Learning creates happy workplaces

In my previous two posts, I shared two secrets to what happy workplaces do compared to other workplaces. But there’s still one crucial element that a workplace can’t exclude to be happy. This post introduces the third puzzle piece towards creating happy workplaces and will deal with how learning creates happy workplaces. The next post will address tools and tips to implement them.

The puzzle of workplace happiness

The first post introduced movement as a crucial element of happy workplaces to energize people and get ideas flowing.
Secondly, the importance of communication and collaboration was addressed. The post included tips and tools on how to get teams to express their needs and ideas, even when they are not able to articulate it in words.

The topic of this post is the importance of creating a culture of learning. Not merely attending training courses, but deep learning, as I’ve explained in a post on the learning process as I see it. Learning creates happy workplaces.

One of the most satisfying things anyone can do is to solve problems. We love problems and we love learning new things triggered by the problems we experience.

How often have you learned a new skill and couldn’t wait to show your friends or peers? How invigorating does it feel to master something new?

The barrier to effective learning

Yet, many people look at learning as something that you have to do as a tool to get a good job or higher salary. If you want to become a team leader, you attend a scrum master course, if you want to become a manager or direction, you get your MBA. These types of learners typically don’t like learning much and much of the learning is lost soon after the certificate or degree has been obtained.

In a world where high-quality learning has become accessible to everyone, regardless of your geographic location, race, age, or financial situation, knowledge or any technical skill is no longer a barrier to overcome.

The barrier is what happens after you obtain the knowledge. Do you apply your newly learnt knowledge? Or does it quickly fade into a good memory as you fall back into your old habits?

“Knowledge without action is like an architect designing the most beautiful home without a builder to make it a reality.”

It is a dream forever remaining as a drawing on a piece of paper. What makes an architect’s work satisfying, is the ability to see the results of their design in a physical building being lived in. The same is true for knowledge.

Effective learning

To be a source of happiness in the workplace, learning needs to meet at least the following three criteria.

1. Effective learning has a clear goal

What is the outcome you hope to achieve? How can things be different in the future? What does success look like? And most importantly, why or how does it matter to me, as the trainee, in my life?

The first element of effective learning is knowing what problem you are trying to solve. Without a clear goal, you will most likely enjoy the training and walk out without doing anything with the acquired knowledge.

Training enforced by management based on what they think is needed is never as effective as training initiated by the employees themselves. What’s in it for me is probably the most important question to answer before you even attempt to sign up for any training course.

Define, in conjunction with the trainee, the training goal and what success will look like before you enroll. Before going on the training, decide how you intend to use the knowledge when you come back to the workplace.

2. Effective learning experiments

Secondly, effective training allows for time and other resources after the training course to practice and experiment with the newly acquired skills.

While you are practising your new skill you will most likely make a lot of mistakes. To deliver the same task using the new skill will initially take longer than usual. Plan for tasks to take longer.

Adjust the planned schedule or estimations for a period after the training. Allow the employee to work on specific tasks where they can apply their knowledge and work at a slower rate while they integrate their learning.

3. Effective learning reflects on progress made

Finally, effective learning includes a session where the employee reviews and reflects on what has been learnt. It is a conscious measure of success and personal growth. Did you meet the goal you set out for? Did you solve the problem that triggered the initial need for training? Or did you uncover a new need or a different problem?

“Most people don’t succeed because they look at how far they still have to go, not how far they’ve come.”

Reflection also allows for the trainee to appreciate the value of what they’ve received. Many people take this expensive investment on the employer’s side for granted. Giving a conscious opportunity to evaluate the value will create more appreciation. Trainees will have an opportunity to see how it has impacted their personal growth and financial worth in the company.

Allocate a session after the assigned project or tasks were completed for the trainee to present feedback. Let them share to the team what they’ve learnt and how it has helped them to deliver better results.


Happy workplaces are learning organizations. Learning creates happy workplaces when it is weaved into the daily processes. It is a place where learning is a choice with benefit to both the employer and the employee. It is a place where people apply the knowledge they have learnt and the return on investment measured.

In order for learning to be effective though, it needs to have a clear goal linked to an organizational problem, resources allocated to experiment and apply the newly learnt knowledge, as well as a conscious reflection shared with the organization on what the employee achieved as a result of the learning.

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With more than 20 years experience in the software development industry, Kate specializes in helping teams get unstuck, communicate better and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and playful design as tools for process improvement and organizational change. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.