A Positive Learning Culture: The Secret to a Skillful, Agile Workforce

Sarah E. Danzl, Global Head of Comms, Content & Client Advocacy Teams, DegreedSarah E. Danzl, Global Head of Comms, Content & Client Advocacy Teams, Degreed
Leaders are under the spotlight. The impact of having the right people, with the right skills, in your workforce was clearly highlighted over the past few months. It’s fallen to people teams to address this, by building more inclusive, innovative, and agile workforces… even amid the pressures of the Great Resignation. The number one concern of leaders now is maintaining a company culture that engages and retains employees in the pandemic-affected world.

As leaders make decisions and prepare for the next year, it’s essential they know what their people want and need. And one thing is ringing out loud and clear: workers want more opportunities to grow and practice their skills.

What workers want

Practically speaking, employees are asking for guidance on what skills to learn (to better do their current work and prepare for next steps) as well as how to learn them. Leaders are well positioned to mentor and coach employees with this, finding the overlaps between what employees are interested in and the skills that the business needs. Employees will welcome this approach too, as it provides them with some certainty and adaptability in an uncertain time.

This positive learning environment, where employers and employees collaborate on individual learning, with organizations providing relevant opportunities for their people to grow, is critical amid today’s economic volatility. A strong learning culture improves the employee experience and drives business growth, due to its links to skill development, agility, responsiveness, and revenue.

Exploring how the workforce learns

To explore this connection and provide a framework for leaders, upskilling platform Degreed released a research report, How the Workforce Learns, that uncovered the critical areas impacting the learning experience for modern-day workers.

The findings are based on data from more than 2,400 respondents across 15 countries and divides respondents into those who rated their cultures as positive (promoters) and those who rated it as neutral or negative (detractors). The report explores the differences between these two groups.
Four areas that underpin upskilling
Overall, there are four key factors that correlate with more continuous and impactful upskilling and career development:

1. Guidance on what and how to learn
2. Diverse and active development experiences
3. Feedback and insights on progress
4. Opportunities to practice, apply, and
stretch skills

It isn’t enough to simply provide learning content to fulfil immediate needs, workers require consistent guidance on what skills to build to work better today and tomorrow. This begins with setting the right goals (that align with individual aspirations and business needs) then finding the right resources and tracking progress. And team managers are a key asset in supporting this.

Indeed, promoters are 270% more likely to say they have a manager that supports their development. Managers (in strong learning cultures) do this in several ways:

• Regular, informal check-ins on individual
goals and priorities.
• Recommending learning resources.
• Finding ways to stretch new skills.
• Helping to create a development plan.
• Giving feedback and coaching on strengths
and weaknesses.

Active development experiences

According to our data, people need independent, structured, collaborative, and experiential learning opportunities. In a positive learning culture, people can learn anytime and anywhere. This empowers them to access the learning that best suits their needs, commitments and work styles. They can pick-and-choose from a range of learning opportunities including reading articles, listening to podcasts, peer learning, and coaching. It’s also worth noting that, in a positive learning culture, structured learning is more consistent. Promoters, on average, attend a class or workshop nearly every month, while detractors attend structured opportunities less than once a year.


Without feedback, you cannot assess if upskilling efforts are working for your team and your organization. Promoters are more likely to be assessed by others (managers, peers, mentors and so on) and to have updated their own skill profiles in the past year, to document both
the skills they have and those they want to learn. This provides a clear indicator of the workforce skills you have, what’s being built, and what’s needed next.

Opportunities to practice skills

Experiential learning opportunities stretch newly learned skills to help people remember and practice them. Stretch assignments, temporary redeployments, and volunteering are all examples of this. Promoters are 235% more likely to switch to a new function in their organization, and 101% more likely to work on temporary projects. This improves skills utilization as well, making sure people are getting more work done while growing their expertise and confidence in new areas. Promoters are 99% more likely to say that their organization makes good use of their skills with this approach.

Learning — in the right direction

It is more critical than ever to ensure a workforce has the right skills to transform, succeed, and adapt to change. By honing in on the factors that create a positive learning culture in organizations, leaders can ensure that their upskilling investment is truly engaging their people and driving innovation in the right direction.

Discover more about How The Workforce Learns here.
Share this Article:
Top 10 Workforce Management Solution Companies - 2020