Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Building Irresistible Engagement: Part II--Creating An Effective Learning Culture

Most organizations, if asked, will state that they do have a learning culture within their organization. With affirmations such as these there are some important questions that should be asked which requires honest organizational introspection:

"Given the fact that we live in an age of information and learning, what does an effective learning culture look like? Do we have a learning culture within our organization that is in sync with the global digital economy or are we still doing things the way that we have always done things?"

To answer such questions, we need to look at the differences between traditional learners of the past and 21st century learners. The employees who will help a 21st century business organization flourish are ones who have grown up with the internet and all the tools it offers. It is these employees who will seek harmony in the ways that they learn within a business organization with the natural ways that they pursue informal learning in their everyday lives. The following simple chart gives the comparison, keeping in mind that the characteristics described are true for both formal learning organizations and business organizations seeking to establish an effective learning culture.
Traditional Learning Culture Within Business Organizations

Training within business organizations have followed a template approach for many years. Some characteristics of this approach would be:

  • Training sessions for employees carried out by a trainer or a small group of trainers using a standard presentation approach.
  • Standard training approach imparted information for the purpose of upgrading employee knowledge and skills in regards to company products and services that was individualized according to the role of the employee.
  • With the introduction of MicroSoft Office, PowerPoint was often used to present needed information. Employees were expected to take notes, ask questions and then use what was learned in their respective roles within the organization.
  • Motivation to employee compliance used the "carrot or the stick" approach
  • Later, with the introduction of multimedia and interactive technology, employees were allowed limited participation in training by "clicking on screen buttons to move to the next self-guiding slide".
If you look closely at these characteristics and the comparison chart above you will notice that it fits a type of learner who was required in a different age. It is not the type of learner or employee who is going to be useful to a 21st century, connected business organization that wants to innovate and compete in the global market place.

Transforming the Learning Culture in a Business Organization

Transforming a dated learning culture to one that is in sync with the nature of 21st century learners  or employees means that the hierarchical organizational structure needs some revision. The learning culture needs to be something that all members of the organization are intimately involved in from the CEO to the lower levels in the chain of command. If a goal is to have employees contribute in meaningful ways to company innovation, then there needs to be structures in place that nurture collaboration, problem solving, employee initiated innovative ideas and as much communication laterally as vertically in the chain of command.
It also means a re-definition of traditional roles within an organization so that they are more in sync with the demands of a global digital economy that moves at a much greater rate than in the past.

"What, specifically, needs to be added and what would the new roles encompass?"

One point that should not be underestimated is the growing importance of an organization's ROI to the effectiveness of the learning culture that anchors it. This is an age of multi-level learning with global access to knowledge that is growing exponentially. We can no longer maintain the stataus quo and expect to survive.

Next... Adding more specifics to the new pattern for learning cultures and also application to formal higher learning organizations..

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