How to Build a Culture of Learning

May 24, 2018
By Jenifer Robertson

Last year, best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman visited AT&T. During a conversation with employees, he emphasized the importance of continuous learning for employees and employers to succeed in the age of acceleration.

Learning is no longer an option for anyone. It’s a way of life. That’s not just here at AT&T, but around the world. A 2017 research report by Deloitte noted 83% of companies believe that reinventing careers and learning is important, with a majority of them stating it’s an urgent issue.

Recently, we talked about the importance of continuous learning and what a learner/employee needs to do to succeed. The employee should be open to change and take risks in his or her journey to learn. However, it takes two to tango. The educator/employer has a major role as well – to build and cultivate a culture of learning. So, how do we do that?

It’s all about transparency and empowerment.

  1. One Stop Shop. In evaluating AT&T’s learning platform and tools, we realized we needed one learning hub. Our resources were spread across a variety of outlets. So, in February 2017, we launched the Personal Learning Experience (PLE), which provides a single place for employees to go to plan, view, manage and track learning.
  2. Better Together. Although learning is an individual effort, it takes more than one to be accountable and stay motivated. Creating a platform that enables accountability is a critical component. We developed an internal social learning platform that connects employees and their peers to learn alongside those with similar interests. We need to open the door for collaboration by providing seamless ways for users to network with peers and study groups.
  3. Learn by Doing. As employees learn new skills, if they don’t have a place to practice or try them, it can be a useless effort. It’s necessary to create a hub for employees to find real and simulated project work within the company as a part of new skills training.
  4. Progress, Not Perfection. It’s important to create the best possible solution for as many people as possible. Employee feedback is critical to ensure AT&T uses solutions to improve the quality of resources and tools for employees.

In today's environment, we need to acquire new information faster than ever before. The speed of information has changed how we think about corporate learning. Instead of only providing employees with classroom and web-based training, we're also supplementing those resources with relevant content from social and digital platforms, like social media channels, podcasts and video platforms.

In a 2017 LinkedIn article, Josh Bersin, principal and founder of HR consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte, noted, “People at work must have time to learn, they must feel their new skills will be valued, we must take time for discussion and reflection, and managers must give people space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and often experiment with new ideas.” 

This is all about the employer. At AT&T, we see the need to create the platform and space to allow this.

AT&T has always led the charge in cutting-edge corporate training and ensuring all employees have what’s necessary to excel in a time of change. Change continues to get faster. And this puts more need on having the most impactful and various ways of training – whether it’s in-person or online courses, on-the-job opportunities or even social learning.

I’m always amazed that Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of our time, didn’t think he reached a peak of learning. He believed “learning is not a product of schooling but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.” To push our employees toward continuous learning, we have to create the environment for them to be encouraged and motivated to pursue new skills.

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