This is the second article in a 3-part series. The first article was “How ‘Learning Organizations’ Beat Natural Selection”
Organizational learning allows for teams to learn exactly what is relevant to their specific tasks and specialties while other information they do not need is given to the individuals and teams that need it, with some Venn overlap between for cooperation. With organizational learning, teams work together to help each other learn, and to ensure that nobody is left behind in the overall progress and achievement of the target goals.
Traditional learning systems allowed for a lot of slippage and a lot of redundancy that organizational learning serves to omit, while ensuring that by a specific metric of time and progress, specific smaller goals are met, allowing for the big picture to ultimately be achieved.
The nice thing about this, and the key to its importance, is its inherent flexibility by way of strategy and framework of delivery, allowing for sophisticated needs analysis before going in, and unique philosophies to incentivize individuals.
It needs to be said that organizational learning does require a team mindset from individuals, where those participating value the accomplishment of their division, team or organization above personal glory and vanity, making this process a bit dicey with older, set-in-their-way teams and individuals. However, if this is not an issue, or if it is one that can be overcome (a mark of skill as a leader), then organizational learning is the most effective and flexible way to conduct training and adaptation in a company, team or division hands down.
Traditionally, learning is seen by most organizations simply as an initial orientation process, and then tossed aside.
Yet a challenge remains over just how management can ensure that both employees and management as a whole understands the true importance of continuous learning, and can apply that understanding toward tangible and effective actions which produce continued growth.
In other words, how can organizations create a business culture that encourages learning and development?
I don’t use the word culture as something theoretical: we really are talking about the need to change business culture to a contemporary strategic environment.
This includes the culture being one which embraces multi-directional communication. It encourages feedback, setting clear expectations and frequent follow up in the form of formal discussions, surveys, and other requests for feedback.
One which makes sure to foster and cultivate employee engagement and motivation by incorporating and appreciating the value of new technology and the way it opens new learning opportunities.
Most of all, a culture that understands that individual and organizational performance are tied to directly to learning on a consistent basis, never content on where it stands.
The Need: Why is Continued Development so Imperative?
In the increasingly dynamic and complex business environment, skills become outdated in a very short time, so learning and continued improvement are imperative for success.
Technological changes, reduced staff and budgets due to difficult economic times, and new generation of workers being raised in a completely different level of digital lifestyle than their predecessors have all combined to change office activities and strategy, almost to the point of revolution as compared to just 10-15 years ago.
Speed has become the determining factor that governs all areas of our lives. This manifests itself both in terms of the requirement to work and produce results as quickly as possible, as well as the need to adapt to change rapidly to evolving times.
Therefore, an efficient use of time and money in the process of skills development and enhancement is mandatory. This requires, first, the relevance of topics chosen that correspond to the concrete organizational or personal goals, and the efficiency learning techniques.
Learning methods should combine traditional classroom work with modern, online-based activities, which help to draw a clear connection between learning and performance.
Interactivity, cooperation and the ability to immediately apply their learning into practice through appropriate programs and schedules are mandatory for performance. In addition, enjoyable experiences during learning are essential to inspire and motivate participants to learn. In addition, during this period dominated by globalization, all learning and development programs should be developed such way as to enhance people’s ability to cope with inter-cultural experiences.
How do I create an organizational culture that facilitates learning?
This is usually a three-step process:
1. The articulation of the vision and values that will enable the organization to evolve and inspire people to line up and work together, with all power according to them
2. The establishment of initiatives to accelerate continuous performance improvement and adaptation to the environment of the organization. As a general rule, look to nurture individuals and team over the long-term, the main goal being continued improvement. Don’t be shortsighted in your judgment. It’s also important to foster creativity, excellence and consistency in a culture of learning. Mistakes are perfectly natural and expected. The key is to strive to always learn from them in order to avoid future errors. Learning from experience and interpreting the correct messages in moving forward.
3. The continuous monitoring of the usefulness and success of these behaviors in your organization to be effective is it of its profitability, market share, and customer loyalty and satisfaction all in one place. It is absolutely critical to properly reward people according to them meeting performance benchmarks. They should be encouraged to improve and listen when expressing opinions. Their ideas should be sincerely considered and taken into account, receive positive feedback and, when viable, be put into practice.
Technology also plays a key role in an organizational learning culture, as it is able to facilitate employee recognition and activities and help them perform better in their everyday tasks.
Performance support technology can provide immediate assistance to employees, in the moment of need, in order to empower them to perform any task with confidence and ease. These help individuals to work with ease and confidence, and lower the need to request for help desk assistance.
In addition, mobile and online learning have opened up new avenues to encourage continued learning, long after the initial training period ends.
Whether it’s through integrating performance support tools, offering employees the opportunity to views webinars and instructional videos in order to enhance their understanding, or by attending conferences and presentations to be exposed to the “bigger picture” in our daily work, all of these play a key role in demonstrating to managers and workers alike the need to never stop learning.
Why is it important for the employee to understand the organizational culture?
Culture can be seen by some people as something too abstract and not really relevant to them. The fact of the matter is, however, that organizational learning culture impacts the day-to-day interaction between colleagues and how they are seen by each other.
The broader term ‘corporate culture’ encompasses how people dress at work, what benefits employees receive, what they can joke about and what is not appropriate, that is beyond the scope of what I am referring to here.
Learning culture, by itself, stresses that development and growth does not stop once an employee is hired, promoted, praised or rewarded.
It is about managers (and veteran employees) serving as mentors and role models to newer hires. We learn much of the time through observation of others, especially when we find ourselves in a new, unfamiliar environment. Communication between team members and managers fosters a feeling of “I am a part of this too.”
This is the central reason, above all others, that an organizational culture of learning is so important.
Employees need to feel engaged. They need to feel that their contribution plays a key part in organizational growth. If they do feel that, and if they have the tools to continue to reflect that culture, then everyone benefits.
How can an organizational learning culture be enhanced?
Most experts have concluded that the construction of an overarching organizational learning culture is based on respect. How could it be shown respect at work? Respect can be shown through actions first and foremost. The facts are that we show respect to those around you by how we act.
Managers impose and demonstrate respect by encouraging colleagues to express their opinions and ideas. Listening means respect, as well as enabling colleagues to take their views ’till the end.
Based on respect, both large and small corporations can shape their organizational culture after a long period of time, reaching even ethical codes of conduct.
If we think of big organizations like Google or Apple with a strong organizational culture, we can see how relevant it is to show employees your mission, core values and principles.
Regardless of the chosen instruments (portfolio of customers, social media strategies, ways of employment, technology), communicating the mission and goals of the organization is extremely beneficial for building a strong corporate culture.