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5 Keys to Developing a Robust Learning Culture

Joey Spivey

By Joey Spivey, Senior Learning and Development Specialist for Wellabe, Des Moines, Iowa

Nothing is driving your culture, retention, and organizational capability like the learning opportunities you provide your employees. It’s a shared conclusion that the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), The Conference Board, Paychex, LinkedIn, Execu|Search Group, and dozens of other firms have reached through their own independent research.

So, what can you do about it? At Wellabe, we have focused our employee learning strategy around five areas because of their broad impact, critical influence on the employee lifecycle, and alignment with our organizational priorities. While we have tailored these programs to Wellabe, any organization serious about a robust learning culture should make them a priority.

1. Employee onboarding

    It comes down to this: Your ability to onboard effectively is the biggest driver of your talent strategy. And onboarding starts from the first point of contact with a job candidate. That means everything from that point through an employee’s first 90 days should be planned and purposeful.

    At Wellabe, we use a “breadcrumb” approach during those first 90 days to, piece-by-piece, introduce employees to our benefits, products, organizational structure, and engagement opportunities. We’ve noticed more engagement, better new employee confidence, and less brain drain from endless early days of new hire paperwork.

    2. Mentoring

    Mentoring can take on many forms in an organization. While no type of mentoring is inherently better than any other, it is important to intentionally build a program that aligns with your purpose.

    At Wellabe, we prioritize a traditional career development mentoring structure, where earlier career employees are paired with more experienced employees over the course of one year. These participants are paired primarily on their career aspirations and provided monthly “conversation guides” to help facilitate a productive, goal-oriented relationship.

    In 2024, we are expanding this program to accommodate flash mentoring and skills-based mentoring. Two programs that may work great for you too.

    3. Leadership development

    You’ve heard it before: “People don’t quit bad jobs. They quit bad bosses.” While there’s certainly truth to that, challenge your organization to ask itself, “Have we created an environment that empowers bosses to be bad?”

    Whether intentional or not, without a clear leadership development program, you’re leaving leaders up to chance — an operational mistake no company can afford.

    At Wellabe, we’re in the midst of transitioning from an external leadership development program to an internal one. While the choice of internal or external is important, it’s not nearly as important as having an established program leaders are strategically funneled through.

    Something that’s driven our approach at Wellabe is to ask: What makes a Wellabe leader different? As you evaluate your options, answering that same question could be a critical step forward in the capability of your leaders.

    4. Town halls

    Town halls are a critical way to create intentional opportunities for employees to share their insights and expertise with their colleagues. This kind of employee-generated learning takes the burden off internal learning and development teams and fosters a connected yet decentralized learning culture.

    At Wellabe, we use a combination of programs, including Learning with Leaders, Fireside Chats, and All-employee Meetings. They are opportunities for leaders across the organization to share with the rest of Wellabe what they’re up to — their career journey, the people they work with, the things they’re most excited about. It’s a great way to enhance internal acumen, create a greater sense of leader accessibility, and shine the spotlight on the hard work being done across our teams.

    5. Skills management

    You may have heard of skills becoming the new currency of work. But what does that mean?

    For decades, we’ve used job descriptions as the source of truth for the capabilities within a team or organization. But let’s be real, how many of us have job descriptions that perfectly capture everything we do, or can do?

    Enter skills management: The process of identifying the most critical skills to your organization and assessing the capabilities of your employees in those areas.

    What do you get out of it? It’s a system that replaces gut instinct with real data, helping you understand where you have a high concentration of a particular skill, or where you have a deficit that may risk the continuity of your operations.

    At Wellabe, we’re early in our journey to create our organization-wide skills inventory, working with our technology and customer operations leaders to define their current and future most critical skills to create development opportunities tailored specifically to building our future-ready workforce.

    A parting word of advice: Crawl. Walk. Run.

    It took a few minutes to read about these programs but years of work to design and implement them. Don’t be overwhelmed by a desire to do everything, everywhere, all at once. Commit to improving an existing program or piloting one new idea this article has sparked. See it through to fruition, evaluate, and try something else.

    Learning programs are really about a learning culture, and culture takes sustained effort and consistent execution. It’s worth the effort — just ask your employees.

    To learn more about Wellabe and its vision to be the most trusted provider of health and wealth solutions in an increasingly connected world, visit wellabe.com.

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