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September 15, 2020

Why learning cultures outperform training cultures

It’s Monday, your leadership team just ordered a last-minute employee training workshop because numbers are down. You enter the room, one-hundred glazed eyeballs are staring at you. You notice indents on the left temples of everyone in the room as they slowly lift their heads. The only material you have to show is a monochromatic eggshell slide collection where you’ve intermittently added pops of orange and blue to intrigue your audience.

They’re not buying it.

You hear the tapping and clicking of what seems like an orchestra of pens, one employee is even drawing mustaches in all of the o’s on your handout. You clammer for any hint of inflection in your voice as you deliver a heard-before message on boosting productivity and what “really showing up” can do for this quarter’s numbers. You know what they’re thinking because you’re thinking it at the same time, “please let there be a fire drill.”

This type of traditional training culture exists because of the antiquated belief that important learning can only happen in a classroom setting. This instructor-centric learning environment is most commonly set in workshops, lectures, in-person courses or full-day conferences with slightly soggy breakfast foods. These output-focused events usually discourage any interaction from the audience, creating an unintentional disconnect from the speaker to its listeners.

More often than not, this style of learning creates unhealthy silos of information, creating competition amongst departments trying to outlearn the other. While this may boost performance in those competitive teams, the results are incredibly, but not surprisingly, short-lived. Once the glitz and glitter fade, you’re left with high turnover rates, lower employee satisfaction, and decreased productivity, efficiency and profit.

These are not the results you’re looking for (waves hand like a Jedi).

So you have a training culture and that’s okay, but it’s time for change. The modern workforce demands surroundings where they feel empowered to be open-minded and self-guided. So why and how should you, as leaders in the learning industry, promote change?

learning culture is best described as a safe and productive meeting of minds, built to collectively push aligned goals forward through a constant and ongoing cycle of sought experiences and sharing what’s learned. It’s empowering your people to take each moment and deeply reflect on it to influence future outcomes.

The results are unfathomably beneficial for all involved. As a leader, you’ll see a significant climb in both employee satisfaction and engagement while celebrating sustainable profitability. More money doesn’t always mean more problems.

As a trainer, you’ll be able to set out on a grand adventure of unforgettable, interactive moments that will pave the way for your teams to embark on the ultimate quest for self-sought knowledge, self-driven success and accountability and self-motivated promotions.

Now that you’re a believer, forget everything you know. Okay, not everything. We need you to breathe through this next part. As easy as Brian McNight might make some steps seem in “Back At One”, it’s never quite that simple but he gets a good point across.

According to Harvard, there are four crucial pieces that contribute to a truly successful learning culture and you’ll have to continually start over, reinforce and repeat those steps to reach your goals.

This means that, as much as you manage your own schedule, you must give your learners ample time to immerse themselves into content, reflect on their own experiences and engage in conversation to uncover any necessary changes that will help them create their own path to mastery. Retrospection alters behavior and those results should never be short-lived.

It is all too common that feedback is given or received as a “compliment sandwich” where a positive is given before and after a negative mention. This could dilute the importance and clarity of your message. To effectively promote creativity and thought, your listener must be given a reason to dig in in the first place. Use your learner’s limitations and knowledge gaps to drive learning and curiosity and encourage mutual, honest feedback.

As leaders, it starts with you. If you want to create a learning culture, you must be the first to embrace it. This means that if you want your employees to spend more time developing professional and personal goals and ambitions, you must do this yourself and be open about your newest undertaking. Practice what you preach.

By understanding what drives individual curiosity, you’re better equipped to more appropriately place your talent and drive innate success. Give your team the opportunity to discover more about themselves through personality assessments and self-driven critical thinking. Your people aren’t cats, let them be curious.

So, here you are. You’ve learned the difference between a training culture and a learning culture, you’re equipped with a roadmap to navigate the trip ahead and you know the reward you’ll receive for reaching your destination.

This is your chance to choose your own adventure. So, what will it be?

It’s time to revisit the first scenario. The crickets of clicking pens, the energy-drained tilted heads, the glazing of sleepy eyeballs rolling around with boredom should become a challenge.

You have the power to change the way your learners are taught and engaged and you will be the difference.

We’d love to be a resource and travel with you. Please keep in touch and keep up on our latest posts.

Originally posted, by yours truly, on LinkedIn.

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