BLOC Podcast

48: The Core of Learning Culture

April 19, 2022 Episode 48
BLOC Podcast
48: The Core of Learning Culture
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I talk about learning culture - a term with a really broad definition that comes down to a human being learning. If we think about what it takes for human beings to learn, we can leverage those conditions to create a positive learning culture.

I also announce my new side hustle: learning culture and strategy consulting.

Connect with Heidi on LinkedIn: or on my website:

Thanks for listening to the BLOC!

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

Or check out what I'm working on over at


Hello, and welcome to the block the building learning and organizational culture podcast. I'm your host, Heidi Kirby. And on today's episode, we're talking about the core of learning culture. So learning culture is something that I'm sure you've read about or seen or heard. It's talked about a lot on social media, and I'm guilty of this too. But sometimes when we talk about learning culture, on social media, it can be very over simplified, right. And what happens in tends to happen in social media posts is, you've got this like, great concept, right, like, leadership, l&d instructional design, and all you have space for is to either do like a deep dive into one part of that really broad category, or make like really oversimplified general statements about that category. So that's where you have some of these conversations that seem a little bit vague about learning culture and what it is and what it entails. And so one of the things that I would like to point out is learning culture is as ambiguous as leadership, right? These things can have different definitions, depending on who you are, where you work, what your size of your organization is, whether it's a brick and mortar or fully remote organization, what kinds of org structure you have. So what are the different levels of leadership at your organization? What different avenues do you have to learning? It also depends on the industry, right? Because the upskilling, that's required might be different, depending on the industry you're in. If you're in government, or a highly regulated industry, there's probably some more upskilling, that needs to happen, then a small company that's been doing the things the same way for 30 years, right? And so, learning culture is about as ambiguous and as widely defined in many different ways as leadership. But what I want to talk about today, is what's at the core of the learning culture. And that's a person learning, right? At the core of learning culture is a person learning, right? A human being learning. So if we remember that, what are some of the different ways that we can build and foster a positive learning culture no matter our organization? Its size or industry, whatever, no matter how you define that learning culture, what are some common consistencies with how can we help human beings learn? And there's that old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink, right? And so how do we get people to learn? How do we get human beings to learn? And what are the conditions that need to take place for that to happen to have a positive learning culture? The episode that I aired last time was about psychological safety and toxic workplaces. For someone to feel like they are in a learning culture, where they have the space, the time, the energy, the mental fortitude, to learn, they have to feel psychologically safe. If you're constantly afraid of punishment of someone criticizing your work, or someone criticizing how you approach your work, or someone criticizing when you log on or watching your every move or seeing what you're doing all throughout your day, you're probably not going to feel very confident spending part of that day learning, you're going to try and appear productive in like the traditional sense of like, am I putting the cog on the wheel or you know, whatever it whatever it is, but when your ideas are valued, when your questions are valued, when your thoughts that are different than other people's thoughts are valued. That's when you really have an environment of psychological safety. And that's where you can really start to learn. Right, and one of my good l&d pals Matt Smith posted on LinkedIn And last week about how there's no diversity without some debate, right? And you can't really have a lot of different ideas coming together without some of them clashing, right. And so in a learning culture, you are going to have different ideas, you're going to have competing ideas, you're going to have competing priorities, you're going to have people who have an agenda that maybe is different than yours. But it's not about trying to make everyone live the same life or be on the same wavelength, if you will. It's about what do you do when that conflict happens? What do you do when an idea is brought up? That is the opposite of what you thought? And how do you handle that? How do you approach that? That discord, and how do you make it into a productive conversation. And I think that that's really important, because the conditions where you're able to bring forth ideas without punishment, where you're able to be vulnerable, and share your frustrations or your feelings without punishment is hugely important to a positive learning culture. Another thing that's important for learning culture is that people understand what's expected of them. I've seen a couple of times where organizations try to promote and build and grow a learning culture. But they have no way to assess their employees current performance. So they might launch a Learning Program, or they might partner with somebody to do like leadership development or professional development, or they bring in vendors or you know, this, that and the other. But there's no way currently in place to assess employee performance. And there's nothing that's being put in place before learning programs are being introduced. And so internally, if you don't have a way to show people what they need to upskill, on, where their career path would lead them, you know, what the opportunities are for them to learn and grow? How are they good to know what they should be focusing on when you present them with learning content? Right? I've also seen organizations who provide ginormous libraries of learning content to people and say, Hey, go learn things. But if that's not part of your job, and you can't do that, in a way that feels productive, or in a way that is supported by leadership, because it's not what's thought of as traditionally productive, then you can run into some obstacles and learning can become something that's punished rather than encouraged. Because, oh, well, you know, Bill spent five hours last week, just going and doing courses. And why is he doing that I need him to be working on this project that he said he was going to work on. And so that kind of lack of expectations around not just learning, but also employee performance, in general, can be really detrimental to a learning culture. On that same note, people need to have the time and the motivation to learn, right? Think about