Are You a Learning Organisation?

No matter what size the business, learning organisations are defined as those that appreciate the inherent value in people learning, developing, growing and changing so that they lead the business to greater success.

Leaders in learning organisations do not simply offer random training to all and they don’t necessarily have the biggest training budgets; what they will have is a passion for excellence and an understanding that their people are the way to achieve this.

Through technology, most employees have instant access to vast amounts of information and they often do not need to wait for information to be passed down from management.  Skilled learners can sift, sort and utilise what they need, in order to make effective decisions and take successful action in your business. 

The role of the business leader in a learning organisation is less about what you “know” and “control” and more about how you share knowledge, learn from your actions, and reshape your own knowledge based on new experiences, perspectives, and ideas.  It is about role modelling effective learning behaviours to your employees.

In learning organisations, there is an emphasis on learning by doing, trying it out to see what works, and learning from our mistakes.  The leaders in a learning organisation need to foster a no-blame culture; one where people are inspired to take calculated risks, challenge themselves and others, and are empowered to make decisions and take responsibility.

Learning takes many forms, and leading organisations are recognising that “one size fits all” training is not the solution to their needs for business excellence.  They will be embracing the 70:20:10* Model of Development. 

70% of learning through a variety of on the job opportunities

20% of learning through individual efforts such as mentoring

10% of learning through formal training offerings

Great learning organisations will invariably have:

  • Effective induction programmes that ensure new employees feel included and welcomed, that promote the value of the organisational culture, and that get them up to speed quickly with essential workplace knowledge
  • Meaningful appraisal systems that recognise good work, offer constructive feedback on areas for development, identify learning needs and plan ways to meet those needs
  • Robust learning needs analysis so that learning opportunities absolutely match the requirements, and that any learning interventions are evaluated for quality and in terms of the outcomes both in the short and long term
  • Coaching and / or mentoring programmes for targeted, personalised, individual support in key business areas and for developing talent
  • Relevant on-the-job training, training programmes, workshops, courses or action learning sets to meet specific skills and knowledge development needs
  • Promotion of self learning through e-learning, access to books, trade magazines and articles, membership of professional bodies, research opportunities, attending conferences, seminars and professional networks
  • Management support for all learning interventions that are offered so that employees understand the desired outcomes and expectations, and that objectives for learning are set, agreed, monitored and reviewed
  • Ways of recognising and recording the skills and knowledge that already exist within the business so that these can be shared and passed on to other employees
  • Effective feedback mechanisms for ensuring that successes are celebrated, that praise and reward are given regularly, consistently and meaningfully, and so that “lessons learnt” from things that didn’t go so well are used effectively for future improvements
  • Promotion of the value in life-long learning to maintain and enhance skills, enthusiasm, interests, good health and fitness, a sense of well-being, energy and life-balance

Lifelong learners are reported to be more likely to be happier, healthier, have better jobs, contribute more to society and live longer and more fulfilled lives.  They are great for your business!

* Originally credited to Morgan McCall and colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership the model has been developed and used widely since in various forms

Sam Swinstead