“Any genuine teaching will result, if successful, in someone knowing how to bring about a better condition of things than existed earlier.” John Dewey (1859 – 1952) American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. 

A ‘Learning Organisation’ is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its employees and continuously transforms itself. Learning organisations develop because of the pressures faced by modern organisations and it enables them to remain competitive in the business environment.

A ‘learning culture’ refers to:

  • An environment and attitude in which learning and assessment is encouraged and rewarded
  • Learning and assessment opportunities are provided and supported across the organisation
  • Participation is voluntary and at high levels
  • Learning is clearly linked to organisational goals and individual aspirations
  • Learning and assessment is supported by quality policies and procedures

Training is a key element in the business strategy of an organisation dedicated to continuous learning. Learning organisations do not rely on passive processes in the hope that organisational learning will take place by chance or as a by-product of normal work. A learning organisation actively promotes, facilitates, and rewards learning.

Benefits of a Learning Culture

A Learning Culture devoted to the development of knowledge holds several key benefits:



Develops leaders at every level of the organisation With capable people at every level of the organisation, someone is always ready to step in and lead a team should a replacement be necessary.
Attracts and retains the best and brightest Intelligent people are always on a quest for knowledge. A culture dedicated to this quest serves as a magnet to these individuals.
Increases productivity Skilled workers are always more efficient, and efficiency has a direct impact on your organisation’s performance.
Enables succession planning through a leader/teacher pipeline When adding or replacing Managers, you don’t have to go outside the organisation to look for candidates. You have a pool of qualified successors within the organisation.

A true learning culture continuously challenges its own methods and ways of doing things. This ensures continuous improvement and the capacity to change.

The goal of creating a Learning Culture in an organisation is to create an environment where everyone teaches, everyone learns, and everyone enhances their abilities.

Creating a Learning Culture

To create a Learning Culture involves establishing an environment where employees are encouraged to exercise their resourcefulness and take initiative. It is an environment in which responsibility is delegated and where individuals take ownership in their personal Learning and Development, at all levels within the organisation.

In order to create a Learning Organisation you have to:

  • Invest in Human Resources

How can we afford NOT to invest in our employees? Studies show that there is a clear relationship between the investment into education, learning, and long-term success.

  • Understand the Relationship between Learning and Success

Kaplan and Norton’s “Balanced Scorecard”  give learning and growth a high degree of emphasis. They describe investment into employees as being required to achieve breakthrough results, and a key to success in a modern, competitive environment. Also, in “Building a Learning Organisation,” a seminal article published in the Harvard Business Review, Professor David Garvin states plainly, “Continuous improvement requires a commitment to learning.”

  • Value All Types of Learning –

Training shouldn’t always be just about job skills. In a true learning organisation, all types of learning are valued. It is important for organisations to be willing to embrace change, and we have discussed what innovative leaders can mean to an organisation. The concept of learning and knowledge goes hand in hand with these important concepts.

  • Build Learning into the Organisational Strategy

For a true learning organisation, education and training cannot be an afterthought. As Balanced Scorecard describes, emphasis on learning and education have to be formed at the vision and strategy level. Then it can be built into objectives, budgets, and schedules without managers and supervisors feeling that education and training is taking someone “away” from their job. It is communicated and understood throughout the organisation that learning is part of their job.

A simple assessment to determine your organisation’s learning culture:

Pro-Learning Culture

Anti-Learning Culture

People at all levels ask questions and share stories about successes, failures, and what they have learned. Managers share information on a need-to-know basis. People keep secrets and don’t describe how events really took place.
Everyone creates, keeps, and propagates stories of individuals who have improved their own processes. Everyone believes they know what to do, and they proceed on this assumption.
People take at least some time to reflect on what has happened and what may happen. Little time or attention is given to understanding lessons learned from projects.
People are treated as complex individuals. People are treated like objects or resources without attention to their individuality.
Managers encourage continuous experimentation. Employees proceed with work only when they feel certain of the outcome.
People are hired and promoted on the basis of their capacity for learning and adapting to new situations. People are hired and promoted on the basis of their technical expertise as demonstrated by credentials.
Performance reviews include and pay attention to what people have learned. Performance reviews focus almost exclusively on what people have done.
Senior managers participate in training programs designed for new or high-potential employees. Senior managers appear only to “kick off” management training programs.
Senior managers are willing to explore their underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations. Senior managers are defensive and unwilling to explore their underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.
Conversations in management meetings constantly explore the values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations underlying proposals and problems. Conversations tend to move quickly to blaming and scapegoat with little attention to the process that led to a problem or how to avoid it in the future.
Customer feedback is solicited, actively examined, and included in the next operational or planning cycle. Customer feedback is not solicited and is often ignored when it comes to their attention.
Managers presume that energy comes in large part from learning and growing. Managers presume that energy comes from “corporate success,” meaning profits and senior management bonuses.
Managers think about their learning quotient, that is, their interest in and capacity for learning new things, and the learning quotient of their employees. Managers think that they know all they need to know and that their employees do not have the capacity to learn much.


At Global Business Solutions we believe that every organisation can and should have a pro-learning culture. If you would like to learn more about how your organisation can make the shift from an anti-learning culture, please contact me on 021 4181617 or [email protected].

Menet Hamel can help your organisation to cultivate a "Learning Culture"