Four Culture Keys for Unlocking Lifelong Learning

Successfully enabling employee learning has and will continue to remain a strategic priority as organizations struggle to upskill their workforce, fill strategic skill gaps, and seek to win the race for talent. Executing a thoughtful and data-driven learning and development strategy to meet these business priorities is essential, yet SAP SuccessFactors Growth & Insights research indicates that an organization’s learning culture can make or break the realization of these strategic goals.

Learning cultures are the shared values, beliefs, and norms that influence learners’ behavior and outcomes. Strong learning cultures are rare and challenging to create and sustain yet worthwhile to build and invest resources in fostering. Our research* indicates that only 30% of employees consider their organization to have an excellent learning culture. However, these employees reported:

  • 25% higher engagement
  • Rated their learning experience to be 24% more positive
  • Were 15% more likely to apply their newly learned skills on the job

Early talent is also attracted to organizations that support employees sharing knowledge, provide learning opportunities, and reward learning.** To help your company rapidly adapt as business continues to change and build up the skills needed for current – and future – positions, your employees must be continuous learners. Clearly, it’s important to promote a positive learner experience and provide the building blocks for a continuous learning culture.

Four Culture Keys 

From the findings of our research program, we set forth four keys to building a culture of lifelong learning in your organization.

Culture Key #1: Reward and Recognize Learning

Employees will believe it is not a priority if an activity is not rewarded. A lack of reward and recognition leads to less engagement in learning behavior and affects learning effectiveness. Employees who cite inadequate reward for learning are more likely to turnover, feel less motivated to learn, and be less engaged.

Recommendation: Consider Learning as Job Performance
Incorporate learning experiences into goal-setting and continuous performance evaluation processes. Setting and tracking development goals will keep employees accountable for their growth and ensure that it is recognized. By using SAP SuccessFactors Learning, organizations can provide clear career paths that are linked with development goals and learning programs that help employees thrive.  And, just as important, this allows you to recognize the user’s whole self: what’s important to them, who they are, who they are becoming, and what they are passionate about.

Culture Key #2: Leadership Support and Role Modeling

Leaders are integral to building a culture of learning. Leaders specify and communicate the priority. They signal the importance of learning by role modeling and dedicating time and resources to foster learning.

Recommendation: Tailor Learning to the Leader Persona
Ensuring learning opportunities capture leaders’ desires for social learning can improve leadership learning behavior. For example, an open forum for leaders to discuss their current challenges and share best practices can give them a platform to celebrate wins and learn from the losses of others. You can also take advantage of the built-in discovery and collaboration capabilities, peer resources, and intelligent recommendations from SAP SuccessFactors Work Zone to help employees of any level find the educational resources they need and get access to social learning. Leaders can connect to each other and to relevant content throughout every stage of their experience, making it easier to collaborate with peers, find interesting information, and start or join communities.

 Culture Key #3: Close the Awareness Gap 

The maturity of an organization’s learning culture can be demonstrated by the existing strength of the “awareness gap,” or the level of employee knowledge regarding learning resources and opportunities available.

Recommendation: Provide Equal Access to Learning Technology
Digital learning can be scaled to a broader audience. With SAP SuccessFactors Work Zone, learners can get unified access to all kinds of learning experiences both content-focused and experiential – even from different sources. Employees don’t have to sort through multiple systems with multiple logins and search to find what they are looking for. Having one access point to all learning content and solutions from any source helps to simplify and optimize learning processes and increase engagement.

Culture Key #4: Technology Enablement 

Technology enablement is a crucial factor in the learning culture of organizations as learning opportunities are increasingly being augmented or offered through technology.

Recommendation: Personalize the Experience, Especially for the Digital Learner
Intelligent learning technologies can personalize learning topics and modality recommendations, provide performance insights, and develop custom pathways, including content and experiences. With SAP Content Stream applications by Skillsoft, personalized learning recommendations powered by machine learning help provide employees with curated access to ideas, topics, and courses uniquely tailored to their goals and interests. And by using SuccessFactors Learning, you can gain insights into real career growth opportunities, use system data to recommend topics, skills, and future roles to consider, and make personalized resource discovery easier than ever. Finally, Experience Management solutions from SAP and Qualtrics can help to continuously measure employee sentiment and determine the right actions to improve learning experiences.

Addressing these four keys in your approach to learning can help build a lifelong learning culture in your organization to help meet your business objectives.

Read more about the Building a Culture of Lifelong Learning research and how a learning management system can help build a continuous learning culture in your organization.


Mark Tarallo is a solution marketing fellow at SAP.
Joshua Acosta an HR research analyst at SAP.

*From a global and cross-industry sample of 1,470 employees.
**71% of university student indicated being attracted strong learning cultures. From 59 university students who participated in a hackathon event hosted by SAP.