ATD Blog

Building a Productive Learning Culture: Fostering Shared Ownership of the Learning Environment

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In a previous blog, “Building a Productive Learning Culture: Advancing the Organization’s Learning Capability,” we discussed the benefits of teaching employees how to learn and the ways that L&D teams can build employees’ learning capability. In this blog, we’ll look at how L&D teams can drive shared ownership of the organization’s learning environment.

While building a productive learning culture is essential to L&D’s success in today’s work environment, few organizations have environments that support this type of culture. Although 60 percent of employees report that their work environments are open, far LESS consider their environments fair (35 percent), relevant (22 percent), safe (50 percent), and clear (20 percent). These attributes matter, and they can have up to a 14 percent impact on employee performance.

While heads of L&D, employees, managers and leaders agree that that creating a supportive learning environment is important, no single party has ownership of it. Thus, none have the authority to improve it.

Fostering Shared Ownership

Most L&D functions are clearly focused on their ownership of individual learning. However, they are not focused on driving shared ownership across groups for creating a learning environment in the workplace. As the attributes of a supportive learning environment rely heavily on shared experiences, they cannot be created by one individual or team.

All employees must realize the importance and take ownership of promoting the right learning environment in their daily actions. Yet, L&D must remain a key player in this process—as the function must take the lead in driving shared responsibility for creating a supportive learning environment. To successfully drive shared ownership of the organization’s learning environment, the best organizations recognize and reward group actions that collectively support learning and hold employees accountable for fostering a supportive learning environment.


Case in point

CEB works with a food processing company that recognized that employees would need to perform differently to achieve the organization’s new global growth goals. The company identified learning as a key driver of employee performance and included “develops self and others” as one of its key leadership behaviors.

To hold employees accountable for not just how they learn but also how they impact the learning environment around them, that behavior specifically includes the characteristic of “enabling a learning environment.” The company also created a toolkit to help leaders and employees understand the importance of supporting the learning of others and how to active learn and apply necessary behaviors.


Moving to a Culture of Productive Learning

The changing learning landscape—due to both the line’s demand for different skills and employees’ demand to learn in new and different ways—creates an important mandate for L&D to influence the quality and impact of learning throughout the organization. Despite the fact that employees are spending a lot of time learning, they are wasting time on learning behaviors that are unproductive.

By working to create a culture of productive learning rather than simply a culture of learning participation, organizations can reduce wasted learning while still achieving performance results.

We invite you to learn more about how leading L&D teams build a productive learning culture at

About the Author

Thomas Handcock, is senior director at CEB. A researcher at heart, and passionate about learning, Handcock is focused on working with CEB’s global network of clients to unlock the potential of their employees and leaders. His research on areas like on-the-job learning, coaching, training design, L&D strategy, and staff capability, and the hundreds of discussions he has each year with L&D executives and their teams, have only served to reinforce his belief that human capital development is one of the most powerful levers the modern enterprise has at its disposal.

About the Author

As Talent Solutions Architect at CEB, Jean Martin directs the development of talent management solutions and insights across the company with heads of human resources at some of the largest global organizations. Specifically, Jean spends time working on issues relating to driving breakthrough organizational performance, and assessing, engaging and retaining the best employees.

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