The concept of the learning organization has flourished since Peter M. Senge’s The Fifth Discipline hit the business world in 1990. The book left countless business executives with a more ardent focus on human capital and the role of learning. And in today’s competitive environment, executives of learning organizations know five key aspects well:
- They understand the new workforce.
Millennials entering the workforce have been lifelong learners. They expect not only training, but supplementary resources. Business executives of learning organizations focus on the necessary progressive changes needed to accommodate their growing employee base. They foster internal work environments that promote idea generation and elements of intrinsic motivation such as “autonomy, mastery and purpose” as depicted in Daniel Pink’s 2009 best-seller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
- They remove the sense of entitlement.
Learning organizations hold all members of their organization accountable for assessment completion and training focuses. They recognize that senior leaders have an impact on not only top performance goals and desired benchmarks, but in fueling comprehension. When powerful leaders demonstrate a willingness to learn, employees feel empowered to both acquire and promote knowledge.
- They invest in technology.
As a CFO or CEO of a growing company, it can be hard to invest in technology projects due to ambiguous ROIs, cost justifications, net present value calculations and payback periods provided. But a learning management system (LMS) is a must for developing a learning organization and a talent management suite. A solid LMS not only will be the backbone of your performance initiatives, but a centralized source of reference for your growing millennial workforce. Some key functional considerations of an LMS should be:
- How would the system increase new hires’ ramp-up time or competency levels in established employees?
- How user-friendly is the system?
- How is the system independently updating new hires/terminated employees in real time?
- Is the LMS housed within the same application as your onboarding for a compressed learning curve?
- Is the system SCORM/AICC-compliant?
- Can learning results reports be broken down by employee, region, department or position?
- Can the system generate self-timed reports or reminders for due courses?
- They design their own training programs.
Businesses design their own strategy. The same must apply to the deployment of business training where the strategy behind learning initiatives should be agile enough to drive competitive advantages and increase competency levels. Learning organizations do not depend solely on pre-purchased course libraries, but rather use a combination of pre-developed material and their own content that speaks to company/departmental goals.
- They don’t wait.
Before a business becomes a learning organization, it must recognize the value of employee development and the correlation it has with profitability and service outputs. Long before they are dominant players in their respective industries or have surpluses of cash in the bank, these companies make leadership efforts toward the development of their human capital focusing on long-term gains.
Is your company a learning organization?
If your company has not yet identified itself as a “learning organization,” start with one dedicated leader and an LMS (see consideration points above). A quality LMS that works with onboarding and other areas of talent management can be the equivalent of two to three full-time employees in training, helping reduce general and administrative (G&A) costs while gaining value. If your organization already has a training program, consider what the technology infrastructure looks like currently. Is it adequately communicating and reporting on new hires, new managers or terminated employees?
Among other consideration points for effective learning and development management is cost. If you fly trainees for a week of corporate training for various departments, consider: Could this be done in three days with the right technology? The evaluation of that question could reduce G&A costs, positively impact EBITDA and drive employee retention.