The keys to influencing culture

In the final article of our series, Laura Overton provides practical, evidence-based insights into influencing culture.


Modern workplaces need to have a culture of continuous learning. It’s generally recognised now that learning is not a one-off event, such as three days on a management training course, and that’s it, job done.

Learning is something that happens all the time, partly because change is happening continuously and we have to keep up. L&D professionals have to keep learning and our customers have to keep learning. However, many of us are finding it hard to achieve this organisational learning culture. Technology can help us in our quest, but it can also hinder us.

Nine out of ten of us are looking to support the way that an organisation learns for itself. In fact, if we look at the Towards Maturity research we can see that L&D leaders are seeking some particular culture-related outcomes:

  • 98% want to increase the ongoing sharing of good practice
  • 97% want to increase the ability to personalise programmes to individual need/context
  • 94% want to improve talent strategies to keep the best people
  • 93% want to integrate learning into the workflow
  • 90% want to drive business innovation
  • 87% want to increase the ability to attract talent
  • 77% want to build capability of organisations to solve problems

But, this much-desired, much-needed organisational learning culture is proving elusive for many of us – the average achievement of goals relating to culture is 17%. It does rise to 46% for Top Deck organisations, those in the top 10% of our benchmarking index.

And, if you break down the figures, then the proportion of those achieving four or more goals in influencing culture, drops significantly at this stage, with only 8% achieving it. We call that 8% the culture achievers. Again, the Top Deck perform better at 36%.

So what are the culture achievers and the Top Deck doing that is helping them to achieve a learning culture? We identified five key tactics:

  • Encouraging ownership of learning
  • Making content easier to find
  • Identifying opportunities to support learning in the workflow
  • Begin and end formal learning in the workplace
  • Celebrating and sharing successes

Let’s take a look at the first tactic – encouraging ownership of learning – and see how that can help bring about a learning culture. Research shows that the majority (81%) of culture achievers are encouraging ownership of learning.

They agree that their people understand how their work is linked to the organisation’s performance. For non-achievers, the figure is 51%. Culture achievers are also significantly ahead of non-achievers in terms of employees knowing how to connect and share – 49% versus 15%.

Considering the value of connectivity and knowledge sharing, this is something that both culture achievers and non-achievers need to work on.

What about the Top Deck? They are more likely to say that their employees are able to determine their own paths through the learning opportunities available in their organisations – 49% compared to 29% of the rest. As regards employees contributing their own learning resources to share with others, the number is 23%, compared to 7% of the rest.

Now there’s an important statistic coming up with regards to employee engagement: 67% of the Top Deck have noticed positive changes in employee behaviour as a result of their learning engagement, compared to 17% of the rest.

A lot of employees like the fact that they are in charge of how, when and how fast they are learning. They like the ability to learn at their own pace.

We delved a bit deeper into how employees are taking control of their learning and why. We took a look at learning from the other side of the fence – from the learner perspective. What did we find? Firstly, the vast majority (89%) of staff think that they are responsible for managing their own learning and development.

The next question is: how and where are they doing it? Over half (60%) learn more by finding things out for themselves than they do from formal courses. Learners are pretty adept at finding the information they need – 82% know what learning they need, with 68% knowing how to access it. And 79% know what on-the-job support they need, with 64% knowing how to access it.

A lot of employees like the fact that they are in charge of how, when and how fast they are learning. They like the ability to learn at their own pace.

All this research shows how savvy employees are and how committed they are to advancing their own personal learning, much more so than a lot of us L&D professionals realise. Take a look at these statistics:

  • 72% of employees have a clear personal plan about what they want to learn and why
  • 63% know how to build a personal network to help them learn
  • 70% curate topics that interest them and file for future reference. However, only 39% publish curated content to share with others
  • 73% make time to reflect on what they have learned

Think about these four data points for a moment. Now think back to the statistic I shared earlier: nine out of ten of us are looking to support the way that an organisation learns for itself. The good news here is that learners are doing what we as L&D want them to do – taking control of their learning. Now we need to build on this to create and embed great learning cultures.



Discover the keys to success by benchmarking

Having line-management buy-in is just one tactic that top performing organisations are using to improve efficiency. If you want to see how your strategy compares and find out what actions you should be prioritising at the moment, benchmarking is a great place to start. Identify the tactics that will deliver greater impact for your organisation at:


About the author

Laura Overton is founder and CEO of benchmarking and research organisation Towards Maturity. See latest news on Twitter at #TMbenchmark.


Read part four from Laura here


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