What Does a Good Learning & Development Culture Look Like?

This blog series, How to Build a Culture of Learning, will explain the challenges and solutions to establishing a culture of learning in your organization. But before we dive into those details, let’s make sure we’re clear on what we’re aiming to achieve so you can create a vision for what learning in your organization could be like with a little work.

The first post in the series outlined what a learning culture is and why it is important. In this post, we’ll spend more time envisioning what a good learning culture looks like. Specifically, it’ll help you reimagine what your organization’s learning culture could look like as your work starts to pay off.

What is a good learning culture?

A good learning culture consists of processes that remove barriers, offers support systems that encourage learning, and provides learners frictionless access to learning experiences.

We’ll explore three pillars of learning culture, which we’ll revisit in the last post of this series with a summary of how to achieve this utopian vision of learning.

Good Learning Culture
  1. Access and Availability
  2. Structure and Support
  3. People and Processes

Warning—Spoiler Alert!

This blog post has spoilers from “The Good Place” (Seasons 1–3). We won't mention Season 4, so don’t worry about spoilers if you haven't watched the latest season!


Creating a Good Place to Work

I’m a fan of the series “The Good Place,” so we’ll use that show as an analogy; this post will describe The Good Place to Work.

1) Access and Availability

In “The Good Place,” every street has a frozen yogurt store where you can get just about any flavor you want, whenever you need it. Similarly, in The Good Place to Work, people have access to the learning resources and experiences they need, whenever needed. This includes resources and experiences created by the organization (i.e. the froyo), as well as any relevant externally curated resources provided by content library vendors (i.e. the sprinkles, cherries, sauce, etc).

While this wide provision of learning resources and experiences might not be as expansive as yogurt flavors, it’s still easy to find the “flavor” of learning you want. With a few clicks, would-be learners can search through well-organized content to find the most relevant, high-quality learning that’s been rated as helpful by their peers.

In other words, learners have a positive, consumer-grade, and frictionless experience of finding and accessing learning experiences. And they can share and collaborate with colleagues, supporting one another to develop and grow.

Access to and availability of resources and experiences underpins a learning and development culture because they provide an opportunity for motivated people to learn what they want and need to learn.

2) Structure and Support

In “The Good Place,” everything is designed for the residents’ happiness (or at least it seems at first). Their houses, soulmates, and community roles are set up to support their success.

In The Good Place to Work, structures and supports are in place to help people to make use of the available resources and experiences. Competency frameworks are in place that show people the learning and development needs of their current roles, plus the competencies they need to develop for future roles.

Coaching not only supports and helps direct people’s learning, but also emphasizes reflection so they can learn from successes, failures, opportunities and mistakes. Everybody has a career development plan developed positively and collaboratively with their managers, and receives personalized recommendations from colleagues and/or AI-driven systems.

Good structures and support underpin a culture of learning by helping people know what they need to learn and how they need to develop. They also encourage people to use available learning opportunities and support the continued use of those opportunities.

3) People and Processes

In Season 3 of “The Good Place,” the protagonists realize the process of earning afterlife points is set up for them to fail because no matter what they do, their actions have unintended consequences that lead to them losing points. And when they raise the issue,  those in charge are indifferent and reticent to take any action. The protagonists have to take responsibility for sorting it out themselves.

In The Good Place to Work, processes are created to encourage learning. Taking time to reflect and take training is incentivized and embedded into business processes so learning happens naturally in the flow and schedule of work.

The organization’s leadership understands the value of learning and they make an effort to maintain a culture where people want to and are motivated to develop themselves and one another. People are encouraged to believe they can change for the better, learn new skills, and progress their careers. The whole organization believes in learning, diversifying skill sets, and taking responsibility for learning.

Processes that encourage learning reinforce a learning culture by removing barriers to learning and setting people up for continual development. A positive, leadership-led learning and development mindset is critical to a learning culture because it creates an environment where people believe in learning and want to learn.

A Good Place to Use Learning Analytics

Like the points system in “The Good Place,” learning analytics can be used to measure the strength of your organization’s learning culture in relation to the three pillars by giving insights into:

  • the utilization of available resources and how they are accessed.
  • how support services and structure, such as coaching and career development plans, are being used.
  • attitudes toward learning in the organization as measured by surveys.

Up Next: Barriers to Establishing a Learning Culture

The Good Place to Work may sound unachievable, but it gives us something to aim for. No workplace will ever be perfect, but over the next few weeks this series will help you identify practical steps you can take to move the needle in that direction.

As a first step in that direction, we’ll turn our attention from “The Good Place,” to the bad place. In our next post, "shirt" gets real as we explore some of the barriers you might need to overcome as you establish a culture of learning in your organization (and then subsequent posts will explore how to overcome each barrier one by one).


The Good Place is used here only to illustrate the examples in this blog post. Watershed is not associated with, sponsored by, or affiliated with Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television.

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