How to Develop a Culture of Learning

To be successful, a training & development program must be surrounded by an overall culture of learning. We spoke with long-time Learning & Development Executive Peggy O’Brien about how to develop this culture and what the future of training holds

CLN: Can you discuss one or two successful strategies Covance employed to implement a culture of learning?

Peggy: We used a very direct approach and methodology to identify the culture we wanted to create. As part of this approach we involved individuals at all levels in the organization. The other important strategy was to tie learning to what the business needed to accomplish.

CLN: How do you go about convincing key stakeholders that a learning culture has a tangible impact to the bottom line?

Peggy: Our learning leaders spent time in the business to understand what needed to be done. Many of the individuals worked in the business before moving into L&D.

They built up credibility that way too. Any time we could help employees learn their roles more efficiently, work more collaboratively with team members, or deliver content more effectively, we could improve the bottom line.

CLN: What types of metrics did Covance use to assess levels of general employee engagement?

Peggy: Annual engagement survey, focus groups, and post performance review surveys (asking questions like, "Did your manager have a career discussion with you?")

CLN: Have new technologies fundamentally changed your role in Training & Development over the past ten years?

Peggy: Absolutely, I’ve seen technology change my role. We need to find ways to deliver bite sized content when people need it. Teach me the skills and give me the information when I need to learn it. Not waiting for a classroom session.

We also have to look at more informal learning and how we can foster that. It's how employees are learning in their current school/college environments and they expect that in the workplace.

CLN: What excites you about the future of training?

Peggy: It's always changing and there are new things to learn, new approaches to try and new individuals to mentor you.

The technology is also rapidly changing and helping improve the function. Specifically, it takes out some of the administrative work so that we can focus on being strategic partners. There is more of a willingness to partner with training now.