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How to build a culture of learning (and why you need to)

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 5, 2014
To thrive in an ever-changing IT climate, CIOs and other businesses leaders must create a culture of learning that embraces innovation and leverages it into a competitive advantage.

Change in the IT industry happens at a breakneck pace, and organizations that aren't fostering a "culture of learning" will be left behind. To survive and even flourish, CIO and other business leaders must create a culture of learning, which means embracing new information and innovations and leveraging those into a pipeline of talent, thus creating a competitive advantage.

"IT changes so fast. Every day there are new technologies, new ways of doing things, new innovations that can make businesses smarter, help them move faster in response to market conditions, help them get an edge on the competition. A culture of learning is important for businesses to maintain current skills, stay on top of new and emerging tech, and get a market advantage," says Tim Low, vice president of marketing at PayScale.

A recent PayScale research report entitled, Creating a Culture of Learning, defined a "learning organization" as one that intentionally collect[s] information, reflect[s] on that information, and share[s] the findings to improve performance within the organization. As a result, learning organizations are able to adapt quickly in the face of unpredictable situations.

Regular learning and training should be a part of every employee's job description. "Learning cannot be an afterthought - it must be a core focus of any strong organization," says Kevin Griffin, CIO, GE Capital. "When learning is part of your culture, it doesn't stand out as something outside the norm. For example, a learning-focused organization doesn't just hold periodic learning events or workshops separate from the day-to-day work. Instead, learning is integrated in every project or task, and employees are encouraged to dive in and learn by doing, asking questions when they hit roadblocks," says Griffin.

At GE Capital, for example, Griffin says that the focus is on learning throughout an employee's entire career, with extensive skills training, leadership training and professional development. "We [GE Capital] take a comprehensive approach when it comes to training and growing our talent, from entry level positions all the way to the top," Griffin says. For example, in its recent efforts within its own IT departments GE encourages all IT employees to undertake at least 40 hours of training per year. "There is never a point during your career at GE Capital when you're done learning, "Griffin says.

The Business Benefits of Learning
By emphasizing learning as a core business value, organizations are committing to continuous improvement, not just maintaining the status quo, according to Griffin. In addition to technical skills adding "soft" skills like leadership, communications and negotiations are also a key to businesses success. The drive toward a culture of learning can support faster time to market, improved enterprise agility and is a valuable engagement and retention tool for your most important asset-your talent.


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