Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Power of Engagement--Leading By Example--Part III--Plotting Paths of Least Resistance

The sobering statistic stated in the previous post that only 31% of business organizations identify having an effective learning culture as an integral part of their business is a "wake call" that 21st century businesses ignore at their peril. Change in an business organization only becomes "disruptive change" if an organization has made no credible effort to start to lay a foundation for dealing with the waves of change that are building. Therefore, the most important question that businesses that are in that 69 percentile who have identified themselves as not having an effective learning culture, is:

"How do we start in such a way that our present stable goods and services to our clients is not threatened? What is the path of least resistance?"

The very first step is to recognize that there has been shift in what is of value in the global economy. Information is the new currency and how it is shared through collaborative global networking is the new and most desirable mindset. The very first consideration when laying a foundation for innovative and creative thinking is to recognize that no business organization is an "island onto itself". In order to get increasing ROI and growth, means that you have to reach out to online networked communities on a global scale. This means that employees need to be engaged in online learning in order to feel competent to network and collaborate with networked learning communities that are germane to the mission of the business.


Online Learning and the Learning Cultures of Business Organizations

There are very few more prevalent phrases in today's world than the phrase "Online Learning". Before considering the different types of "online learning" approaches, it is important to look at what advantages and disadvantages online learning has in comparison with the traditional approaches that businesses have had in the past when it came to training employees.

Credit: Ashwin Kumar (2011)
Some of the characteristics that stand out as reflective of our times are:

  • E-Learning allows for learning anytime and anywhere. This gives a great deal of flexibility to a business organization because it takes account of the reality that most employees live in. Outside of the business, employees can go online anywhere there is a WiFi connection using any type of technology using Smart Phones, Tablets, Laptops and even watches. This describes the mobile online learning environment that engages employees when they are not at the business. As was mentioned previously, people spend more hours dedicated to learning outside L&D training than they do in the mandated learning of the business organization. "Imagine what it would mean for a business organization if employees chose in their free time to further their learning in order to contribute to realizing the mission of the business".

  • The ability to personalize learning is another important advantage that E-Learning has over the traditional approach. Unfortunately, too often the traditional training sessions treated employees as a passive audience who were forced to learn and comply as a result of the influence of the external motivators, more negative than positive because the motivation to learn came from outside the learner instead of from within him or her. It was one of the reasons that employees very often did not develop as deep a level of learning as could have been. The bottom line is that employees need to be engaged personally by being able to interact, test and collaborate with others when it comes to learning. This needs to be driven by intrinsic motivation of the employee and less on external motivators.
  • One important disadvantage deals with synchronous and asynchronous learning where the availability of a global team member will depend upon what time zone they occupy. Traditional learning is largely synchronous and so does not present the same problems. This problem is temporary as new technological means are used to make the time problem irrelevant.

The question that needs to be asked is:

"What type of E-Learning would be appropriate for business organizations just starting out in the quest of re-shaping the learning culture of their business?"

E-Learning and Business Organizations
If the goal is to create an innovative and creative solutions culture, then engagement of employees with each other within the business organization and with networked learning communities globally is the key. As you are aware, technology is advancing at an exponential rate with many different types of technological marvels but the technology is not what is the most important to the health of a business organization. What is important are the employees and their need to be able to learn and collaborate with each other in a globally networked world. The atmosphere of the culture of the business organization will either encourage these new ways to be innovative and creative or discourage them as a Gallup Poll dealing with the daily negative experiences of employees according to employment and status points to.
 In order to create engagement of employees in business goals, you need to identify the causes of disengagement and most importantly points of stress within.

So, coming back to what form of E-Learning would be appropriate for business organizations, I would suggest the use of "blended learning" which is a balance of collaborative and meaningful work online along with interactive discussions in the classroom. What is important to note about the role of the trainer is that he or she is no longer the "sage on the stage" but is instead the "mentor on the side". "Power-Pointing" employees to death during a training session is really a discouragement to collaborative learning and again treats the employees as a passive and controlled audience. What is preferable is to get employees use to collaborative teams which might be made up of 3 people from the business organization itself and 3 from a networked learning community somewhere else in the world who bring their skillsets to solving complex real world problems that are germane to the business organization.

Leading by example when it comes to innovative and creative thinking also means learning from those business organizations that have already changed their learning cultures and have risen to the heights of being very successful businesses in the global economic community.

Next--Leading By Example---Part IV--The Google and Apple Engagement Strategies

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