Top Learning Organizations – 4 Businesses That Do It Right

Learning Culture  |  February 7, 2019

Maybe this is the first time you’ve given more than a passing thought to a corporate learning culture. You’ve read about what learning culture is, how learning culture can benefit your company, and about best practices for implementing a learning culture.

A corporate culture of learning empowers all employees in the organization to continue to learn to build their knowledge base and skill sets, to innovate, create, and problem-solve for the benefits of themselves, the company, and their clients. However, developing and sustaining a strong learning culture can seem overwhelming. We want to share with you four real-world examples of businesses that are doing it right.

Organization #1: Adobe

The software giant has consistently been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the “Best 100 Companies to Work For.” Along with the company’s stated commitment to the wellbeing of its staff (and the numerous benefits the company offers to support employees), the leadership insists on integrity, transparency, and open lines of communication with staff.

Additionally, the company works to recruit talent from underrepresented minority communities. They recognize the value of having a diverse staff with a variety of ideas, experiences, and talents working together. The Adobe Life blog shares (among other news) stories about staff achievements, so everyone in the company is aware of individual and group successes.

Adobe also provides many learning opportunities for staff at the company through on-demand online courses, mentorship and leadership development programs, and education reimbursements. But Adobe doesn’t stop there. They’ve also created an award-winning program, Kickbox, that encourages innovation and risk-taking, no matter what the outcome. Any staff members who request it is given a red cardboard box containing stationery, snacks, and a $1,000-pre-paid credit card to explore an idea—no questions asked. Currently, 1,000 employees have taken advantage of the opportunity resulting in 23 who have received additional investment in their projects.

Organization #2: Google

We know, you’re probably not shocked to see Google on this list, but there’s a good reason it makes the list! The company is a standout when it comes to serving as a model for a corporate learning culture. Google’s employees are given the flexibility to set their schedules to work when it suits them, in a way that maximizes their productivity and creativity. The staff is made up of talent across all different fields of technology, so everyone can work with and learn from each other.

This growth mindset, and opportunities for collaboration results in a staff that works to constantly improve themselves and the company. Google values employee contributions and risk-taking, even when it leads to failure.

Google also values great managers. We have mentioned in our posts the importance of leaders who demonstrate their commitment to, and confidence in their employees. Google decided it wanted to understand what makes a manager great.

Researchers first tried to find evidence that managers weren’t important, that a manager had no impact on a team’s work. (That’s outside-the-box thinking!) They looked at manager performance ratings and feedback on Google’s annual employee survey and found that (of course) managers mattered. Teams with great managers were productive and happy. Still, the data did not explain what made these managers great; it only reported that they were.

Google reviewed the comments on the performance ratings, and in the employee surveys, and found ten behaviors that were repeatedly attributed to the great managers. They also conducted double-blind interviews with a group of the best and worst managers to find concrete examples of what the managers were doing differently. You may recognize the behaviors in this list:

A great manager

  • Is a good coach
  • Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  • Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  • Is productive and results-oriented
  • Is a good communicator—one who listens and shares information
  • Supports career development and discusses performance
  • Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  • Has key technical skills to help advise and direct the team
  • Collaborates across the organization
  • Is a strong decisionmaker

Organization #3: Publix

The world’s largest employee-owned company has spent 21 consecutive years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. All of its employees (and former employees) are controlling shareholders, with an 80% stake in the company, worth $16.6 billion. All employees who work an average of 20 hours per week receive company stock after working for the chain for a year, and additional stock every year. Employees have a vested interest in the company’s success and know that they are valued by company leadership.

Collaboration and communication are among the company’s core values, and employees are supported in pursuing career goals and reaching out to colleagues for assistance. They are also encouraged to work in the company’s various divisions to learn new skills, information, and aspects of the business.

The company further demonstrates its commitment to its employees by promoting internally in most cases. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that the company’s annual voluntary turnover rate is 5%, compared with the national average of 65%.

Organization #4: WD-40

Chances are you have a blue-and-yellow bottle of WD-40 under your kitchen sink or in the garage, but you don’t necessarily think about the company that produces it. Garry Ridge, the company’s CEO, is intensely committed to learning, and requires all employees to take the pledge:

I am responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers, and making decisions. I won’t wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I’m responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn’t “get this sooner.” If I’m doing something others should know about, I’m responsible for telling them.

When Ridge became CEO in 1997, the company’s signature product was in 4 out of 5 households in the U.S., along with countless businesses. But the can’s omnipresence was also its liability. It was sold only in the U.S. and most of its profits were paid as dividends. By 2016, the product was being sold worldwide, and sales had exploded. The company has also expanded its product offerings.

Ridge requires his employees to ask questions, to innovate, collaborate with each other, take risks and not be afraid of failure.

Have any of these stories inspired you? Have they helped you think about how you’d like your own company’s learning culture to take shape? Do you want your organization to join this list? KnowledgeForce Consulting can help make that dream a reality. Click here to contact us today.

You might also want to read our predictions about the future of corporate learning to further spur your thinking.

For more information, read our complete employer’s guide on corporate learning and employee engagement.

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