Given the pace of innovation in companies globally, fostering a learning culture is an essential part of leadership skills.

A learning culture is one in which learning is not confined to specific instances of training, but happens continually, as employees and managers upgrade and expand their skills. Once, any training was generally instituted and guided as part of change management. Now, learning is a continuous part of emphases on teamwork, collaboration, and the rise of digital methods.

So how can managers foster a learning culture? By embracing a culture of continuous learning. Continuous learning cultures share four characteristics: 1) employees are both teachers and learners, 2) learning is employee-directed, 3) collaboration and technology are central to the enterprise, and 4) learning is tied to results.

Employees as Teachers and Learners

Older-model organizations often used human resources as a central source of training, even if training was diffused through a company. New skills and practices were disseminated by specific leaders to a group, in a conference room.

In contrast, Digitalist recommends that this form of training constitute much less of the learning pie.

Under the 90%/10% model, 90% of workplace learning is accomplished through practice, experience, and interaction. Ten percent is still done via formal learning such as workshops and training sessions. The 90% is done by employees who are senior or have specific needed skills, and the 10% may be as well.

Employee-Directed Learning Is the Way of the Future

Employees are increasing tasked with directing their own learning, including identifying development needs, ways to fill the needs, and managing the schedule in which learning will take place. Managers are tasked with coaching these activities but aso need to focus on the priorities of their departments as well.

Employees will likely have more than one employer in their life, so employee-directed learning allows them to maximize learning in all positions and to relate one position's learning opportunities to another.

Collaboration and Technology Fosters Continuous Learning

A learning culture rests on collaboration and technology. Technology provision of learning in mobile applications and the cloud means that managers and employees can learn whenever it is convenient for them, rather than, say, only between 2 and 3 p.m. on Thursday, when the training session is scheduled.

Online provision of courses by MOOCs like Coursera and other online providers has expanded the universe of online learning.

At the same time, the Millennials focus on collaborative approaches has moved peer-to-peer learning approaches and those structured like social media, with real-time comments and feedback, to the forefront.

Companies Need to Tie Learning to Results

Forbes notes that, given the rise of tools for predictive analytics and the growth of big data, linking education and results are easier than ever.

Managers should first plan and disseminate what the priority goals are. Increased sales? The rate of new sales developed? Customer/client service satisfaction? Response times to customer/client questions? Product quality? Employee productivity? Engagement? The list can almost literally be endless.

Once these are determined, they should be disseminated throughout the company so that employees can direct their teaching and learning activities.