What’s the difference between a “training culture” and a “learning culture”? The answer is, “A great deal.” As the chart shows, in a training culture, responsibility for employee learning resides with instructors and training managers. In that kind of culture the assumption is that trainers (under the direction of a CLO) drive learning. Whereas in a learning culture, responsibility for learning resides with each employee and each team. In that kind of culture, employees are expected to seek out the knowledge and skills they need, when and where that knowledge and those skills are needed.
In a training culture, the assumption is that the most important learning happens in events, such as workshops, courses, elearning programs, and conferences. In a learning culture, it’s assumed that learning happens all the time, at events but also on-the-job, through coaches and mentors, from action-learning, from smartphones and tablets, socially, and from experiments.
In a training culture, the training and development function is centralized. The CLO, or HR, or a training department controls the resources for learning. Employees and their managers assume that if new competencies are needed, they should rely on this centralized function. In a learning culture, everyone is responsible for learning. The entire organization is engaged in facilitating and supporting learning, in the workplace and outside the workplace.
In a training culture, departmental units in the organization compete for information. Each unit wants to know more and control more than the other units. This competition can result in short-term gains for those units and even for the organization as a whole (e.g., drug development in pharmaceutical companies). In a learning culture, knowledge and skills are shared freely among units. Everyone is working to help everyone else learn from the successes and failures across the organization. This creates a more sustainable and adaptable organization.
In a training culture, the learning and development function is evaluated on the basis of delivery of programs and materials. Typically, what matters to management is the courses that were offered and how many people attended. In a learning culture, what matters is the knowledge and skills acquired and applied in the workplace and impact on achieving the organization’s strategic goals. It’s less about output and more about the difference that learning makes for individuals, teams, and the entire organization.