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How to foster a learning culture

Rik Marselis
Feb 02, 2024

The world today is moving fast. New developments emerge faster and faster (look for example at the speed at which Generative AI has entered our daily lives!!). Also, changed business models and ways of working occur regularly. This makes change a constant. So, people constantly need to keep up and learn new things and gain new skills.

But not everybody is motivated to learn. So how do you foster a learning culture?

This was the subject of the panel discussion at the TestCon conference in October 2023 in Vilnius. Rik was one of the experts in this panel. In this blog, you see a brief recap of the outcome from the panel discussion. (a link to the video registration is at the end of this blog).

(This is the nineteenth blog in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, for links to previous blogs please go to the end of this blog)

Why would you want to have a learning culture?

There are three major benefits of a learning culture:

  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Enhanced employee retention
  • Enhanced employee recruitment

But the most important reason to have a learning culture is that for your business to be successful in today’s changing landscape, your employees need to constantly learn new things.

Learning Goals

One of the possibilities mentioned in the panel is to have 3-month learning goals for the employees. So that they always have a horizon of achievable targets. But make sure it does not feel like they are forced to learn, instead they are motivated and stimulated, for example through leading by example. The individual need to have a say in what learning goal he or she gets. Otherwise, there’s a risk the learning goal becomes demotivating instead of motivating.

Curiosity is a powerful motivator for learning

A learning culture starts with understanding what individual people want and need. So that they get a tailored personal learning journey that meets their desires and goals. An important part of this is just making people curious by sharing interesting experiences and knowledge, so they get self-motivated.

Also, people need to be helped in discovering what they do not know. Because the problem of not knowing something is that usually you don’t know what you don’t know.

One way of fostering curiosity is to have fifteen minutes Teach & Learn sessions. People in your organization get fifteen minutes to talk about something they are passionate about, to their team members (and maybe even outsiders). It can be closely related to their work, but also more remote. This way more skills and knowledge are used and the people in the team become more confident about their abilities.

Different styles of education

The traditional view on learning is having training courses. But in today’s world, with almost endless learning resources on the internet, any organization must make sure to have a wide range of learning possibilities. Certification training courses (such as the TMAP scheme) are a good basis, but also interactive learning sessions (such as workshops) are great to broaden and deepen knowledge. And there are many conferences, webinars, podcasts, vlogs, and the like in which people share their experience. Paired working is another way of learning on the job. As well as spending a day with your users to learn about their challenges. A good practice is to dedicate a portion of each week for each individual to pursue their learning goals.

It is important that an organization makes sure to have a variety of educational possibilities.

The need for role models

Everybody needs role models, and everybody is someone’s role model. So, one of the things good managers can do is to link people together (if they didn’t connect already).

However, some organizations don’t promote learning because they fear that it slows down the productive work. (This always makes us think of the story of the lumberjack that is chopping down trees with a blunt axe, who is advised to sharpen his axe, to which he replies that he is too busy for that, and keeps wasting his force and energy)

Important role for middle management

In large organizations, a learning culture especially needs to be fostered by middle management. The top management often is convinced that learning is important, and the people on the work floor want to learn. So, it is the middle management that can make the difference between not allowing learning because productive work comes first, or fostering the learning culture because they realize in the end the organization will be more productive.

Some people will eagerly start learning as soon as they get the chance, other people will need support of their management, and of their role models.

You can view the registration of this panel discussion here: Panel Discussion | How to Lead Testing Teams and Foster a Learning Culture (youtube.com)

What is your road to happy employees? Please, let us know in the comments below!

(For other blogs in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, use this link: https://labs.sogeti.com/training-cross-functional-teams/.)

This blog has been co-authored by Eva Holmquist

About the authors

Quality and Testing expert | Netherlands
Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands. He has assisted many organizations in improving their IT-processes, in establishing their quality & testing approach, setting up their quality & test organization, and he acted as quality coach, qa-consultant, test manager and quality supervisor.

Eva Holmquist

Senior Test Specialist | Sweden
Eva Holmquist has more than twenty-eight years of professional IT experience, working as a programmer, project manager and at every level of the testing hierarchy from a tester through test manager.

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