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By Emily Wilson, Director of Solutions Marketing Learning

Businesses that are unable to adapt to change struggle to survive. Don’t believe me? A few examples of highly regarded brands include Circuit City, Borders Books, Tower Records, Pontiac, Saturn, Palm – all companies that at one time seemed invincible brands and today no longer exist.

In fact, 26 percent of the top 50 companies on the Fortune 500 list in 2003 were no longer there 10 years later. How can your business make sure it doesn’t disappear? The answer may surprise you: Create a business culture that fosters life-long learning. Encourage employees to be students throughout their career Although this advice seems like a no-brainer, only a small number of companies are actually making this transformation. Fewer than 10 percent of businesses worldwide have succeeded in creating a learning culture. Yet, 70 percent of executives believe learning and development is a key part of business strategy.

To stay competitive, every company needs to know how to apply the latest technology to operate quickly, productively, and cost-efficiently. This requires a business culture that gives every employee the opportunity to update his or her skill sets and engage in a lifetime pursuit of knowledge. Businesses must go beyond providing compliance-related training. Let’s face it; most employees don’t enjoy full-day sessions about topics like sexual harassment, production-compliance procedures, and emergency-reporting processes. Don’t get me wrong—these topics are an essential part of creating a safe and welcoming workplace. But corporate learning organizations should also provide employees with learning options that are relevant, engaging, and rewarding. All employees want to perform their jobs well. It’s up to corporate learning to help them reach their fullest potential with the technical tools and best practices available.

A learning culture doesn’t have to be a drain on the HR budget. A number of technology innovations enable employees to access content of interest to them. Learning specialists can choose from mediums ranging from mobile apps to massive open online courses (MOOCs), gamification applications, and online learning hubs. By matching skills gaps with relevant and interesting content in these tools, learning specialists can recommend a customized learning and experiential program for a specific department, role, or individual—enticing employees to take every opportunity to learn. Give internal experts an opportunity to shine through teaching.

Creating a learning culture requires more than just lip service. Corporate learning must provide employees the tools and experiential opportunities necessary to acquire knowledge and cement that information into daily practice. More important, everyone must be given the opportunity to share what they’ve learned and build on that knowledge. One way to accomplish that is to allow employees to become teachers as well as students.

Companies like Google have realized the value of this experience. Knowing it couldn’t organize instructor-led training quickly enough to keep up with demand, Google asked some of their employees to assume a teaching role on topics that reflect their expertise and talent. Course topics include management, orientation, and public speaking, but employees are also invited to develop and facilitate classes covering everything from kickboxing to parenting. By allowing all employees to fully participate in the learning culture, your company will benefit from a workforce that’s highly engaged and ready to do what it takes to make the business the best it can be. Plus, your executive team may even learn a new skill or two from your employees.

Want to find out more about how learning programs can improve productivity, increase revenue, and re... Attend our Webinar, “Bridging the skills gap: The learning mandate ,” on January 14!