So much of learning is “caught, not taught.” No one recognizes the value of a firm foundation of formal training more than executives and HR leaders like you. And yet, you can’t do it all. You need a culture of learning that leverages the training you provide to create impromptu, unscripted opportunities to grow. Great organizations know that formal training programs get the greatest results within a broader culture of learning. By creating this culture of learning, you can be a catalyst to growth for leaders in your organization, accelerating productivity, increasing satisfaction, and giving your organization a competitive edge.

So how do you create a culture of learning in your organization? How can you encourage it to be a collaborative environment where learning takes place as an extension of your corporate identity?

While certainly not exhaustive, here are 8 ways you can start creating a culture of learning:

  1. Model it. Everything rises and falls on leadership; consequently, leaders must first embody a learning culture if they expect it to happen in the organizations they lead. You can set the example by asking questions as you “walk through the halls” and make it your aim to learn at least one new thing every day as a result of those questions.
  2. Keep it fun. Good leaders never forget that people are, well, human. They make sure learning opportunities are engaging, thoughtful, and fun in some way. For example, when McDonald’s implemented their new registers into their restaurants, they created an online game that was fun and interactive in how it taught the employees to use the register.
  3. Recognize learning leaders. Implement opportunities for leaders who embrace a culture of learning to receive recognition. Shine a spotlight on their efforts, remembering that what gets rewarded, gets repeated. Provide opportunities to listen to their feedback as to what is and is not working.
  4. Incentivize learning. Offer promotions, perks, or special benefits to those who embrace learning new skills and teaching others. Team members will be more encouraged to share knowledge and information and you will make a statement about what is truly important in your company culture.
  5. Give 24/7 access to learning resources. Equip your teams with anytime access by using file-sharing/swapping tools or the best online platforms to host your learning resources. By making it as easy as possible, you’ll eliminate friction and the opportunity for excuses. As a bonus, sharing tools can encourage teams to easily add to existing resources to facilitate self-teaching and the informal teaching of others.
  6. Encourage team members to teach. Your teams shouldn’t have to wait for formal training from outside. They can produce their own training content to be used internally. You’ll be amazed by how many experts you have within your organization when you give them the opportunity to share their knowledge with others. Be sure to promote and reward the team members who produce meaningful and beneficial information.
  7. Allow mistakes. A culture of learning will experience mistakes – they’re part of the learning process. But you can intentionally turn mistakes into learning opportunities by creating a forum to discuss why the failure happened and why team members can learn from the failure. This move can demonstrate your company’s commitment to continuous improvement.
  8. Allow team members to choose. Empower your employees to learn what they want to learn or create their own projects. Every student is most motivated to learn about something that interests him or her at the time. Many successful organizations allow their team members to pursue their own interests or create their own projects. For example, Google implemented “20% time” where employees were expected to spend 20% of their time working on their own projects that would benefit the company and its customers in some way. Gmail, Adsense, and Google News were all created because of their “20% time.” As a result of this ownership of the learning process, team members feel valued, nurtured, and respected as individuals, even as they are becoming better equipped to benefit the organization.

You can empower your people to innovate by empowering them with a culture of learning. Many organizations we work with find it helpful to leverage the power of coaching to guide key employees to deliver their best and learn the most. Our veteran corporate coaching team uses the proven 5 Levels of Leadership paradigm to unite the best of both learning approaches–formal and informal–and guide key employees on how to best lead others and create a dynamic, thriving, culture of learning.