A fundamental aim of learning and development strategy is to create a learning culture. A learning culture is one in which learning is recognized by top management, line managers and employees generally as an essential organizational
process to which they are committed and in which they engage continuously. It is described by Reynolds (2004: 21) as a ‘growth medium’ that will ‘encourage employees to commit to a range of positive discretionary behaviours, including learning’ and that has the following characteristics: empowerment not supervision, self-managed learning not instruction, and long-term capacity-building not short-term fixes. Discretionary learning, according to Sloman (2003), happens when individuals actively seek to acquire the knowledge and skills that promote the organization’s objectives.
The steps required to create a learning culture as proposed by Reynolds (2004: 12–20) are:
- Develop and share the vision – belief in a desired and emerging future.
- Empower employees – provide ‘supported autonomy’; freedom for employees to manage their work within certain boundaries (policies and expected behaviours) but with support available as required. Adopt a facilitative style of management in which responsibility for decision making is ceded as far as possible to employees.
- Provide employees with a supportive learning environment where learning capabilities can be discovered and applied, eg peer networks, supportive policies and systems, and protected time for learning.
- Use coaching techniques to draw out the talents of others by encouraging employees to identify options and seek their own solutions to problems.
- Guide employees through their work challenges and provide them with time, resources and, crucially, feedback.
- Recognize the importance of managers acting as role models.
- Encourage networks – communities of practice.
- Align systems to vision – get rid of bureaucratic systems that produce problems rather than facilitate work.