Workplace Learning – A Key Strategy for Success and Sustainability

According to Edward D.Hess in “Learn or Die”, learning ability being the foundation for continuous improvement, operational excellence, and innovation needs to be taken to a much higher level.

Learning is a continuous process of development to convert ignorance to knowledge, new skills, and capacity. It entails performing a gap analysis and deliberately taking steps to close the identified gap or finding new ways of solving problems. 

In organizations, learning is continuous as we are constantly creating solutions through product development and process optimization. A learning organization will always facilitate the learning of its members and continuously transform itself. 

Learning organizations will always be ready to disrupt themselves rather than be disrupted and will endorse innovation, creativity, and teamwork. To drive innovation within an organization, there is a need for a willingness to challenge accepted practices. A thriving learning organization will be interested in creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, encouraging open discussions to transform and become nimble with an overall view of avoiding complacency.

Developing a High-Performance learning organization requires finding the right people and ensuring that the hiring process provides the best value. An individual who is internally motivated will be eager to learn and help others learn with the ability to see challenges as opportunities and achieve success within the organization. Alignment with the organization’s values needs to be evaluated to ensure people with the right mindset are employed. Leaders within the organization should create a positive environment, encourage candor and creativity to promote learning and innovation. This shows that there is a collective and individual responsibility in learning and continuous development.

As an organization, key questions to ask include; 

  • Are we employing individuals with the right mindset?
  • Are we creating the right environment to foster learning?
  • What processes exist for learning and are they the right processes?
  • What learning methods will be used?
  • Will the learning method leverage technology or not?
  • What learning culture is the organization ready to promote?

These will guide the development of a learning strategy within the workplace. 

In the words of Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”

This indicates learning is a continuous exercise and requires the right attitude to achieve success. In this global and rapidly evolving landscape, with knowledge being the new currency, a thirst for knowledge is important. Technology has eliminated the location barrier and learning can occur without borders. Ability to learn is key to success and to grow in career, individuals need to have the knowledge, continuously improve and grow their skills to stay ahead of the pack. It always starts with taking a step. 

The 70-20-10 Learning & development model stipulates that 70% of our learning is Experiential – working with new & challenging experiences, 20% is Social – build communities & special interest groups, mentoring & coaching while 10% is Training – structured courses, workshops & e-learning.

• Knowledge Share Sessions: This allows individuals to share knowledge on different themes such as industry topics, career, life & technology where facilitators are selected to research a topic and through a session share this knowledge amongst colleagues. It leverages on team development and sharpening individual skills & knowledge about the subject area. This can also be known as Team learning. I have been exposed to this over the years and it has fast-tracked my learning as I do not have to research all areas individually, rather leverage on the strength of others to propel forward while I focus on building other areas.

• Career Journey or Success Stories: sharing career journey and experiences, success stories provide unscripted guidance and learnings to individuals within the organization. With this approach, an employee will value their journey and experiences, avoid mistakes that others have made and possibly shorten their journey.

• Mentoring:  Having mentors within and outside an area of specialty inside or outside an organization is beneficial to the progress of an individual. The mentor can guide in decision making or recommend opportunities for growth.

• Structured courses and training, E-learning: It is equally important for every organization to provide a structured learning platform through classroom or online training opportunities. 

• Experiential Learning is another avenue that gives opportunities to try out new skills or challenging assignments. With this learning method, an individual can practice as much as needed before implementing it in the real world. This can also be achieved through experiential opportunities or technology labs where employees can test their new knowledge without negatively impacting business deliverables.

• Scheduled Feedback mechanism – the use of 360 feedback reviews or any feedback approach creates an opportunity for feedback on performance and improvement plans are developed back on outcomes. Over the years, I have had to develop interventions to address gaps identified from 360-degree reviews.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever – Mahatma Gandhi

Anything that is not written or documented cannot be measured, therefore it is important to design key performance indicators to measure learning progress. This can be done at an individual and organization level and presents an opportunity to gather insights for continual improvement.

From my 18 years of career experience these initiatives have proven extremely beneficial to individuals, teams, and organizations in developing a learning mindset and transforming into learning organizations.

As we progress in 2020, an individual exploring growth opportunity can conduct an audit to identify development gaps and develop a plan to address the identified gaps. The initiatives listed above can serve as a guide.

I challenge you with the anonymous quote “You are not perfect, and no one whose walked the earth’s surface is. Live, Learn, Grow”.

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