hurts your company. By embracing mistakes, both your own and others, you create an open line of communication where team members can discuss their challenges and come up with solutions collaboratively. We find that companies who don’t do this often have extremely competitive environments where issues take longer to surface and are therefore bigger before they do.

It’s been said that CEO’s make 90% of their decisions with only 10% of the relative information. Creating an open, collaborative environment where everyone can learn from each other can help you offset that imbalance. The ability to experiment and make mistakes has launched several fortune 500 companies to success by creating room for innovation and allowing space for lower-level employees with unique insights to speak up without fear of reprisal.

Additionally, open cultures are more fun to work in. Employees get along better when there is less competition, and goals become a company initiative instead of individual initiatives. Think about it; if you are trying to win a tug-of-war with all your competitors on the other side, do you want your team pulling the rope with you, or will you go it alone?


Overall a learning environment leads to more success, plain and simple. You don’t have to try everything all at once; take the above steps one at a time and learn along the way. Any decision you make should be adapted to your team and your company, but if there is one thing to be learned from learning . . . it’s that it never hurts to try.