three asian staff memebers talk over coffee

Korea Summit Spotlights Kohler’s Culture of Learning

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kohler is a recognized global leader in kitchen and bath design. Kohler has also had a long history of consistently supporting talent development and a culture of learning. I’ve been here 17 years, and there’s always been a big commitment to training, regardless of budget. I never saw us waver on it.

Building a Culture of Learning, an ATD Research report, identifies some of the essential traits of a learning culture as “closely aligned business and learning strategies, organizational values that affirm learning’s importance, and an atmosphere in which learning is so ingrained that it simply becomes ‘a way of life.’” The report was based on a survey in which only 31 percent of respondents described their companies as having extensive learning cultures; however, the survey demonstrated that companies with high performance metrics were five times more likely to be strongly identified as having a learning culture.

Kohler exemplifies the processes that can create a learning culture by employing these key strategies:

  • Executives are involved in learning decisions.
  • Leadership promotes learning.
  • Coaching and mentoring are organized.
  • Learning programs are used to reinforce the corporate culture.

Kohler makes its culture of learning apparent even before a potential hire submits an application. Every job posting at Kohler—whether for an operation position or an analyst—includes these words just after the skills and requirements section:


Why Work at Kohler?
Kohler’s mission is to contribute to a higher level of gracious living for those who are touched by our products and services. We understand that it takes investment in our associates’ development to make that happen. So, we offer ongoing investment in each individual’s personal development and the opportunity to collaborate with others across functions and roles at Kohler.

New hires should be clued in to the culture of learning before they start working. When we are hiring, we look for someone who is learning and growing. The importance of including learning discussions in pre-hire interviews is one of the strongest conclusions reached in Building a Culture of Learning. The report found that such conversations were uncommon in hiring practices, but six times more likely among the high-performing companies.

At Kohler, once a new hire is on board, the company wastes no time introducing a development plan. This process connects each associate’s goals to a learning plan, which is reviewed three times a year by employees and their managers. Employee course transcripts are instantly available on the talent management system for individual associates and their managers to review at any time. There is an ongoing dialogue with associates about whether they are learning and growing. This approach is backed up by Building a Culture of Learning, which found that regularly updating personal development plans and holding employees accountable for following through with them are two of the most powerful ways to connect employee involvement in a learning culture and a company’s success.

Learn more about how Kohler and other organizations create a culture of learning by attending the ATD 2018 Korea Summit on March 16, where I’ll speak alongside other global learning leaders.

About the Author
Jenny Wu Yan is the director of HR for Kohler K&B (Kitchen & Bath) China. In her current role, she supports and partners with business unit managers in K&B China in the activities of linking HR practices to the success and strength of the organization.

With more than 20 years as a senior HR leader and corporate HR specialist, Jenny has extensive experience and knowledge in talent management, learning and development, organization development, and global leadership development.
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