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The concept of a learning organization is one where the company regularly facilitates learning to make the business better. The concept originated in Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline”, where he talks about the five disciplines in creating a learning organization. They are:
- Personal Mastery is being proficient in the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) necessary to do the work. We don’t have to be perfect, but we do need to understand how the work gets done.
- Team Learning is focused on those attributes that make us a good team player. Organizations accomplish their goals through people working together.
- Systems Thinking focuses on understanding all the organization’s parts – both internal and external. For an organization to be able to continuously learn, they need to understand how the organization operates.
- Mental Models are the assumptions we have as individuals and organizations. For learning to be effective, we need to be able to challenge and sometimes discard mental models.
- Shared Vision provides all individuals with a common goal. And while having a common goal seems obvious, it’s important for everyone to know the goal and why it exists.
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the learning organization and I believe there’s one other component that’s critical – creating a positive learning culture. If organizations want employees to learn the KSAs to do their job and be an excellent team player, they need to look forward to training. Employees should understand how training helps the organization’s systems work to achieve shared goals. Finally, employees need to know when they need to learn new things because the old assumptions just aren’t valid anymore.
During this year’s SAP SuccessFactors conference, I listened to a panel discussion on internal mobility and one of the panelists mentioned the idea of “work” sustainability. I immediately loved the phrase because it really speaks to creating a positive learning culture necessary for a learning organization.
But the concept of work sustainability might involve a change in mindset for everyone. In the past, we might have thought of our career in terms of one long journey. Maybe now, we need to think of it as many small trips, each bringing value to that concept of “career”.
As a result, it also means that we need to think of the learning and development function a little differently. I wrote an article earlier in the year asking the question, “Should Learning and Development Be Renamed the Opportunity Department?” The conversation about work sustainability reminded me of the article and the need for an “opportunity marketplace” where employees can look forward to getting the learning they need to sustain their careers.
Becoming a learning organization should be a goal for everyone. A learning organization helps us remain competitive by having employees who know the goal, work hard to achieve the goal, and are willing to learn new things. But creating a learning organization isn’t about simply having a whole bunch of programs. It’s about creating an opportunity marketplace that will get employees excited about learning, so they want to grow in their roles.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Las Vegas, NV18
Agree with every word. This is also an era of HR workflow automation because it was time saving reduce manual work and remove redundancy.