What is a Learning Organization & How Can it Help Your Team?
January 11, 2023
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A learning organization that actively identifies and embeds ideas across the company can adapt to the unpredictable faster than competitors.
Companies that create this type of learning organization are also more profitable. Employees rate professional development as the number one driver for great culture, hence why half of organizations increased their L&D budgets this year.
So, how do you create a learning organization that promotes continuous improvement to experience these benefits? Discover the essential components of a learning organization so you can build your own.
What is a learning organization?
A learning organization is a workplace that allows employees to acquire new skills, confidence, and knowledge. It interprets and transfers these new skills into daily practice, resulting in employees who can retain knowledge and modify their behaviors.
What’s more, almost 50 percent of talent developers said they had increasing talent development budgets in 2022–an increase of 15 percent since March 2021. Add on the fact that an overwhelming 97 percent of employees want to expand or continue their current time to learn, and developing a learning organization is essential for modern businesses.
“For us, an organization that has a learning culture is one that is curious and safe to be critical of their own work during wash-ups so they can learn from their mistakes.”
—Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent
What makes a learning organization?
Learning organizations make decisions intelligently and strategically. They notice staff development’s impact on individuals, designated teams, and the company.
Businesses with a learning culture provide opportunities for growth, such as promoting from within and defining career paths. That’s why companies that excel at internal mobility can retain employees for an average of 5.4 years—almost twice as long as companies that struggle.
What do learning organizations do?
Now that we know what a successful learning organization is, let’s examine its values and beliefs.
- Learning organizations use education to reach goals. Establishing goals motivates employees to develop strategies to help them perform at the required level, such as identifying a learning method to gain promotions that align with their career path.
- Link individual and organizational performance. Pairing staff performance with organizational performance allows employees to understand how an organization measures success and the role they play in achieving it.
- Share and take risks. Learning organizations test out new problem-solving and working methods and learn from them. They give employees the autonomy to develop a new procedure and test it out.
- Are continuously aware of their environment. A learning organization seeks opportunities to review and reflect on new developments and procedures, such as information-sharing protocols.
- Embrace creative tension. We all have different ways of doing things. But differences in opinion can create tension between employees. Learning organizations champion diversity and welcome creative ways of working.
- Develop team learning. Connected teams see a 21 percent increase in profitability. High-performing teams strengthen relationships with regular learning events like problem-solving or communication activities.
- Create a supportive learning environment. Providing a safe and welcoming learning environment creates trust. Employees can open up freely and authentically to express ideas, thoughts, and emotions.
- Design concrete learning practices and processes. An all-in-one learning platform provides learning organizations with robust practices to build training programs at scale—regardless of location or job title.
- Employ leadership that encourages and reinforces learning. In a learning organization, leadership models the importance of continuous learning. Leaders and managers prioritize their own personal development needs.
- Optimize systems thinking. Learning organizations anticipate problems ahead, what may happen, and shape the outcome they want–often taking control of the parameters affecting productivity.
- Choose mental models. Learning organizations pick the right tool for the right problem. For example, a learning platform like WorkRamp reduces workload and increases employee efficiency, saving time and money.
- Have a shared vision. Learning organizations have a clear vision that adjusts to the current landscape of here and now while still aligning the core values of their business. Employees contribute to developing this vision and achieving goals.
- Accomplish personal mastery. Personal mastery is the process of working purposefully towards a vision. It requires self-awareness, self-management, and self-learning skills. Learning organizations provide training and development opportunities that support employees in fulfilling their goals.
How do learning organizations encourage learning?
Companies create a learning culture by making continuous learning the norm. They offer flexible learning programs to meet the needs of individual learners.
Asynchronous learning, for example, offers greater flexibility and empowers employees to learn what they need when they need it—without a prescribed training schedule through classroom-based learning, mentorships, or webinars.
Learning organizations also understand what their employees want and need. They have robust processes and evaluation tools to consult with employees to find out what ideas or suggestions they have.
Plus, businesses with this core value recognize learning as an achievement. Given only 40 percent of employees report receiving recognition just a few times a year or less, learning organizations that provide certificates of achievement, share success stories, or gift vouchers keep staff happy and reduce retention.
Benefits of a learning organization
Organizations that invest in having a learning organization see greater results across the board:
- Reduce employee turnover. Employee loyalty is declining; some 20 percent of employees reported a lack of fulfillment as the reason for quitting. Learning organizations that provide continuous training for staff members improve employee loyalty by valuing individual growth.
- Create a sense of community. If team cooperation, great relationships, and team spirit among employees is your goal, begin by creating a sense of community. Connected workplaces are more productive. High staff morale makes employees more willing to give extra effort during normal operations and go that extra mile when needed.
- Gather new ideas and solutions to problems. Workers thrive on seeing their ideas and suggestions coming to fruition. Learning organizations that actively seek out ways to collect employee views and opinions reap the rewards. Team members work collaboratively and take proactive measures to tackle problems, such as staff cover for holidays or rearranging team meetings on short notice.
- A better chance of success. Almost three-quarters of Gen Z employees view learning as key to success in their careers. Learning organizations that provide a range of training and development opportunities can promote from within–reducing the costs of onboarding new talent.
- Higher skilled employees. A skilled workforce increases productivity as well as produces high-quality work. Exceptional talent can be up to 8x more productive than average workers.
“One of the biggest advantages we’ve witnessed from cultivating a learning culture in our organization is enhanced knowledge sharing across the organization,” adds Lisa Richards, CEO, and Creator of the Candida Diet.
“We’ve managed to break down knowledge silos, facilitating the free flow of information and knowledge across all levels of our organization. Thanks to this, collaboration and cooperation have significantly improved, resulting in continuous, sustainable improvement.”
How to start becoming a learning organization
Do your research and allow dedicated time to reflect on what learning programs you already offer. Take an inventory of where you are today; find out the gaps and areas for opportunities. Develop an action plan detailing the what, why, and when.
“We implement a mentoring program to partner senior employees with newbies for knowledge exchange. Along the way, we could foster a good working relationship because our team members get to know each other better.”
—Ryan Stewart, Founder of Webris
Get buy-in from executives and managers—the latter accounting for almost three-quarters of the variance in employee engagement scores. Explain your current problem and what you propose. Emphasize the desired outcome and the difference a learning organization will have on the business.
Most importantly, make learning easy, fun, and engaging. With an all-in-one learning platform like WorkRamp, you have alternative content formats to deliver engaging training, such as:
Take the next step to build your learning organization
Implement these best practices and create a learning organization for your workforce. Show employees they are valued, and they’ll stay with you for the long term.
Remember: learning is continuous. Develop processes and environments that prove continuous improvement is important and that leaders care about career development.
Ready to take the next step? WorkRamp is an All-in-One Learning Platform that can help you create a learning organization. Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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