How Marshall Centre Nurtures a Culture of Learning

When companies place an emphasis on developing a learning culture where their people are encouraged to consistently improve their praxis and share their knowledge, they see greater innovation and business growth. A report published in April 2020 by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of People Development) highlighted that 98% of learning and development managers (L&D) say that creating a positive culture of learning is a priority for them but only 36% of them feel like they have been successful. The CIPD’s advice to L&D professionals is not to think of it as cultural change but rather reframing their current practices. At Marshall Centre we champion a learning culture and want to share some of the ways we have reframed the way we operate to support a positive culture of learning.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.  - Richard Branson

Create a blameless culture
When people work in fear of making mistakes they tend to be more risk averse and less likely to admit when they have failed. Reflecting on failure is an important part of individual and team learning and sometimes your people will fail. Blameless cultures originated from the healthcare and avionics sectors where mistakes can be fatal. They created a culture where people were encouraged to find, share and learn from their mistakes, seeing them as an opportunity to strengthen their systems and not a reflection on personal performance. Shifting focus from finger pointing to collaborative reflection, when mistakes happen, allows us to all learn from failure and improve our processes. Working in a no blame culture also supports positive staff wellbeing as the fear of failure is removed.

Create opportunities for individual learning
Ensuring that every person who works in the organisation has a PDP (personal development plan) will keep them focused on their learning and professional development. It also sends out a clear message to your staff that they are working in an environment that is supportive of their learning journey. Training line managers to be mentors will develop their leadership skills and ensure that their direct reports feel supported in their learning. Providing different types of learning opportunities that appeal to different age ranges and experience levels will keep staff engagement high, just remember to communicate these opportunities well across the business to ensure inclusivity.

Wellbeing support
Mental health and wellbeing exists on a continuum and we work within a mental health framework at Marshall Centre to ensure that every member of the team can access the right level of support when they need it. We encourage everyone to be open and honest about how they feel to break the stigma of asking for help so we can maintain positive wellbeing always. The team were recently given the possibility to qualify as mental health first aiders through MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) England to enable us to provide effective peer to peer support, which is not only reassuring but also often provides help to people before their worries escalate to the point of crisis. Prioritising wellbeing is not only nice to do but it also has measurable, positive effects on the business such as a reduction in absenteeism, lower attrition rates and greater productivity.

Create opportunities for group learning 
“It’s also not just about formal learning – informal and social learning are increasingly important. Many employees want to choose how and when they learn. Again, this requires organisational support and resource for learning – whether building time in for learning or facilitation of informal, social and digital learning.” Creating learning cultures: assessing the evidence CIPD Report (2020)

Introducing The Marshall Centre HiveMind


Within our learning culture we want to encourage people to expand their knowledge and skill sets and then to share what they have learned with others. We recognise that we have a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills across our organisation and so it makes sense to create opportunities for staff to teach each other. Every Friday we have a HiveMind session, which is an opportunity for everyone in the business from entry level to senior leadership to teach us something new. The sessions last between 30 – 60 min and include some sort of practical/interactive element.

Each week a different person volunteers to lead the HiveMind and the sessions can be about anything that others might find interesting or useful. It is a great opportunity for the participants to learn from their colleagues, it creates an inclusive, level playing field as it is open to all and it helps build confidence in presentation skills for the person delivering. So far, this has been a great success and we have covered a wide variety of topics such as:

  • Active listening
  • Servant leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Tips for email organisation
  • A stretching session
  • Reading body language
  • How to use Instagram
  • Guided meditation
  • How to deliver virtual presentations
  • Injury prevention

These sessions are optional so the team can decide which ones they want to attend and all the sessions are recorded for anyone who is interested but unable to join due to prior commitments.

We have now decided to start inviting external guests to join us for some of our HiveMind sessions, so if you would like to attend to learn something new or to lead a session yourself, get in touch and let us know what you want to teach us. These sessions are free of charge and a positive way to end the week. Spaces are limited to ensure we can maintain meaningful interaction.    

Introducing our first guest speaker, Dr Yvonne Ridley
Our first guest speaker will be joining us on Friday the 5th February. Dr Yvonne Ridley is a journalist, published author, TV presenter and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She worked for several Fleet Street newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Observer, Independent on Sunday and The Daily Mirror. In 2001, she became the headlines when she was captured by the Taliban two days into an undercover mission for Express Newspapers. Few expected her to survive the ordeal but she emerged unscathed 11 days later after being released on humanitarian grounds.

In 2019, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work seeking justice against war crimes committed against refugees and for helping Syrian women who had been brutalised and tortured in the Assad regime’s prisons. Yvonne was also involved in leaking a GCHQ document whistleblowing against the legality of the 2003 war in Iraq, which formed the plotline for the film Official Secrets released in 2019, in which Yvonne was played by Hattie Morahan.

Today she is working on a Scottish historical fiction trilogy called The Caledonians. The first title: Mr Petrie’s Apprentice was published in January 2020 to rave reviews and critical acclaim. The second title: The Sinclair Curse is coming out soon.

When she’s not writing, she spends her time giving lectures on humanitarian and women’s issues at university campuses and conferences around the world.

We are extremely lucky to have her join us and share some of her knowledge and experience.

Yvonne’s talk is entitled:

Fake News and Conspiracies; a talk by former Fleet Street journalist.


"As a journalist, this subject fascinates me and so I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge about fake news, how it started, who is affected by it, and, in the wake of the Capitol Hill riots, what sort of threat it can pose. Now that there's a new president in The White House will it still be as prevalent?" - Dr Yvonne Ridley

If you would like to join us for this fascinating session, please register your interest here.

Related Articles