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Why Your Business Should Embrace a Continuous Learning Culture 

  • 8 Min Read

Supporting a continuous learning culture can have many perks, like increased retention, improved employee engagement and attracting top talent.


No matter their age or generation, workers want to learn. A recent study by Forbes found that some of the top resources employees want for career growth include manager training, tuition benefits, digital learning opportunities and cross-department knowledge sharing. 

Supporting a continuous learning culture can also result in a return on investment when it comes to retention and reputation. 

Upfront, change can be scary. Let’s walk through the basics of why employee expectations of learning are changing and how this change can benefit your business. 

How Employee Expectations for Continuous Learning Are Changing

A shift to a culture of continuous learning might be a big change from what you’re used to. For a long time, people went to school, studied a specific discipline, graduated with a degree and got a job that they worked for decades. Or somebody could start at a company with an entry-level job and work their way up the chain over the course of their career. Loyalty was high. 

“I think where organizations are stuck is they’re using a paradigm that says for me to be successful, people have to stay a long time. And that’s not necessarily true,” said Steve Cadigan, LinkedIn’s first CHRO, during an interview with D2L. “If you look at the tenure of people at Apple, Microsoft, Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla and Google … their median tenure is three years.” 

“Some of those creative, innovative, most valuable companies in the world are continuing to be successful by building a model that accounts for more fluidity. And that’s a challenge. But it also helps address the fact that more and more organizations are recognizing that they need new skills faster than they ever have.” 

These days, employees want to learn, develop and grow in their jobs. They want a goal to strive toward, which can sometimes be a linear career path or a more unexpected route to a new job or career—using skill development and corporate learning to get there. And sometimes, it means leaving a current job to find advancement in a new one outside your company. 

Once you come to terms with the new expectation that you can’t keep everybody forever, you can move forward and develop a plan to promote employee learning and growth to make your workers want to stay.  

Two workers collaborating on a phone.

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The Perks of Building a Continuous Learning Culture

Still need convincing of the benefits of continuous learning for your business? Let’s take a closer look at some of the organizational benefits a continuous learning culture can bring. 

Increased Retention

Offering targeted learning that can guide employees down a personalized career path shows them that your company is invested in their future. Focusing on employee growth can help your organization tailor a specific approach to skills development rather than hoping to find the talent you need outside of it. 

“That capacity to grow is one of the core muscles any organization should be focused on right now,” said Cadigan. “You’re not going to find that fully baked skill out in the open market anywhere near as fast as you used to, so you’ve got to be in the business of growing skills. 

That’s got to be a superpower, more than recruiting.” 

Part of the strategy of a continuous learning culture is providing your employees with the opportunity to identify where they want to grow—whether that’s in their existing role or a new area. Showing how and where employees can apply their skills lets them know there’s room to grow at your company. Providing a culture of continuous learning to get them there lets them know you’re invested in their future. 

Cadigan suggests using a skills taxonomy—a database of the skills required for each job at your company—and mapping the skills of existing employees to those roles to open their eyes to the possibilities. 

“Leveraging your technology, you can say, well, if you want to go into this role, here’s the experience you need to have, the courses you need to take and the people who have those skills who could be mentors for you. Now you’re playing the long game.” 

Challenging Your Staff to Develop Their Skills

Another way to promote a culture of continuous learning is by challenging—and trusting—your employees to develop their talents in new ways. One method of doing this is by providing opportunities for job rotations—allowing employees to take on roles in different departments. 

Not only does this allow your staff to learn more about different roles and develop new skills, but they also get a better perspective on how your company functions as a whole. 

Cadigan learned this strategy from his experience in finding and growing talent in the early days of LinkedIn. 

“The energy we unlocked when we gave people something new to do was mind-blowing,” said Cadigan of his experience putting employees in new roles with components of the job they didn’t have experience in. “People were so excited. You’re trusting me to do this? Yeah. How do we do it? We’re not sure. Figure it out. We believe that you can.”  

“That was probably the biggest learning for me as someone who was staffing this company is that I needed people who were able to build, not people who could sustain an already operating function.” 

Providing opportunities for continuous learning, like challenging your staff to learn new skills in different roles, provides another area to create value in your company. 

Use Your Continuous Learning Culture to Attract Top Talent

Not only will creating a learning culture in your workplace resonate with your internal employees,  but it will also attract external talent. Your business will be able to bring in top talent by having a reputation as a place where people come to stay, learn and grow.  

“If you become the place where people can grow and learn the most, you will no longer have to go hunt people. They will hunt you,” said Cadigan.  

“When we were growing LinkedIn, I was facing a neighborhood of competitors for talent that could out-perk me, out-benefit me, out-work-environment me—sushi chefs, on-site childcare, chauffeurs to San Francisco—ridiculous,” he said. 

“Google makes more money in a day than we made in a year. I couldn’t compete with that. But I could compete with your day-to-day experience here, which is going to blow your mind. When we started delivering that and the real stories started getting out there, people wanted to find us.” 

Cadigan helped grow LinkedIn’s head count from 400 to 4,000 in under four years. Creating awareness about your company being one that offers top-notch continuous learning will help you attract the best talent. 

How to Create a Culture of Continuous Learning

There are many benefits to creating a continuous learning culture—improved retention, talent development and attracting top prospects are just a few. But now that you have an idea of the impact learning can have on your business, how do you get there? 

You’ll want to make sure you’re invested in the best learning experience platform that offers curated or custom content, personal career pathing, skill mapping and centralized learning analytics.  

Ready to maximize the impact of your learning investment? Learn more about D2L for Business today

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Table of Contents
  1. How Employee Expectations for Continuous Learning Are Changing
  2. The Perks of Building a Continuous Learning Culture