Learning: The Heart of the Organization and the Pulse of Organizational Achievement

Written by John Heffernon.

The learning organization is a place “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” – Peter Senge

As our world evolves, so too does our workforce and workplace. Shifts in thinking have improved employment experiences for the average working professional over the past few decades. More employers than ever before understand the value of employee engagement and seek to maximize the potential of their workforce by keeping employees satisfied, committed, comfortable, and productive. Coupled with those continual enhancements to the employee experience are the changes that affect all of us no matter what industry we work in or where in the world we are. This includes the ever-expanding global economy and the swiftness in which technology manipulates how we interact with our world impact individuals and organizations alike.

This rapidly changing business world needs a skilled, knowledgeable, and adaptable workforce to navigate the waters. As digital permeates every aspect of work and life, all organizations need employees who can quickly learn and digest what is new and relevant and apply it to the correct spot within an existing organizational structure. According to the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, the top trend for 2019 is the need to enhance how employees and the organization learn – 86% of business leaders cited this as very important or important. This macrotrend elevates one aspect of the business more than all others – learning and development.

The Evolving Role of the Learning Organization

Organizations that value and invest in employee learning and development are the ones most likely to find competitive advantages from infant technology or industry fluctuations and utilize those advantages in ways that most efficiently improve the business. All companies have a strategic plan for their future, many of those strategic plans focus on learning and development, but perhaps all of us are undervaluing the importance of the function. More needs to be done with L&D – we should not make it a part of the organizational development strategy; we should make it the central function to drive the future strategy of the business.

The learning organization is a concept that was popularized by Peter Senge. In his book The Fifth Discipline, Senge states that “the organizations that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels of the organization.” Research by Watkins & Marsick (2003) has revealed that organizations that prioritize learning and development (e.g., created a culture of learning) have realized improvements in employee job satisfaction, productivity, and profitability.

Learning is not only beneficial for the employer. All people, deep down, are learners – you need simply watch an infant for a few minutes, and it becomes clear. A key tenant of an individual’s life satisfaction and job satisfaction is continuous learning. The benefits are tangible on both sides. A true culture of learning will foster an environment where the organization and the employee win (and are happy while doing it).

Employee Journey Analytics – What is it?

At Explorance, we support this message. From the foundation of our company, learning (and learning evaluation) has been at the core. As our company grows, our enterprise service capabilities have expanded significantly. We see the future of employee research as what we like to call Employee Journey Analytics. “What is that?” you may ask. Employee Journey Analytics is the next evolution of employee experience. It combines just-in-time feedback from experiences, processes, and milestones into one centralized platform while layering in feedback from employees on an ongoing basis. Sophisticated analytics help organizations quickly find the insights they need to improve processes, understand employee sentiments, and identify patterns across different stages of the employee journey. Journey Analytics provides a comprehensive picture to help your organization optimize the impact of talent initiatives and processes, from hire to retire. As we push forward into more meaningful and impactful employee research, we do not want to lose focus on that key function of learning. In fact, we want to bring learning along with us wherever we go and share its impact and value with whoever we communicate with.

Why Learning?

“Why learning?” you may ask. For one, nearly 40% of the time on the job is spent learning. The activity itself is one that employees spend significant time on, and companies already support this time investment. Also, when we conduct Impact Studies (linkage analyses), learning almost always comes out as impactful and influential on the key business result of choice. Studies of this magnitude are typically performed for high visibility and high-value courses (e.g., new leadership development, sales techniques, communication skills). Our cup runneth over with empirical evidence supporting the fact that well designed, high-value training produces impressive results for the business.

Not all learning and training is housed in L&D. Non-L&D training makes up a larger percentage of employee learning than ever before. According to CEB now Gartner, 79% of employee learning comes from non-L&D sources – a rise of 11% since the early 2010s. In an organization with a productive learning culture in today’s world, what and how employees learn is driven by the right learning opportunity, capability, and environment. Informal learning is a growing trend for business, and only L&D has the insight and people prepared to service this trend efficiently and effectively.

L&D’s expertise in learning is key for the business to successfully optimize the entire learning experience for employees. An optimized learning experience makes for the best employee journey, and that leads to increased engagement, reduced turnover, improved productivity, improved profitability, and a better, healthier organization overall. Essentially, when learning is optimized the employee journey is longer and richer for your organization (because the exit/retire phase comes much later), and the employee is noticeably more productive and content throughout their journey. As exit/retire is pushed further down the timeline, learning continues to be of the utmost importance – employee’s transition into new roles and sometimes new business units as their time within one organization increases. As a result of the longer journey, employees have more opportunities to exit their original role and then onboard into a new role where they will grow, develop, and benefit the business in new ways.

The employee journey is paramount to the success of a business. The best journeys include elements like personal growth, learning, and career development. This is true in all phases of our lives (personal, professional, family, social, etc.). The functions within the business that can positively impact personal and professional growth for the employee are those that will have the greatest overall influence on an employee’s journey from hire to exit/retire. Only one function in the organization has extensive experience manipulating, influencing, and improving employee growth and development – L&D.

 

References:

  • Peter Senge, 2006. The Fifth Discipline: The Are & Practice of the Learning Organization.
  • Watkins & Marsick, 2003. Make learning count! Diagnosing the learning culture in organizations.
  • CEB Webinar, 2017. Building a Productive Learning Culture.
  • Deloitte 2019 Human Capital Trends

 


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