These days, providing learning opportunities is an essential prerequisite for pretty much any employer looking to attract top talent and achieve economic success. Lifelong learning is the ‘new normal’. In other words, learning organizations are the future! But what are they exactly?
What is a learning organization?
A learning organization is one that allows its staff to steer its services in response to ever-changing circumstances.
But how do you achieve this? Training, professional development, and personal initiative for starters. Learning organizations aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves on an ongoing basis. Management’s role is then more one of guidance and support.
Individuals and departments within learning organizations actively work on improving capabilities and processes to help achieve their goals. Collective goals are actively encouraged and carefully aligned with the organization’s broader objectives.
What are the characteristics of a learning organization?
Although every organization has its own unique DNA, most learning organizations share several common traits. Below, you’ll find a few examples:
- Team learning plays a crucial role. Learning teams rely on a clearly defined structure laid down in plans and discussed regularly at meetings. They share information and findings with the rest of the organization under the guidance of a team coordinator.
- A culture of continuous improvement reigns. A learning culture is embedded at every level and across every department of the organization, resulting in mutual encouragement among co-workers to improve processes.
- Senior management fosters and nurtures ongoing learning. Teams and individuals are given the freedom and responsibility to experiment and make improvements themselves. Senior management merely ensures a clear, shared vision is in place and plays a supporting role by creating opportunities for knowledge exchange between individuals, teams, and departments. And it goes without saying that senior management itself adopts a culture of learning, too.
- A healthy balance between autonomy and authority is also essential.
How organizations learn
There are many ways to implement a culture of learning and professional development within your organization. Below, you’ll find several methodologies that will help you transition from a regular to a learning organization.
1. On‑the‑job training
On‑the‑job training is a great way to acquire new skills in the workplace. Ask your co-workers for practical tips and best practices that you can use as the basis for your learning. Alternatively, ask your employer or manager if it’s possible to assign you to an expert, inside or outside your company.
2. Training courses & workshops
Sign up for any one of countless training courses or workshops to gain a deeper understanding in a given field, or to acquire new or hone existing skills. Universities and training institutes often offer a whole host of options outside of normal working hours.
Learning organizations love their staff to broaden their skills and knowledge and should actively encourage them to participate in courses and workshops by offering to pay for training and/or give extra time-off in lieu.
Learning is becoming highly digitalized and e-learning, in particular, is extremely popular. It has numerous benefits. For example, it takes less time than a traditional training course or workshop, and all you need is a computer and an internet connection. Learn when you want and where you want.
4. Books, journals & internet
True bookworms are a rare breed these days, but far from extinct. Some people prefer the written word, which makes libraries and bookstores an ideal port of call, offering a wealth of valuable information.
And the benefits? They offer information in a clear, well-structured fashion. Besides books and e-books, journals, blog posts, and online articles are another great source of information. But be picky about your online sources!
5. Webinars & videos
Others prefer audiovisual input over the written word. Webinars, podcasts, and videos are more suited to this type of learner. These forms of content share information in short, bite-sized chunks. What’s more, you can watch and/or listen to videos and podcasts wherever and whenever you want to. Informative and easily digestible!
The benefits of being a learning organization
Learning organizations have an edge on competitors who aren’t as geared towards lifelong learning. High time, therefore, to take a closer look at some of the foremost benefits.
1. Greater flexibility
Economic crises, pandemics, technological advancements – the world’s an unpredictable place. Learning organizations are far better prepared for sudden changes or new market developments than their more conservative, inflexible competitors.
2. Faster innovation
Markets, customers, and technologies are evolving faster than ever before. It’s vital for organizations to keep innovating if they have any hope of succeeding in such a dynamic environment. Innovation arises from new knowledge, insights, and ideas gathered and gleaned through personal experimentation and from others around us. A robust, dynamic learning environment is fertile ground for innovation.
3. More appealing employment
Most employees like a challenge and the opportunity to work on their personal and professional development. The younger generations, especially, are no longer as attracted by money, but attach greater value to a working environment in which they can grow and learn. Learning organizations are by definition more interesting and appealing to top talent.
4. Tighter cohesion
Learning isn’t only an individual activity. Because learning organizations encourage their employees to share knowledge, team cohesion and the bond between departments become far tighter. What’s more, staff become more engaged with your organization’s goals as a whole.
Keeping track of your progress
Learning organizations would be well advised to keep track and monitor their staff’s progress. Skills matrices are an ideal way to keep track of skills and competences in a clear, orderly, schematic fashion.
- Once you’ve recorded all the skills, competences, and qualifications in your organization, you’ll have a far clearer picture, which helps enormously with your recruitment and selection or training programs.
- What’s more, you’ll be able to map and monitor individual and team progress far more accurately.
- You can use skills matrices at any level of your organization.
To get to grips with skills matrices, Excel spreadsheets provide a decent-enough introduction. Download a selection of our skills matrix templates to get started!
To really get down to business, however, opt for special-purpose skills management software.
Transforming your company into a learning organization has many benefits. You’ll become more flexible and professional while boosting employee satisfaction levels through continued professional development. Make sure you don’t miss the boat!