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Developing and Nurturing A Learning Culture

Waste.  All sorts of associations probably spring to mind when it comes to this word – from your wastepaper bin at the (home) office to food scraps and other things we throw away.  But in the Japanese manufacturing industry, they've been thinking about waste differently for years.  It all started in the Toyota factories seeking improvement and efficiency in their manufacturing process with creating value for the customer the ultimate goal. 

What does all this have to do with people and talent?  LEAN thinking and manufacturing create a different lens to consider waste – from wasted motion and transportation to wasted product due to defects.  There are eight types of waste in this LEAN model. Underutilised talent is one of them.  Put simply,  think about the staff at all levels of your organisation – are they fulfilling their potential?  Are they adding as much value to your organisation as they could be?  What needs to happen to unlock latent talent? 

Creating an organisation with a genuine learning culture provides the environment in which people and companies can thrive.  Not only does this drive greater engagement, but it also builds a pipeline of talent within your organisation to future proof and achieves succession planning that is a genuine win-win for companies, individuals, communities and economies.


So what is a learning culture?
Various definitions are out there, including the CEB’s definition:
"a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organisation.”


  • A psychologically safe environment where it’s okay to disagree with someone up the hierarchy.
  • A company where it's okay to learn from your mistakes. A growth mindset approach to work.
  • Individuals have the chance to climb the career pathway in your organisation or step up to opportunities that will grow their skills (think Health and Safety Rep, Diversity and Inclusion Champion, etc.)
  • Formal and informal learning opportunities exist – from courses and programmes to buddy training and incidental on-the-job learning.
  • Learning programmes leave a legacy – how is the learning sustained and transferred into the organisation every day, not just the day after training?
  • Knowledge and skills are accessible to all staff.


How do you create a learning culture?

  • Be clear about the training opportunities that exist, and not just for corporate staff.   Create a visible career pathway.
  • Training spots in regular meetings and process–learning bites occur as part of BAU.
  • Make mistakes a visible part of learning and focus on the process rather than blaming individuals.
  • Integrate real-time and just-in-time learning into everyday workflow.
  • Before engaging with online learning, do a digital skills audit of your staff and factor in a digital literacy capability build before any roll-out.
  • Be aware that barriers to learning (levels of literacy and numeracy, previous negative experiences of education) can exist for anyone and address this first.
  • Make space, digitally or physically, for a learning channel where people can share new learnings.
  • Make learning personalised, relevant and transferrable to the workplace.
  • Leverage the funded training landscape of Aotearoa.

Funding is well-supported by the Government. Check out these funded opportunities:

Why does this matter now, more than ever?
he pandemic impacts Aotearoa's borders and has the knock-on effect of tightening our labour market.  It means retaining staff becomes paramount and also has an impact on your talent pipeline.  In this type of climate, it makes sense to grow your people. Not only do they bring all their institutional and technical knowledge up with them, but you retain them for longer, build loyalty, and gain a reputation for promoting from within.  You save time and money recruiting, inducting, onboarding and ramping new staff up to maximum productivity. 

The numbers stack up to support this too.  A Deloitte survey in 2019 found that organisations with a strong learning culture experienced 37% higher productivity and were 92% more likely to innovate.  Another compelling reason to create a learning culture is fostering a mindset for learning. Workplaces and technology are constantly shifting and evolving, so we need employees who can embrace change and innovation confidently.

The success of your organisation lies in its people.  Don't make the mistake of letting their potential remain untapped. Upskills has helped 100s of New Zealand businesses create a learning culture by building growth mindsets for learning. Talk to us about the particular challenges your organisation faces, and empower your people and business for lasting success.


About the author
Sarah Balfour is a Director of Upskills, an award-winning provider of tailored workplace training solutions. Upskills training is usually delivered on-site in workplaces throughout New Zealand by a network of experienced, dynamic tutors (although more recently it has moved online!)

Upskills partners with organisations to help take advantage of available government funding for training to grow the business. This training provides a pathway to career progression through tailored courses for aspiring leaders, supervisors, and trainers.

If you would like more motivated, engaged, and loyal staff call Sarah for a free training needs analysis - visit their website, email Upskills or call them on (09) 622 3979.