Take a minute to think about the leading companies in your industry. Chances are that they are not only industry leaders but also learning culture leaders in their respective spaces. This is because companies with a strong learning culture are 30% more likely to be market leaders and 92% more likely to innovate (Source: Deloitte). In other words, for a vast majority of businesses, a strong culture of learning goes hand in hand with strong market performance. In this article, we will look at 3 present-day learning culture leaders and the strategies that helped them earn this position.  

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1. Yelp – Support from the Top and Leadership Involvement

Yelp, a digital business directory with crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses, products, and events, is one of the most popular of its kind. The business has the same number of regular users in the US as the viral short-form video app TikTok (Source: Statista) and even has a nickname for its community, “Yelpers.” 

Apart from being one of the most used review sites in the world, Yelp is also known for having a robust learning culture, making it a learning culture leader.  

According to James Balagot, Yelp’s head of L&D, the company’s learning culture “gets set from the top.” Thus, company leaders personally contribute to and invest their time and effort in ensuring information reaches their workforce.  

  • First, top-level leaders develop programs for managers from all departments to teach them how to become effective coaches and guides for their teams 
  • After delivering these programs, Yelp ensures managers carry their learnings forward and put them to use 

Yelp understands that without support from the organization, employees cannot grow professionally even if they want to. This insight has helped them become a learning culture leader today.  

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2. Pixar – Pixar University and the Importance of Psychological Safety for Effective Learning Cultures

If you’ve paid any attention to pop culture and cinema in the past three decades, Pixar will be a name familiar to you. The animation studio is known for titles like Toy Story and Finding Nemo and has won countless awards for its works, including 10 Oscars and 18 Academy Awards. What you might not know, though, is that Pixar is also a well-known learning culture leader.  

Pixar takes learning so seriously that there is a “Pixar University” where all employees can take various classes ranging from fine arts to specific skills training. It doesn’t matter which department they’re from, they can participate in programs of their choice for their personal and professional growth. 

However, it isn’t just Pixar University that makes Pixar a learning culture leader. Pixar’s emphasis on and pursuit of “psychological safety” among employees is also a large contributor to its continued excellence. 

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Psychological safety is the state of mind of feeling secure to experiment, take risks, and share ideas and feedback candidly in one’s environment. Each individual is respected, regards others with empathy, and believes they won’t be criticized or ignored for taking risks or sharing their ideas. 

According to Pixar’s founder Ed Catmull, “it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.” Thus, Pixar uses its leaders to create the environment it desires. 

Additionally, Pixar also hosts “Notes Days,” where all employees get into groups to share ideas and solve problems. While managers are vital to Pixar’s psychologically safe environments, the business acknowledges power dynamics. Thus, all managers are excluded from Notes Days so employees can have open peer-to-peer interactions. 

3. Google – Leveraging Microlearning with the Whisper Course

It is impossible to speak of learning culture leaders without mentioning Google, the tech company that does it all. 

Google has long been known for its strong internal learning culture and its continued relevance in the tech sphere is a testament to this fact. 

One way Google promotes organizational learning is through microlearning, i.e., bite-sized training that is delivered quickly. 

For instance, Google uses the “Whisper Course” to equip managers with communication skills and tips to create psychologically safe teams.  

The Whisper Course is delivered via emails over a 10-week period, where managers receive one suggestion per email on how to build psychological safety. These emails are like reminders or “whispers” to the managers and are, thus, called the “Whisper Course.” According to Google’s internal data, 95% of employees who have taken the Whisper course would recommend it to others. 

Thus, Google demonstrates that microlearning is a powerful tool for building a learning culture and can have very favorable outcomes if delivered properly. 


3 Ingredients to Become Learning Culture Leaders

3 Ingredients to Become Learning Culture Leaders


To summarize, the following strategies can propel organizations into becoming learning culture leaders in their respective fields: 

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