No business wants to destroy its learning culture. Despite there being clear benefits to having a learning culture, many organizations give little-to-no thought on how to foster one, or even discuss why they would want to.
So we asked ourselves: What would it look like if we wrote a tongue-in-cheek guide for businesses on how to destroy their learning culture? Besides being cathartic, it might highlight many of the ways companies inadvertently are destroying their learning cultures.
Any one of these methods alone could prevent the formation of a learning culture or else seriously jeopardize one already in place. Several taken together can destroy a learning culture outright, not to mention the collateral damage done to employee engagement, innovation, and morale.
Here are 7 ways to bring down your learning culture.
Keep learning goals cryptic
While some learning should be done solely “for the sake of learning,” a stable learning culture sets realistic goals when it comes to training - especially for new employees. When these goals are missing or cryptic, the employee is left to figure out the point of each exercise. That means the person needing the most training now has to guess the point of training and assess the material with those goals in mind, all while it's being learned. It’s no wonder so many employees finish training and feel they've learned little or come away with the wrong conclusions. You can make learning a frustrating experience, unlikely to be repeated, simply by obscuring what employees should take away from it.
Isolate learning resources in their silo
The most successful companies create bridges between training, hiring, and talent management. New hires are sought for their ability to learn, onboarding happens in an efficient fashion, and employees with potential for career advancement are given needed skills well in advance of their promotion. This creates a “cycle of learning” where mastery of news skills is expected, enabled, and rewarded. Destroying a learning culture means breaking that cycle by fully isolating any training processes and materials from hiring and talent management processes. Isolating them from current job tasks also makes learning seem like a waste of time.
Focus on native talent, not growth
Dr. Carol Dweck, a research psychologist at Stanford University, found that individuals with a “growth mindset”—people who enjoy challenges, strive to learn, and uncover ways to develop new skills—learn more, have greater resourcefulness, and display more diligence. Destroying a learning culture means shunning that mindset by fixating on native talent, and doing so in black-and-white, all-or-nothing terms.
Punish candor and squash dissent
Candor allows questioning and honest feedback. High impact learning cultures allow for plentiful candor, which lets employees and management learn from each other without fear of repercussions. This level of candor sometimes creates dissent, but these cultures actually revel in dissent, feeling it's a way to uncover false assumptions and create innovation. By punishing candor and squashing dissent, you quickly extinguish the fire and teach employees where their place is in the rigid hierarchy you've created.
Engender a fear of risk
Learning is inherently risky, especially when it's done through the process of boldly trying something new, and failing. If employees are deathly afraid to fail, they will never take the necessary risks to begin the learning process.
Don’t sweat accountability
Successful companies hold everyone accountable, especially when it comes to learning. Employees must demonstrate they've completed all necessary training, retained the material, and taken ownership of their own development. Teachers and mentors are expected to guide learners on a regular basis. Managers at all levels are expected to take on both roles—learner and mentor—at different times. Metrics are recorded so each achievement is rewarded and lapses are corrected or punished. But all this accountability takes work. So, when destroying a learning culture, apathy and inertia are your friends. Remove accountability, and employees procrastinate and postpone learning indefinitely.
All of the above steps might sound difficult and costly to implement. Not so. The majority can be achieved passively by not doing anything at all.
While it's important to learn the positive steps toward establishing a learning culture, learning from the errors of others can also be instructive. If any of these tips hit too close to home, remember: it’s not too late to change if you're willing to put in the investment.
For additional tools and techniques for attaining a more productive learning culture, check out our video library which includes courses on leadership, supervision, communication, selling skills and more content that will increase engagement and workplace satisfaction.