Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Overcoming Obstacles to Creating a Culture of Learning


Every organization needs to develop its own, unique culture of learning in order to best meet its business goals and address employee needs in order to survive in today’s competitive business landscape. However, the reality is that there are often tangible organizational obstacles to establishing a culture of learning.

What are those obstacles? And how might we go about smashing obstacles and rebuilding a constructive organizational culture? Below are four common obstacles to creating an organizational culture of learning.

Unclear Goals

An absence of clear and specific organizational goals and how organizational learning can enable those goals can be a barrier to fostering an organizational culture of learning.

All learning programs must be closely tied to business goals, or they are not worth implementing. A strong statement, but logical nevertheless. And leadership messaging and behaviors must reinforce and recognize those who positively contribute to building a culture of learning. Clarify and communicate strategic messaging (mission, vision, values) and articulate how learning is intertwined in these entities. Then the culture provides value to the organization and its constituents.

Lack of Incentive to Change

All of us have fallen victim to relying on what’s worked in the past at one time or another. However, especially with organizational learning, the entire point is to learn from and correct past errors and to anticipate the required changes. Learning is, by nature, forward-thinking and change-oriented.

Often, an unwillingness to change the status quo is rooted in a lack of understanding of the relationship between making that change and achieving desired results. Find ways to provide incentives to individuals or teams to participate in organizational learning activities. Tie learning objectives into performance evaluations, and give credit not only for taking training, but for training others. After all, if learning is not tied to an individual’s performance (either partaking in learning or sharing knowledge with others, or both), then why should any individual care about learning and knowledge sharing?

Uncertain How to Share Knowledge

Individuals within an organization may recognize the need for change and understand that learning is a key component to effecting change. But those same individuals may be unaware of the organizational procedures and details of knowledge sharing.

Encourage employees to share knowledge informally. Recognize and support subject matter experts. Encourage those in leadership positions to train their team members. Support the learning goals of all employees. And, if your organization uses a learning management system, make sure everyone knows how to access and use it and feels free to create their own online training courses as needed and as desired.

Make the Effort, and Reap the Benefits

I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy to create an organizational culture of learning. After all, knowledge accumulation and knowledge sharing is not always an explicit goal on individual performance evaluations. However, being able to learn, change and adapt to various workplace situations is the hallmark of the successful professional.

Find ways to enhance your learning and invest in your personal ROI. And, if you hold a leadership position within your organization, find ways to further organizational goals through learning and knowledge sharing. Having an inherent organizational culture of learning is not always straightforward. But, it’s worth to effort to remove the obstacles.

Gauri Reyes is principal learning strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and founder of the YOUth LEAD program. This article originally appeared on the Mindflash knowledge sharing and training blog.

(Image via cynoclub/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.