and this is my, my, if you've heard, if you've heard me talk ever, you know that my favorite Fallback is? How do people learn when they're not at work? Look at that, observe that and then copy that for the work environment, right. And so if you think about the last thing that you learned outside of work for fun, quote, unquote, if it was fun, or practical, right, like maybe something broke in your home and you needed to fix it, how did you learn what you needed to do? To to accomplish that? Right? And did you put it off? And I asked that because one of the things that comes to mind when I think okay, what's the last thing that I really dug into and learned how to do and a few months back, I learned how to pick a lock, one of those, like, four button locks that has the key that goes on your doorknob. The realtor left one on our house when we purchased our home. This was now about a year and a half ago when we bought our house. And so it had been on there we had sent emails we'd called and hey can you come get this lockbox and nothing? So it took some time to muster up the time and the motivation chillin. But literally, we were sitting there, I think it was like right after Christmas. And I was like, I'm gonna get that lockbox off tonight, I'm gonna figure out how to do it. So I watched some YouTube videos, I did some Googling, and I figured out how to get the lockbox off and I did it. It took it took some time. Look, it was not as easy as the guy made it look in the YouTube video. But had the time had the motivation. I got that lock box off. And it's the same with humans at work. Do they have time to learn? Right? How can you promote a learning culture where your employees spend 80% of their time in meetings? Right? How can you promote a learning culture where people are working 50 hours a week just to meet deadlines, it becomes really difficult and really tough to say, hey, take some time for you take some time to learn takes some time to develop when there's not a lot of time to be given. Right. And so having that time and that motivation, allowing people the time to learn or better yet, what I suggest is kind of rolling all of these three things into one, right psychological safety, expectations and time and motivation. Make upskilling make learning make some kind of career or professional development, one of your employees performance metrics, get a goal that's related to that upskilling and assign it to them. So now it is part of their day job. Now they do feel like they can take the time to learn. Now they feel like they're being productive when they're spending time learning on the clock. And that's a really great way to also embedded in the culture of the organization. Because if everyone has a goal related to leadership or professional development, everyone's going to be working towards that. And you are going to have a learning culture by default, it might not be a great one or a positive one yet, but you've got a really great start. The final thing I want to present to you is that a learning culture cannot happen if people are not engaged. If people don't find the learning content, interesting, relevant, timely, then they're probably not going to spend the time to learn what it is you want them to learn. If it doesn't appear, that time has been put into developing the learning content, it's probably not going to get a lot of usage. Or if it's just really not relevant. So having a strong lnd team in place, who understands learning science, instructional design, virtual instructor led training, if that is what you're planning on doing in person training, if that's what you're planning on doing. Having professionals who know those fields, know those delivery methods is so critically important. Because you want to reach the widest audience possible. And you want to provide people different paths to the same learning experience. Now. What does that mean? I'm not talking about learning styles, we've busted that myth. I'm not talking about andragogy learning, good learning, it's good learning and providing people multiple different ways to consume learning content has been in my experience, the best way to cast the widest net and reach the most amount of people. I prefer to consume content in multiple ways. And I prefer to change it up. Right. So one day, I'll read a book, a real book Paper. The next day, I'll be reading on my Kindle. The next day, I'll be listening to an audiobook. The next day, I'll be listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video. And I like to have like, I like to have variety. I like to hear it from different sources because depending on what I'm doing, if I'm listening to a podcast, maybe I take some notes, right? Or if I'm watching a video, maybe I'm like working along with that video. Like there's just different ways that you can interact with different types of content. And providing people an option of how they want to interact with your content is a really great way to get people engaged. We could talk about learner engagement all day. This is seriously one of like those rabbit holes that I was talking about where if you If you wanted to post about learning engagement in and its relationship to learning culture, you would need more than just one social media posts for that. So maybe we'll talk about that again in another episode. But again, I just wanted to reiterate that when we're talking about learning culture, we're talking at the core, about a human being learning. And human beings can only learn when conditions are right. And one more time, I want to reiterate, for people to learn, they need to feel psychologically safe. They need to understand what's being expected of them. They need to have both the time and the motivation to learn. And they need to be engaged when they're learning. And if you have all those things in place, and if you're building all of those things, you can create a really positive learning culture. And if you're not there yet, I've started a new side hustle, learning culture and strategy consulting, to help you get there. And I'm currently piloting one hour product feedback and one hour learning strategy sessions to help you if you're building a learning program, if you want some guidance on leadership or professional development, and how to align that with your core values and business goals, if you are building a learning team for the first time and want some insight on how to build a team or which players to get in the l&d space, if you have an ed tech or learning product, and you're looking for features and accessibility, feedback, anything related to strategy and creating a learning experience, I would love to meet with you and help you and if you go to my website, Heidi You can sign up for a free 15 minute consultation and one hour learning strategy sessions. So again, just a little side side hustle that I'm starting because I love talking all things learning culture and strategy and want to help people lead the best learning teams possible. Thanks again for joining me on the blog. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with friends and review us on your favorite podcast platform. I hope you'll tune in again soon.