Peter Senge popularized the term Learning Organization in his book, The Fifth Discipline. What is a learning organization? It is an organization where top leadership, including every manager at all levels, regularly encourages and supports every employee to be committed to lifelong learning. The central goal is continual personal and professional growth leading to improved skill development and overall organizational achievement and success.
One key aspect of a successful learning organization is creating and maintaining a culture of learning. A learning culture is one in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.
One of the most important reasons for creating a learning organization and a culture for lifelong learning is the rapid change of pace that we face in society and the workplace. For example, technology is constantly evolving, corporate hierarchies are frequently reshaped, and job responsibilities are always shifting. For survival, organizations must continuously look for ways to learn and improve.
If you are responsible for leading people in the workplace, it is important to model your own commitment to lifelong learning and continuous development. That means you demonstrate a dedication to setting goals for learning and achieving them.
This approach sets a good example by showing employees how important lifelong learning and continuous personal and professional development is to you personally and to the organization’s overall success.
When a leader has high targets for employee learning and provides a solid template or framework for staff to follow, they help their employees identify gaps in knowledge and skills with expected performance, set challenging learning goals, and motivate them to achieve success through a personal action plan.
Transferring learning into workplace productivity, therefore, should be a top priority for everyone involved from the CEO all the way down to the individual employee. This process includes two key steps, one before the learning event and one after the learning event.
1. Employees and managers should meet and jointly:
This coaching relationship should take place before the learning event but also be maintained throughout the learning process up until personal proficiency and learning transfer have taken place.
2. The employee should intentionally look for opportunities to transfer knowledge, skills, and tools learned back to the job and workplace in relevant and meaningful ways.
It takes time to apply new knowledge and skills in the workplace. Furthermore, learning is more than a one-time event. Leaders and managers should be committed to helping their employees successfully transfer new learning to their job.
Outlined below are several ideas to guide employees in this process. Creating a Post Course Learning Activities Checklist like these recommendations can provide learners with suggestions on things to do within days, weeks, and months of returning to the workplace from a learning event and assimilating new skills and knowledge in their job.
When leaders establish and maintain an effective learning culture and environment, everyone wins. The learner gains valuable new knowledge and skills, and the organization gains a motivated employee capable of achieving organizational goals and objectives with confidence.
Remember it is important for the leader to assist the employee to focus on learning transfer so everyone can:
An employee’s success at learning and transfer depends a great deal on their willingness and attitude, however, a leader also plays a significant role. Achieving personal learning goals directly tied to organizational objectives is a win-win for everyone!