Adapting to the Next Normal – How a Learning Culture will supercharge your organization’s ability to deliver growth

By Miriam Kugel

Organizations that win in competitive markets know that their workforce will need upskilling or re-skilling to be able to stay ahead of market disruption, changing demands and technological advances. Those that rely solely on experience and once-relevant knowledge lag behind. It is an evolution in action and the strongest survive, only this time it is in the workplace and technology is disrupting every industry at a rapid pace.

The latest disruption caused by technology has been the shift towards flexible, hybrid and remote working, working from home and virtual conferencing, a move accelerated by the pandemic. The need to adjust in order to stay ahead of the curve in this Next Normal is more important than ever.

The World Economic Forum reports that only 30% of employees at risk of job displacement from technological changes received training in the past year, with those most at risk often being the least likely to receive any retraining at all. By 2022, at least 54% of all employees will need reskilling and upskilling.

Far too often companies focus on the sporadic gathering of knowledge, where staff are equipped with the skills to just do their job. However, at the speed that the role of the workforce across all sectors is changing companies and individuals must continue to evolve in order to keep up.

The rise of flexible working will become the Next Normal and to stop learning means to stagnate. The environment is changing and the way we work is also changing, so the skills to inhabit this landscape must also change. To meet this ongoing and ever-evolving business challenge, there needs to be a major culture shift towards continuous learning.

Organizations should embrace the need to keep learning as part of this Next Normal corporate strategy, where professional development is as much of a priority as profit. After all, without professional development, there might not be any profit or growth in the future.

The move away from an interval knowledge-gathering existence will see both the organization and the individual thrive, but we must understand what is meant by moving into a learning-centric approach. 

But what exactly is a learning culture, and why does every company already investing in training and development not already have one?

A learning culture supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization. According to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture and companies who effectively enable their employees to learn and grow are at least 30% more likely to become market leaders in their industries over an extended period of time.

Unsurprisingly, many of the big players have already made continuous learning an integral part of their growth strategy and treat learning as a day-to-day necessity, deeply embedded into rituals, management practices, and talent management approaches.

Recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that only 10% of organizations have managed to create this environment with just 20% of employees demonstrating effective learning behaviours at work.

This suggests, that whilst most companies do invest in upskilling their employees, many of these programmes act as interval knowledge injections. To achieve a true Learning Culture, the emphasis on development needs to be embedded in the day-to-day work and delivered in a way that suits the environment and is targeted at solving current and future business challenges at hand. As the way we work changes, so must the delivery of learning.

This does not mean employees must put what they are working on on hold to sit in a classroom every day. Programs can be delivered modularly via different channels to suit different learning personas and tailored to the challenge at hand. Whilst learning about future technologies may work well in virtual seminars or as online courses, learning about delivering a better service may work better embedded into the day-to-day via job aids, self-directed tutorials, prompts, gamified activities, and on the job mentoring.

So, what is the difference between a learning-centric culture and a knowledge-centric culture?

As the comparison of Knowledge Culture and Learning Culture attributes shows, a Learning Culture focuses much more on creating a learning and feedback-centric approach to day-to-day people management aligned with the business’s challenges and strategic directions. This requires an agile deployment of learning budgets to create highly bespoke just-in-time interventions across multiple channels to suit different learning personas and groups.

To stay ahead of the curve and move an organization towards a true Learning Culture, companies must first focus on developing a portfolio of dynamic capabilities by creating an always-on learning eco-system underpinned by reimagined processes, reward systems and talent management frameworks. This will allow each individual, team or group to access learning when it is needed the most in order to deliver effectively against a change in strategy, a new market opportunity and any industry disruption.

If you would like to find out more about how to reap the growth-accelerating benefits of a learning culture and embed learning into your flow of work, contact Miriam Kugel – Partner New Metrics Academy by email at or on LinkedIn.

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