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ATD 2016: Opening Remarks from Tony Bingham, ATD President & CEO

2 min read

A learning culture is one in which employees seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and team performance.

At ATD 2016, the mission of the conference is clear: creating a culture of learning is one of the important things an organization can do to ensure its success. Learning cultures lead to higher individual performance, higher organizational performance, better response to change, and more employee engagement.

However, only 31% of organizations have well-developed learning cultures. Why is that? Why aren’t most companies striving to make learning a part of their DNA? When people push back on the importance of learning, many L&D professionals point to this quote from Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”


Most companies that struggle and fail are not able to learn in the right way to face the challenges in front of them. According to ATD Research, the number one thing that high-performing companies have in common is a culture of learning. Top performing companies are five times more likely to have a learning culture. Learning is in their DNA. What’s more? 71% of the high-performing companies said that their learning strategies are closely aligned with their business strategies.

In high-performing learning cultures, employees share knowledge at a rate four times more than any of their competitors. They are generous with their knowledge and want to help others improve their own personal performance.

So, what is a learning culture?

A learning culture is one in which employees seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and team performance. Moreover, they have a budget to support learning and do not diminish it, no matter the outlook of business and economy. They understand learning is vital to success.

ATD rounded up a group of L&D professionals and asked them this very question. Melissa Daimler, Head of Organization and the Effectiveness of Learning for Twitter, said that it comes down to three very basic things: connection, curation, and continuous.

For her, connection means that learning is intertwined into everything. How is learning part of the flow of our day-to-day work? How do we connect employees to one another? How do we connect ideas and information to each other?

Curation doesn’t just mean curating content to help a person succeed. She challenges her team to take it a step further to make sure it’s curated to who that person is and what that person is dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

Lastly, continuous. Melissa says that like Twitter, learning is always on. You have access to learning all of the time, and not just when disaster strikes.

Jenny Dearborn, SVP and Chief Learning Officer for SAP reminds her employees that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner. She says social collaboration, peer-to-peer learning, and mobile access are critical to this strategy.

So, how can we generate more learning cultures?

By empowering our employees. We must find resources that managers need to build successful employees.

By reflection. We need to pause and reflect on what we just learned, no matter if we succeeded or failed.

Our hope is that at #ATD2016, we all strive to build cultures of learning where everyone, not just 31%, find learning vital to success.



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