Employee learning and development is ingrained within our company DNA at Administrate. But why are we such big champions of training? We passionately believe that training and development directly correlates with our business success. Administrate employees love to learn and we've adopted various initiatives to help improve organisational knowledge share - ensuring that nobody learns in isolation.
In this post we'll discuss how your company can overcome the common challenges to the adoption of new training programmes, embracing employee learning and the 'Learning Organisation' framework.
The term 'Learning Organisation' originates from the work and research of the Society for Organizational Learning founder Peter Senge and his colleagues:
"A Learning Organisation is the business term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself." (Wikipedia)
Born as a consequence of operating within a complex and pressured modern business world, Learning Organisations are typified by groups of people focused on proactively enhancing their own development and that of their company.
One of the principle advantages of this approach is adaptability. An organisation comprised of informed individuals is often better placed to pivot and evolve in response to changing market conditions - especially useful when operating within volatile economic conditions.
So what are some of the challenges to becoming a Learning Organisation and how can you overcome them?
The first characteristic of a Learning Organisation, 'systems thinking', suggests that companies should consider all aspects of their organisation as components of a wider system.
Each interrelated, the people and processes that make up your organisation must work together to support the remaining four characteristics of a Learning Organisation described below in order to achieve the best results.
Reluctance to learn
It's common for staff to be a little apprehensive over the introduction of a new training programme. However, in order for your training to be as effective as possible, staff must have a desire to learn. Help instil this desire by outlining the benefits of training to them; self improvement, career development, empowerment etc. Position training as a way for them to take more responsibility and play a greater role in shaping your organisation's future. The resultant commitment to a process of learning is the second characteristic of a Learning Organisations, as defined by Senge, termed 'personal mastery'.
It's also important that all employees have the opportunity to access some form of learning and personal development, else it becomes something to envy of those in more senior positions and can create division.
Organisational change is always challenging. Established ways of thinking and long held beliefs on how things 'should be done' are often a barrier to adopting a new strategy when it comes to organisational learning. The third characteristic of a Learning Organisation, Senge refers to these pre-existing assumptions held by individuals and organisations as 'mental models'.
It's here where company culture can play a significant role in your ability to become a Learning Organisation. Research has shown that well-established organisations tend to have 'memories'; a preserving of certain behaviours, norms and values, that can often cloud their judgements moving forward. Adopting a more open culture and actively encouraging employees to feedback and engage with senior management can help break these moulds and provide a clearer direction when it comes to identifying training gaps.
For larger organisations, getting people together can be a massive challenge and in more ways than one. Logistically, scheduling training for a group can be an administrative nightmare (we've got a solution for that!) plus encouraging your employees to adopt a shared vision on the importance of training is certainly not without its challenges!
Ensuring that employees understand your companies market position can help reinforce the role of training in this instance. The development of a 'shared vision', the fourth characteristic of a Learning Organisation, to be better than your competitors is fairly straightforward for everyone to buy in to, regardless of seniority.
Everyone's biggest challenge, a lack of time is often the principle barrier to us getting anything done, let alone learning and development. An incredibly difficult to manage natural resource in both our personal and professional lives, the focus should be on how to save time and re-purpose it on personal development so that we can become more efficient at tasks, save even more time... and so the loop continues.
Mixed skills and pace of learning
When training groups of very different people, two of the biggest challenges are establishing their existing knowledge level and how quickly they'll learn. Move too fast and the majority will drop behind, move too slow and faster learners may lose interest. However, as the Society for Organizational Learning suggest in their Tweet below, the incremental results on employee learning development can be significant when you get the balance right.
The accumulation of individual learning constitutes 'team learning', the fifth and final characteristic of a Learning Organisation.
Within Administrate we offer a tool called Learning Tracks which you can use to map a bespoke learning journey for employees. Of course, they may need to take different roads, but you can ensure they all reach the same destination, helping unify skills across your organisation.
Acceptance of the unknown
Senge also suggests that, as part of the 'systems thinking' approach, it's perfectly acceptable to live with uncertainty - that we can't know or teach everything. In fact, organisation-wide acceptance of complexity and that we're not always in control has the potential to help your organisation innovate. According to Senge, accepting uncertainty can:
"create a philosophic communality between people in an organization, which is usually accompanied by an enthusiasm for experimentation"
Benefit from a learning culture
Whether or not you decide to adopt the full 'Learning Organisation' framework, overcoming some of these common training challenges and introducing a learning culture in your organisation can help foster creative thinking and innovation. It also helps shore up your company so that it's better placed to handle the unpredictability of the modern business world.
Is your company looking to improve it's training function? Sign up for a free trial of Administrate and see how we can help you overcome some of the challenges above and save you 50% of your admin time!