Several excellent blog posts have recently come to my attention that, when combined, provide a how-to for creating a learning culture in organizations. One of these posts appears in Jane Hart’s blog, Learning in the Social Workplace. In this post, she writes that workplace learning is:
- Structured learning experiences (e.g., training) and informal learning experiences (e.g., communities of practice)
- Helping workers learn continuously on the job
- Peer-to-peer learning that is “lite on content and rich in interaction”
- An integral part of everything that is done in the organization, supported by technology and social networks
- Managed by learning professionals who facilitate both formal and informal learning experiences
Hart writes further that learning professionals should, therefore, take on a new role, that of “Enterprise Learning Community Managers.” I see this role a little differently. I think we need this role but learning professionals should teach all managers how to serve in this capacity. A learning culture needs every manager encouraging, facilitating, and holding people accountable for learning.
In another post titled, How to create sustainable behaviour change, Tom Quayle writes “learning and development needs to move away from the fixation that the way to grow the capability of your staff and improve performance is through training.” He explains that training doesn’t change long-term behavior. Employees must be motivated to change. This is done by managers communicating a compelling reason for the change, measuring the new behavior and giving feedback to employees, creating “triggers” in the work environment that remind employees what needs to be done, and building communities of employees that support shared learning.
Quayle offers some specific ideas for sustaining learning and change, such as:
Do your homework on your employees. If they're sales people and they're out on the road, how can you bring development directly to them? Is there an app or social networking forum you can communicate through? And what type of individuals are they? Are they likely to respond to emails or do they prefer face to face interactions?
In this suggestion, he is imploring managers to adapt the method of learning that they use to how particular individuals and networks learn best given the content. Use the ways they tend to communicate when conveying information to them.
In a blog carnival started by Enterprise Collaborative, Harold Jarche contributed a post titled, The learning organization: an often described, but seldom observed phenomenon. In this post, he writes that we need to:
move learning away from training and HR, as some external band-aid solution that gets called in from time to time. Learning must be an essential part of doing business in the network age. Learning has to be owned by the workers and learning support has to be a business function.
Jarche observes that learning organizations have these three characteristics:
- People at all levels are narrating their work in a transparent environment
- The daily routine supports social learning
- Time is made available for reflection and sharing stories
What I think Jarche is saying and what I think is missing in most discussions of organizational learning, is an organizational routine of feedback, reflection, and active social learning. That is, organizational learning is not about training. Rather, it's about a community of workers sharing in a process of constantly seeking improvement through new knowledge, new skills, and new applications of knowledge and skills to achieving the goals of the organization. They examine what they do, compare that to what needs to be done, reflect on what they have learned, and make the needed change in the organization.