Podcast | Learning Culture Already Exists! What L&D Does With It Matters Most

September 29, 2022
June 26, 2023

If there’s one takeaway from this conversation, it’s that learning cultures are about a lot more than just learning…

They’re about how we manage change, the environment we build and foster, if we can tap into current behaviours, how well we communicate our L&D strategy to others and so much more.

We covered all of this in a very flowing episode with Sara Stevick, so use the episode timestamps if any particular aspects caught your eye.

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Running order

0:00 Intro to Sara and the show
3:02 Discovery mode: Where to start analysing your learning strategy and culture
11:40 Creating a detailed strategy and boiling it down for different audiences
21.29 The Learning Canvas: Capturing your strategy on 1 page
29:10 Building an environment that empowers learning
41:40 Change management’s role in learning culture
47:37 Building better feedback loops with The Learning Flywheel.

Five lessons on building an effective learning culture

1. L&D teams can’t build great learning cultures by themselves

“Oh, learning culture, they want to learn, we’ll put it in the hands of the L&D team, and they’ll have everything they need automatically like waving a magic wand… unfortunately, that’s not how it works.” – Sara Stevick.

This is a common misconception in a lot of companies. But to work out what’ll really have an impact, you need to do plenty of analysis around the current state of learning in your company…

2. Numbers + perception = A bigger picture of your learning culture

“Every company has a learning culture, but whether it’s high-impact, positive, negative or maybe detrimental is all to be determined in that analysis phase.” – Sara Stevick

What’s the perception of L&D within the L&D team, the wider company and the target audience of learners?

What are the numbers telling you about performance and the impact of your current learning initiatives?

A combination of the two will help you understand where you are right now IF you’re willing to listen, gather the information, and reflect.

As Nelson puts it, get into discovery mode! Ask people about their current challenges, how they’re approaching them, how effective that is, and what they would like to see change.

“Often, we like to rush to a solution, so the important thing to do when having those discovery conversations is not to solutionise” – Nelson Sivalingam.

Sara made a great point on this. Someone’s numbers might indicate that they’re performing well, but when they’re sitting there and telling you they don’t like the way we’re learning, that’s a missing piece of the puzzle.

3. Capturing your L&D strategy on a single page

Nelson went through the nine building blocks that make up The Learning Canvas at around 21.5 minutes, and I would highly recommend watching that section to understand the process of capturing your strategy on a single page.

“The reason it’s a single page is that A, it makes it easier to collaborate and discuss ideas, but when you’ve got it down, it makes it easier to communicate to the rest of the business.” – Nelson Sivalingam.

Get your copy of The Learning Canvas

Essentially, it comes down to three blocks of actions (and we’ve highlighted the nine building blocks with bold text):

Why? Define your problem and target audience (customer), allowing you to create the value proposition – the thing that’ll motivate both parties to engage in learning.

How? What’s the solution – which knowledge, skills, and mindset are needed to solve the business challenge? Which stakeholders are going to help you solve that solution? And what are the key resources needed to connect the solution to the customer?

What? Which key metrics are you using to establish if this is working? These are early indicators that people are engaging, such as likes, shares, and comments. You can then assess the measurable performance outcomes that indicate if the value proposition has been achieved. And finally, cost. How much will it cost to deliver this?

“The outcome box minus the cost box gives you your ROI” – Nelson Sivalingam.

4. Impactful learning is about building the right environment

“Learning happens when we’re slightly uncomfortable, it’s safe to be uncomfortable and to try things and make mistakes”. – Sara Stevick

So, we have to create a culture that’s conducive to learning but also failing and learning from that.

Learning will already be happening in your company, and how that’s happening will present low-lift high-return opportunities to grow and build your culture using organic behaviours – allowing you to foster that environment.

“Culture is shared behaviour… and your learning culture, as an extension of that, is about how we learn but also what we do with what we learn… Do I have the psychological safety to try this without the fear of repercussions to my career? I can make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and apply it again” – Nelson Sivalingam.

5. Honing our change management skills helps create a better learning culture

Remember, learning works best when we’re slightly uncomfortable, and we feel like we’re in a safe environment. But neither of those happen when so much is changing at once!

Learning is change! And as Nelson put it, we often underestimate the rate of exponential change. For some L&D teams, like those still simply managing compliance, it means we get left behind.

Left so far behind that we actually have no choice but to do something drastic like ripping up our playbook and starting again.

So, when we talk about Learning at Speed, we’re also protecting ourselves against getting left behind and ending up in cycles of poor change management.

“If we want to make a drastic change like that, we have to make sure our change threshold in other areas of business is not already saturated by other changes. Because if it is, it’s going to be too overwhelming.

“So, I’d be very strategic in where you make those drastic implementations of change, look for your quick, surefire wins, do one or two of those, show them how it paid off. You need those to be wins, those very first ones… to help people feel comfortable with other drastic changes.” – Sara Stevick.