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3 ways leaders can create a learning culture

In the age of AI, upskilling is the key to employee retention. Here’s how leaders can actually make learning a priority.

3 ways leaders can create a learning culture
[Source photo: VyshynskaArt/Getty Images]

For most businesses, the past few years have presented new challenges regarding employee retention. My company is no different. More recently, we’ve figured out strategies that help us attract and retain top talent, one of which is doubling down on our commitment to continuous learning.

With the rise of AI, employees are increasingly concerned about skills gaps. A 2024 Gallup poll found that 22% of workers worry that their jobs will become obsolete because of AI, up from 15% in 2021.

What’s more, a recent survey of 4,500 workers across the U.S., U.K., and Mexico found that 70% felt their organization’s learning and development (L&D) could improve. For younger employees between the ages of 18 and 34, 44% are considering leaving their jobs due to insufficient L&D.

But across generations, many workers would rather upskill for a new role at their current company than find a new position at a different company. And if retention isn’t reason enough to invest in upskilling, it also can boost innovation. A culture of learning helps employees cultivate a “growth mindset:” psychologist Carol Dweck’s term for being always open to acquiring new knowledge and skills. Instead of accepting the status quo just because, team members continually seek new and better solutions. 

If you’re committed to doubling down on your employees’ continuous learning, here are three strategies that have worked for my team.


When it comes to ensuring employees take advantage of upskilling opportunities, managers should start by highlighting how upskilling can benefit them, in terms of compensation and advancement. Studies have found that employees who enroll in free education programs receive a 2.4 times higher wage increase than nonstudents in their first year of continuing education, and are 80% more likely to be promoted.

But the biggest barrier to upskilling: time. Research shows that during the average 40-hour workweek, employees have only 24 minutes to learn.

Therefore, incorporating L&D opportunities into an employee’s existing workflow makes it easier for them to continue their education. That means weaving learning into places, platforms, and activities where they already engage. For example, they could use AI to train themselves on a tool they’ll use to complete a current project. As Kathryn Diaz, chief people officer of Cognizant, told the Financial Times, employees now learn in shorter bursts at work. Rather than a half-day of classroom training, some tech workers do online training in as little as five minutes, when an issue pops up during their workday.

It may require a shift in thinking, but ultimately, incorporating upskilling into the workflow maximizes the impact of L&D while lowering the time commitment for employees.


You may have seen headlines about Fortune 500 companies paying for their employees’ MBA degrees. It’s a generous idea but might not be within reach for all organizations—or desired by all employees.

Today’s employees want upskilling that’s tailored to their specific career needs. A 2024 survey found that 68% of workers felt that workplace training is a one-size-fits-all approach. Personalized training, on the other hand, can boost employee satisfaction and performance. The same survey found that 89% of workers said they’d feel encouraged if their employers offered tailored training for their roles.

So, while offering educational opportunities during the workday, leaders should ensure that employees can match training with their goals. AI can be a powerful tool in this respect, for learning in general and acquiring AI capabilities in particular. As IBM explains, employers can use generative AI to create customized learning opportunities, with training programs that combine requisite AI education with specific instructions for an employee’s unique job.

More generally, leaders can implement regular check-ins and collaborate with employees to develop career plans with corresponding learning objectives. As workplace technology continues to evolve, it’s essential to continuously touch base and readjust L&D goals.


Facilitating employee education could be a job unto itself. Most organizations, however, don’t have the resources to create such a role, nor do they need to. A growing number of automated tools can make learning integral to your company’s culture.

Some organizations, for example, rely on automated platforms to oversee the entire learning process—from automating check-ins to matching employees to skills to connecting them with mentors. On a more granular level, guided learning tools can empower employees to upskill according to their schedules and objectives with minimal outside assistance. You can identify learning needs, automate “assignments,” and more. Organizations can also use automated tools to evaluate and improve training programs. With automation, managers and employees can focus on more meaningful tasks without letting upskilling fall by the wayside.

Traditional upskilling no longer cuts the mustard. Today’s leaders are tasked with creating workplaces that emphasize continuing education. Those efforts will fall flat if leaders don’t also enable employees to build learning time into their workdays. It’s a small, everyday investment that will pay off in spades over time.

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Aytekin Tank is the founder of Jotform, an online form builder. More

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