Organizational Learning: How to promote strong organizational learning?

Organizational learning can help a company stay competitive in the highly-complex international business environment. Yet for organizational learning to be implemented effectively, it is important to take a strategic, multi-pronged approach that evolves with changingcorporate learning needs and internal/external challenges. Organizational learning needs to be both a formally supported strategy and an integral part of the organization's corporate culture. The learning and development strategy must recognize both employees' individual talent development needs and the company's needs in terms of functional team strengths. Finally, proper alignment with the overall corporate strategy is critical to promoting strong, sustainable organizational learning.

Formal organizational learning strategy

In alignment with the overall corporate strategy, organizational learning requires formal support from top management, along with adequate budget and proper direction. The education executive or training manager, who brings corporate training expertise and a global perspective, is typically responsible for the organizational learning strategy. However, unit managers should also share accountability for its success, as they are most in touch with the relevant capability development.

Employees from all departments and at all seniority levels are stakeholders in corporate learning. Their learning and development needs should be specifically addressed in the organizational learning strategy and they should be kept up to date on what's available to them. The formal organizational learning strategy is a commitment to implementation of corporate training and enables measurement of returns through specific objectives.

Make organizational learning a priority part of corporate culture

More ambiguous, yet equally important, is the need to root organizational learning into the company's corporate culture. For this, it must offer a clear value proposition for employees. Staff members must be able to understand the link between executive education and their professional ambitions. A list of training courses and seminars on the intranet cannot build a true learning culture, at least not on its own. Employees – especially those who want to further their careers and contribute more to the company – will be sensitive to whether an organizational learning program is "in name only" or "the real deal". It's worth it: when a company can foster a culture of learning, employee skills and satisfaction are boosted, enhancing their capacity to meet business objectives.

Be creative in talent development

Wondering if creating and maintaining a true organizational learning offer is beyond the budget? There are numerous ways that companies of all sizes can promote capability development and a culture of learning.

Turn informal learning into formally supported corporate learning opportunities, for example by pairing senior managers as mentors for up-and-comers.

Develop in-house seminars, workshops, business courses, leadership classes, etc.

Select good business schools for management training programs, leadership conferences, teambuilding leadership exercises, etc. An environment of learning excellence at a top business school helps employees to refresh their skills and perspectives, and feel motivated about organizational learning.

Some of the best management schools will work with you to custom-design management programs for the specific challenges of your teams.

Leverage leadership executive coaching. An executive coaching consultant can work with your staff onsite, or you can benefit from leadership coaching incorporated into broader leadership development programs at good business schools.

Support high-potential employees with in-depth programs such as a 1-year mba or Executive MBA.

Don't forget to "train the trainer". At educational leadership programs, conferences, and networking events, education executives will enhance skills and knowledge, network and benchmark to strengthen their capacity to lead excellence in organizational learning.

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