MTI Strategic Reflections

Developing a learning-based organization

With greater global competition, smarter and more knowledgeable customers and increased scrutiny from global and regional media, businesses need to continuously improve their performance in order to sustain. They need to constantly examine the scope of their business and focus on core competencies. In addition, leaner and meaner organizational structures, greater productivity and a shift from activity to objective focus is required to survive in today’s rapidly changing global business environment. Learning is fundamental to this process and requires organizations to move past traditional training approaches and build a learning organization.

Traditionally, organizational learning was associated with one-way training sessions targeted at more junior employees, who were required to ‘download knowledge’ delivered to them by an ‘expert’ in an off-the-job classroom setting. Also, such approaches were more individual rather than team oriented while focusing more on technical skills.

The strategic approach to building a learning organization requires a transformation of function from training to learning, from specialized departments to an organization wide function. Learning should take a performance driven approach, with practical applications and on-the-job learning with smaller doses over a long period of time to ensure its sustainability. In addition, the learning process should be informal and be made part of the organizational culture along with integrated implementation. There should be a learning plan for each employee and learning should be measured by performance and linked to rewards and due recognition to ensure its success.

To be truly effective, learning should apply to all employees regardless of position, and be an ‘open’ system so it transcends industry boundaries. Appointing a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) can help in facilitating this process in all directions within the organization and externally, while ensuring that continuous improvement is achieved.

It may not be a cheap process to implement but if you think learning is expensive, try ignorance!