A Framework to Measure Learning Culture
The Business Case for Learning Culture
In 2014, Satya Nadella was appointed CEO of Microsoft becoming the third CEO of a company whose aura had started to fade. His job involved leading a 130,000-employee company famous for its culture of extreme competition. The revolution he has since accomplished is now a striking example of cultural change, with learning at the core. When questioned about this, Microsoft’s CMO Chris Capossela said , “We went from a culture of know-it-alls to a culture of learn-it-alls”. Since Nadella took over, Microsoft’s share price has tripled. Nadella credits Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, who framed the notion of Growth Mindset, with defining his philosophy on company culture.
This would advocate for a strong correlation between Learning Culture and company performance. Indeed a research study by Bersin shows that “organizations with a strong Learning Culture significantly outperform their peers”.
The 4 Pillars of a Strong Learning Culture
When we observe organizations with a strong Learning Culture, we can identify four main characteristics:
- Managers are actively involved in the development of their teams, to facilitate daily learning, skill development through training, coaching, mentoring, and by just showing the example, learning and growing themselves
- People permanently share and learn from others, learning from collaborative work, feedback, or discussions with colleagues, experts, partners, customers, or even competitors
- Resources and development opportunities are readily available in sufficient quantity and quality: knowledge, tools, training, coaching, mentoring… and other opportunities to improve knowledge, skills, and performance
- People have a strong Learning Agility: a high capacity and motivation to learn from daily experiences, successes and failures, and an active role in one’s own development
And to have widespread and sustainable practices on each of these four pillars, the organization will need to have the adequate values and processes.
The Foundations of a Strong Learning Culture
Several researchers have studied the prerequisites of a strong Learning Culture, and most of the time these foundations will be found in the Organizational Culture. As this is a world rich of competing frameworks and overlapping concepts, any short list of items is likely to be seen as partial and inadequate. However, we have identified four elements that are critical to making a strong Learning Culture possible:
- Trust and Respect: Is there enough trust and psychological safety between individuals at all levels of the organization, so that decisions can be taken with a minimum of bureaucracy, and everyone can feel accepted and respected?
- Shared Mission: Does everyone within the organization share the same vision and purpose? Do they actively collaborate to achieve the same objectives?
- Openness to New Ideas and Experimentation: Are new ideas and experimentation sought out and welcome whatever their origin? Do people accept and support change when it is needed?
- Continuous Improvement: Is there a constant drive to improve performance across the whole organization?
The Formetris Framework of Learning Culture
Many models and studies describing Learning Culture already exist. If you are interested to know more about some of them, we strongly recommend reading Nigel Paine’s recent book “Workplace Learning”.
Our ambition has been to create a framework that would make it possible to measure Learning Culture and easily identify the main levers for improvement in each case. As leaders in learning analytics, we believe that Learning Culture should become a Key Performance Indicator as important as Employee Engagement (see our previous article “Learning Culture Fuels all HR Missions”).
This framework has been designed to be used in a 2-step process:
1. The measurement of practices on the four main pillars of Learning Culture: Managers’ Involvement, Sharing and Learning from Others, Resources and Development Opportunities, and Learning Agility.
2. For any area of improvement identified, a further analysis is done to identify if the root cause is coming from the Organizational Culture or from the processes and values sustaining it.
In the next article, we will walk you through more of the details of this methodology.
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