Learning needs of your workers vary greatly. According to the 2018 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn, 68 percent of employees prefer to learn at work, 58 percent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace and 49 percent of employees prefer to learn at the point of need. “Talent developers are depending more on online learning solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce,” officials wrote in the LinkedIn report. 

Why a Culture of Learning Matters

Why is a culture of learning important for organizations? According to the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, building a culture of learning is a “significant enabler of a 21st-century career.” Deloitte researchers found that companies that “openly discuss mistakes to promote learning are three times more profitable and have up to four times better retention than those that do not.” Researchers also found that companies are deploying self-directed learning tools to help employees find the content they need, take courses and share knowledge with colleagues. Some companies are even pushing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to provide employees with new ways to interact with their physical workplace and gain access to on-demand learning materials.

Learning in a corporate environment is a competitive differentiator for companies, according to Edward D. Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia. Hess said in a 2017 report for the Society for Human Resource Management that in a corporate world where “raw technology is cheap and widely available,” the quality of an organization’s human workforce and having employees who are able to “think, relate and learn continuously” is crucial.

How are some organizations embracing learning in their workplaces today? We’ve caught up with some organizations and an expert on workplace learning who shared what inspires a strong learning culture in the workplace.

Related Article: Why a Learning Culture Will Scale Your Company's Success

Tata Consulting Services: Mobile, Fun Learning Culture

Mumbai, India-based Tata Consulting Services (TCS) has close to 400,000 employees located globally. Learning and investing in the skills and education of their own people is a major initiative, according to Dinanath Kholkar, TCS global head of analytics and insights. “Our CEO (Rajesh Gopinathan) is very clear that people will never become obsolete; technology will become obsolete,” Kholkar said in an interview with CMSWire. “And that's the basic mantra. As an organization, we have always believed on learning and sharing. That's a core part of our value system.”

TCS banks on its belief that it can re-skill and up-skill its workforce on new emerging technologies. “So as an organization, we're focused and have invested a very significant amount of money in our own people.”

TCS has implemented a learning infrastructure on the foundation of mobile. Their mobile app Fresco Play is a gamification learning platform designed to help employees keep up to speed on the latest in digital technology advancements like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. “Earlier learning used to be on a web-based application where people log in and have their web-based training modules right there,” Kholkar said. “We've completely gone mobile.”

TCS called the app Fresco Play because, as Kholkar said, “learning should be accompanied with a lot of fun.” Employees score points and compete with other employees. Learning modules from partners like SAP, Microsoft and Google are integrated for advanced-level certifications. The organization is able to track employees as they learn and gain certifications. That means if a particular skillset is needed for a client project, it’s easy to determine who can help through their learning infrastructure. “It's become a very core thing for us as a business,” Kholkar said of the Fresco Play app and learning culture at TCS. “The other thing which is very important for us is that we believe very strongly in mobility of our people: how we keep people very agile in learning through the mobility that we are enabling for people. It’s fundamental as an organization that we look at growth and mobility of people in this context.”

NewAir Appliances: Creating ‘Passion Projects’

Andrew Stephenson, director of product marketing at NewAir Appliances, has nine marketers on his team. Most, he said, are straight out of school, so they lack work and industry knowledge. “Being focused mainly on digital marketing, it's important that my team stay up to date on the ever-changing medium,” Stephenson said. In his organization, each marketing team member is allowed to do an ongoing “passion project." They can spend up to one day per week on it, or a total of eight hours per week. It has to be marketing related. It has to help make an impact on the company and its marketing efforts. It needs to be measurable.

Learning Opportunities

“As an example one woman on my team said she'd like to learn more and manage the company Pinterest account,” Stephensen said. “So we set up some goals around that and she manages and runs all the management and content. Because she doesn't know a ton about the platform and because she raised her hand to manage it, she's naturally educating herself about it.” 

Related Article: Are You a Self-Learning Enterprise?

Presentations on Marketing, Book Program

Further, as part of the team member's job descriptions they're to do one 30-minute presentation on a marketing topic of their choice. Each person will present once quarterly. The team also has mentor meetings, where Stephenson meets with individuals every two weeks to discuss any other marketing-related topics they want to learn more about. 

The company also sports a “Book Clue” program. “The company president is an avid reader and we have a 'library' of business books in our boardroom that anyone can take home to read,” Stephenson said. “In addition, our monthly company newsletter, the president shares some insights on a recent business/leadership book that he's read.” 

Make Training Short, Relevant

Thomas E. Boyce, Ph.D., told CMSWire that organizations should make training timely and relevant. Don't assume, he said, what employees need. Ask them and provide the training in a timely fashion. Shorter sprints of training are better than longer courses with a lot of information.

Boyce suggests setting up a peer-tutor model of training or learning groups of those employees working toward a common goal. Also, provide suggestions, he said, for on-demand online training to supplementary in-class training.

Further, invest into your trainers' training. “Not everyone has the skill set to effectively transmit information in a learning environment,” Boyce said. “Just because you are technically proficient at task does not make you effective at teaching it. Create an expectation of learning from the highest levels of your organization to motivate participation in training and also the willingness of supervisors to send their direct reports to relevant training.”