A Learning Culture is a set of organizational values, conventions, processes, and practices that encourage individuals — and the organization as a whole — to increase knowledge, competence, and performance.
An organisation, a company or a flight department, that has a Learning Culture is one that encourages continuous learning. The resultant environment of continual learning elevates the individual employee as a person, as a worker and as a professional. This, in turn, can open opportunities for the organisation, the company or the flight department, to continuously evolve for the better.
A well-established, and continuously cultivated, Learning Culture can bring many benefits to an organisation. Although not limited to just the following, these benefits can include:
- Increased employee satisfaction
- Decreased turnover
- Increases in efficiency and productivity
- A culture of knowledge acquisition and sharing
- A "make it better" mindset within the organisation
- Less resistance, and enhanced adaptability, to change
Creating a Learning Culture
For learning to be effective within, and beneficial to, an organisation, the subject matter that is encouraged must be related to the business at hand. More critically, personnel within an organisation should be working together whenever possible, rather than learning individually. As an example, most flight departments recognise the advantage of sending a crew, rather than individual pilots, for initial or recurrent training. The shared learning environment enhances the training experience and allows the use of company protocols and procedures, thus increasing the value of the training and the confidence and capability of the crew involved.
There are many ways to create, encourage and enhance a Learning Culture. Not all of these can be used in every workplace environment. Some of the more fundamental aspects of creating a Learning Culture, in almost any environment, include:
- Lead by example. A critical driver of employee learning is reflected by what the company managers actually do. A leader's behavior — particularly in terms of what they do as a matter of routine — has a strong influence on the behavior and the performance of their team. In simple terms, don’t ask your employees to do what you don’t (or won't) do yourself.
- Recognise and reward. Effecting a change in the culture of any organisation will be very difficult if there is not a process in place to entice or reward the desired outcome. Allow time for formal learning, encourage creative or critical thinking and recognise, praise and reward those who display an effort to learn and develop.
- Provide appropriate feedback. Although the tendency in many performance debriefings is to tell individuals what they are doing "right", the opportunity should also be used to tell them what they are doing "wrong". Negative feedback must be offered in a constructive and diplomatic way but when it comes to the subject of continuous learning, one of the best ways to trigger curiosity on given a subject is to highlight a knowledge gap.
- Hire appropriately. Irrespective of an individual's credentials or experience, if they do not support and embrace the culture of the organisation, they will not likely fit in well. From a Learning Culture perspective, if naturally curious people are hired, and if their interests and their role within the organisation are overlapped to the maximum extent possible, it is unlikely that there will be an issue with their willingness to learn.
As is the case in many sectors, the world of aviation is changing rapidly. Organisations cannot expect to keep up if they are reliant on outdated technologies, work activities, and processes. Rules and procedures change, airspace utilisation continuously evolves, and the advances in technology and automation, in both air traffic management and in aircraft systems and capability, change the scope and pace of the role of each individual within their respective organisation. To keep employees engaged, and to help develop the agility that they need to remain proficient, organisations need to embrace a Learning Culture that engages team members at every level of the Company hierarchy.