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Creating a Learning Organisation

It’s all about culture.

Few employers would deny the value of training and learning & development for their workforce. Knowledgeable, skilled and experienced employees are essential to an efficient and productive business. However, the benefits multiply when learning is a fundamental part of your company culture.

What is a learning organisation?

The ever-faithful Wikipedia suggests, “a learning organization is a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.” Based on the work of Peter Senge, a learning organisation navigates the unpredictability of the modern world and markets, seeking a competitive advantage through the creation, acquisition and transfer of knowledge and skills.

According to Senge, the core components of a learning organisation are:

  • Systems thinking – Understanding how the organisation as a whole is affected by each part within it.
  • Mental models – This is to say, an attitude or belief relating to the best way to do business. inevitably, mental models change over time.
  • Shared vision – The whole organisation works towards a common goal or set of priorities.
  • Team learning – Employees don’t just learn on an individual basis, they share their knowledge and competence with their colleagues.
  • Personal mastery – This is to say, encouraging people not to just learn what is necessary for the job but to work towards ‘mastery’ of their specific responsibilities and areas of knowledge.

 

With this focus on changing (developing) competence as a response to a changing world, learning organisations tend to be more open, self-directed, tolerant and inclusive, and adaptable to change (predicted or otherwise). In a learning organisation, training & development is a priority business success factor.

Benefits of a learning organisation

Apart from the market-related competitive advantage angle, the benefits of embedding the value of learning in your organisational culture include:

  • Continuous improvement – Learning means new ideas, new techniques and processes, and creates an openness to new thinking. All of which means a business (and workforce) that is looking ahead and striving to do better.
  • Change-friendly – Or at the very least, more change-friendly. Being open to trying new approaches and learning new skills automatically leads to a more positive attitude to change. In fact, in a true learning organisation, the workforce supports and drives change rather than merely responding to it.
  • Employee retention – A common reason for employees leaving an organisation is that the company does not support or develop their careers or future opportunities. Learning organisations actually empower employees to develop themselves.
  • Improved innovation – A learning organisation fosters innovation and creative thinking, encouraging new ideas and potential improvements.

 

Steps towards a learning organisation

According to the Harvard Business Review, recent organizational research has shown that to become a learning organisation, a company needs:

  1. a supportive learning environment
  2. clear and established learning processes and practices

and

  1. reinforcement by leadership

 

And it is this last point that is perhaps the most critical. Whatever organisational culture you have, it will be closely related to / influenced by what your senior leaders say and do. Like it or not, they’re role models and you can’t expect learning organisation values to be embraced across the workforce when their leaders aren’t both modelling those values and actively working to enable everyone else to do the same.

 

While timely training can give you a workforce that can do today’s job, a learning organisation can ensure you’re ready for tomorrow’s.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to be a learning organisation, check out our free taster webinar “Creating a Learning Organisation” on 10 May 2024 at 10:00 a.m; sign up here. Or give us a call at 01582 463460; we’re here to help.

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