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5 ways senior developers can build a learning culture

January 12, 2023

Developers know that learning is an essential part of the job, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the tech industry. For senior dev leaders, keeping teams sharp and ahead of the learning curve is a challenge that leads to an important question: How do you instill learning as a workplace value? How can you build a learning culture?

As a leader, developer, and author of “Culture of Learning: Executive Briefing,” Pluralsight author Dan Appleman is our go-to expert on the subject. In this article, he provides actionable advice to help leaders optimize learning. With these five tips, senior developers will not only be able to help their teams invest in learning, but also see a return on that investment through happier teams and more cost-effective problem-solving.

What is a learning culture in the workplace?

Learning culture is a term that those in the industry may recognize as corporate jargon, but turning the talk into action takes some real effort. In the tech industry, the most important part of a learning culture is not necessarily its definition, but how it's practiced in the workplace.

5 ways senior developers can help build a learning culture

Senior developers can drive a continuous learning culture in their teams using these five tips.

1. Set the example

First things first: model the behavior you want to see. Leaders are in an extraordinary position of influence, so creating a learning culture can begin with something as simple as prioritizing your own learning. 

Take time to learn every few days or once a week. Then talk about what you learned with your direct reports. Dan explains there’s a tremendous addition to culture through setting a good learning example. 

“I guarantee you that if [you and] your team leads do this for a month, you're suddenly going to see other people doing the same thing—they're going to be learning, too,” he says. “They will recognize that, ‘Oh, this is part of our culture. This is what we do.’”

2. Set the expectation

What’s the first question many employees have about learning on the job? You’re on the right track if you guessed “How am I supposed to make time to learn?”

A pervasive concern for team members is not being able to set aside time to learn within their current workflows. However, senior leaders have the power to start setting expectations by allotting dedicated time to learn

Give employees the permission to learn at work and the ability to allocate time on their calendars for learning. Dan suggests that this can do more than help employees add learning time to their schedules; it can also erase the expectation that team members must sacrifice their own time to keep up with mastering new tech trends outside of work. With clearer expectations, you embed learning into your team’s culture and create a positive growth experience. 

3. Share mistakes

In the tech world, mistakes often correspond with an economic cost. However, mistakes that aren’t shared can be just as costly because other team members may repeat them, and they take more time to correct.

A continuous learning culture allows teams to learn from each other’s mistakes. It’s an easy practice that turns negatives into positives. But communicating and admitting mistakes can be intimidating, especially for junior developers. 

Dan advises that senior developers lead the charge when it comes to sharing blunders. He says, “If your top people, if your most skilled people, aren't afraid to admit their mistakes, nobody is going to be afraid, because they know that that's not what they’re being measured on.” 

Additionally, senior developers can help create stronger developers by giving them time to fix their mistakes. It can be a healthy challenge! A culture of admitting mistakes will also help senior team members know when to mobilize additional resources to correct issues before it’s too late. This results in better communication efforts—everyone is in sync to solve problems and succeed together.

4. Provide learning resources

A learning environment is supported by learning resources. Whether it’s a curriculum to help your team develop necessary cloud skills or reach a certain level of competency with new software or programs, investing in a learning plan is important to helping teams navigate the upskilling process. 

Dan emphasizes that providing resources goes hand-in-hand with being a role model. Platforms like Pluralsight Skills allow teams to develop skills as a team or as individuals. You can also use tools like Pluralsight Flow to assess your team’s needs and bottlenecks to implement practices that help your team improve.

5. Let others share their growth

Dan’s final piece of advice is a simple 15-second improvement. His advice is to add a short addition to the daily stand-up so your team can answer the question, “What did you learn today?” 

Though this practice is quick, it can have an immediate impact on your team’s ability to learn from one another. “People on the team are probably working on similar things,” Dan says. “There's a very good chance that whatever [one] person learned is something that other people can use.” Sharing learning is sharing growth, which creates an experience for the entire team to upskill collectively.

A great resource for tracking growth is Pluralsight Skills’ Skill IQ. Each team member can build their knowledge through practical assessments, accompanied by course suggestions to upskill to an expert level. When growth is trackable, team members can have a sense of ownership in their learning, which makes it even more exciting to pass on to others in their next stand-up. 

Why is a learning culture a good investment?

It’s never too late to build a learning culture, and senior developers are an essential piece to building a learning culture that lasts. By modeling continuous learning behavior and providing time and resources, leaders can increase the cost effectiveness of their projects and create an atmosphere of continual growth in their teams. 

With the right resources and actionable tactics, your team can stay ahead of the technology curve and be excited to learn what’s coming next.

Keep your team ahead of the tech curve with Dan's Culture of Learning: Executive Briefing course.