One of the most neglected aspects of company culture, but one of the most important for innovation and success, is the creation and sustaining of a learning culture. A learning culture isn’t just something that happens by hiring intelligent people; it is a conscious embrace of developing and applying knew knowledge and experiences in the workplace to innovate and improve as an organization. But how do you tap into employees’ need to continue stretching and growing their minds in a way that will transform themselves and the organization for the better? Here are three tips to start the process.

  1. Understand how people learn and why
    Adults learn differently from children and learning in the workplace will not be anything like learning in school. Personal relationships are highly important, and the stronger a person’s network at work, the more they will learn. Your employees want to be treated like adults, and that means taking charge of their own learning rather than simply doing as an instructor says; this often takes the form of learning on the job, at their own pace, in the context of what they know and do, and in a way they can apply regularly. Like any learned skill, it only becomes permanent if it is applied.

  2. Model behaviors as a leader
    A learning culture doesn’t happen all on its own; it must be consciously developed and modeled by leaders. As Dwight Frindt of Vistage says, “A Learning Culture is one where the individuals and teams consciously invest in growing and developing themselves. In a Learning Culture, executives are purposeful about the impact of decisions and strategies on the fabric of cultural development.”  When people see that their leaders are serious about learning more about their jobs, about the world around them, and about the needs of people they work with, they will adapt more easily to organization expectations of taking time for education, consideration, creative ventures, and improving themselves as well.

  3. Make learning part of company life
    In a learning-based company culture, performance reviews can be about more than what the employee has done, but rather, what they have learned. On a daily basis, people at all levels in the company are encouraged to share their stories and things they have learned, and this spirit of openness will in turn lead employees to expect to open their minds to new perspectives. Constructive examination of company values, priorities, and methods can be used to come up with ideas to find new ways to work, rather than sticking with unsuccessful ways because of tradition and a fear of asking questions. This daily expectation to think bigger and explore new avenues will lead to company growth at every level.

How will your organization develop a learning culture for innovation, growth, and keep your employees’ brains engaged?