Building a Positive Learning Culture with Degreed | Phenom

Maggie Blehar

November 19, 2022

A positive learning culture can unlock an enterprise’s agility and resilience, especially during challenging times. It’s also imperative for employees, as it fosters belonging in the workforce and helps them feel like they’re part of an organization that wants them to grow. 
 

Over the past few years, however, massive shifts in how we live and work have led to change in how we learn — both individually and as a collective workforce. Employees are no longer afraid to leave their current organization for a place with better perceived learning opportunities.
 

Todd Tauber, SVP of Strategy at Degreed, joined Talent Experience Live to explore the conditions for building a positive learning culture and how it affects employees. Read on for the highlights, or watch the full episode here. 
 


Degreed’s Research on Learning Culture
 

Degreed, a Phenom partner, provides a learning platform that focuses on upskilling rather than traditional training. “Degreed is engineered to help people develop skills to progress their careers,” Tauber said. 
 

Innovating Learning and Development (L&D) programs requires an organization-wide culture shift. With that in mind, Degreed conducted research to understand shared values and behaviors around learning in the workplace. Tauber served as a lead researcher for the extensive report, titled How the Workforce Learns: 15 Things Your Learning Culture Needs Right Now.  
 

“People don’t value what they don’t see. And when people think about learning in the context of work, we’re conditioned to think about training and educational experiences — a teacher in front of a class, or a course on a screen,” Tauber said.
 

But some of the most impactful ways that people learn happen through what Tauber called everyday learning — reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, connecting with peers, and other day-to-day experiences that impart skills and knowledge. Everyday learning is largely overlooked in traditional L&D programs, he said. “And that’s what Degreed brings to the table.”
 


Two common barriers to building a true learning culture are the obvious culprits: not enough time and not enough money
 

But the typical mindset around L&D is another challenge.  “People are conditioned to think about training as the solution, and training isn’t always ‘the solution,’” Tauber pointed out. “Sometimes it’s performance support in the moment. Sometimes it’s redesigning the work or redesigning the organization.”
 

How Upskilling Differs From Traditional Training
 

Tauber shared two key differences between upskilling and training, and understanding them is critical to achieving a mindset shift:
 

  1. Upskilling is proactive rather than reactive. An upskilling mindset looks ahead at potential workforce challenges, and connects individuals with opportunities rather than reacting to problems as they occur. 
     
  2. Upskilling opportunities are small steps toward big milestones. “We’re conditioned to think about rewards for learning as either money or a new job. Those are big jumps … and they don’t happen every day,” Tauber said. “People are motivated when they see small gains consistently.” 


Related reading: Futureproof Your Workforce: The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling
 

How Organizations Can Drive True Employee Learning 
 

To combat these common barriers — money, time, and mindset — organizations should look for technology-based solutions and tools that drive efficiency and transparency. The end benefits should allow employers to: 
 

  • Integrate systems and data for better transparency
  • Analyze data and insights to guide learning content 
  • Curate experiences, rather than simply creating and delivering content
  • Create connections to match people with colleagues and with relevant opportunities 
     

Degreed clients are embracing L&D innovation by:  
 

  • Empowering employees to take control of their own development
  • Collaborating with teams to curate pathways and plans within the platform around specific initiatives, like working with DE&I teams to bring awareness to inclusion
  • Building a “playlist of learning” — a curated sequence of resources and experiences — for individuals to participate in independently or in collaboration with subject matter experts
  • Partnering with Degreed’s professional services team to work on change management and staff augmentation strategies to affect real change
     


Four Conditions For Creating a Positive Learning Culture
 

As described in Degreed’s report, organizations need to internalize four considerations to establish a positive learning culture:
 

1. Learning is guided by opportunities, not just requests. 
 

This isn’t the way L&D is typically done, which is why it’s so important. Employees need opportunities to upskill to meet talent demands for emerging needs. Some real-world examples include go-green initiatives or adopting sweeping new technology — changes that require new processes and skills. 
 

The goal is for employees to own their learning in a productive way that also will benefit the business. A platform like Degreed can help with this by lining up the learning resources to the specific opportunities. “The idea is to help them see what skills are in demand for opportunities, jobs, or projects in your organization, and what are the learning opportunities that match that.” 
 

This approach helps organizations move toward a more agile workforce: they can build internal pipelines of employees that are ready to move into newly needed job roles, rather than relying on external talent pools. 
 

2. Skills are built at work every day, not just in training once in a while.
 

Sometimes, traditional classes are the answer. But as mentioned, some of the most impactful learning moments just happen in the flow of work. 
 

A prime example? On-the-job experiences like problem-solving, making mistakes, reflecting, iterating, and getting feedback from colleagues. “What you need to do is acknowledge that it’s learning and figure out a way to make it happen more intentionally so you can advance toward your goals,” Tauber said.
 

Here’s how Degreed supports this: 
 

  • Degreed gives users control. Employees can see dozens of skills associated with a job role, and select the specific skills they need to develop according to their goals. 
     
  • The tool also connects to Phenom’s Talent Marketplace, which serves individualized learning opportunities, including gigs, short-term projects, and cross-department assignments.


“When [employees] can see how the learning connects to the opportunities, that gets them excited. They’re more active in terms of learning, so they consume and complete more content. They’re sharing more content with colleagues … and they volunteer more information about themselves and their interests,” Tauber said. 
 


3. Developing people is everyone’s job, not just L&D’s job.
 

This really comes down to delivering on your employer brand, Tauber said — and directly impacts engagement and retention. “What does every job ad ever promise? We’re going make you better off.” 
 

Research shows that people leave jobs when they feel the employer has failed to deliver on that promise in a meaningful way. In Tauber’s view, L&D, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Management all own employee development and need to collaborate to ensure workers know they're being invested in.
 

Related reading: Driving Employee Engagement with Gigs and L&D
 

4. Everybody can take on new challenges.
 

All employees need to have visibility and equal access regarding learning opportunities. A big part of that is making sure that employees can connect with people, not just jobs.  
 

Having a talent marketplace is key to illuminating people's connections, such as mentorships and sponsors, Tauber said. “When you talk to people who have gone through these mentoring experiences … they feel more confident, they feel like they’re gaining allies and sponsors, they’re building out their network and their reputations, which helps you get noticed and through the hurdles to those opportunities. And as a result of that, organizations are seeing better retention and better engagement,” Tauber emphasized.   
 

Related reading: Boost Employee Engagement and Retention With a Talent Marketplace
 

The Future of Learning
 

Learning content has been the focus for the last 10 years — perhaps to excess. “People are drowning in too much content,” Tauber said. 
 

Now, forward-thinking organizations are looking at ways to mine data through AI, machine learning, automation, and systems integrations to create new experiences. “Data is in the center of a lot of that, and that’s what really gets me excited about learning.”
 


Building a true learning culture “starts with educating yourself,” Tauber said. He added that clearing up misconceptions around defining “culture” should be top priority, since it’s a word that everybody uses all the time without truly knowing what it means.  
 

The bottom line? Be curious.
 

Find more about how Phenom and Degreed can help you build a learning culture here.
 

Maggie Blehar

Maggie is a writer at Phenom, bringing you information on all things talent experience. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends.