We know today that most successful organizations focus as much on supporting and developing the people running them from within, as on their outputs and the customers and audiences they serve externally.

For learning professionals this means shifting the focus beyond satisfying immediate training needs, making learning a core organizational priority, and creating opportunities for continuous learning for all employees. Doing this has been shown to help organizations stimulate productivity, innovate, and remain relevant.

Technology is not the answer, but digital learning is an enabler, particularly as workforces become increasingly distributed, and because technology makes learning more accessible to more people.

Learning Is as Much About Psychology as Providing Training

In the 1940s’, psychologist Abraham Maslow made a series of observations about human motivation. He developed a framework, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, that has become one of the cornerstones of developmental psychology today. His framework is a classification system describing eight stages of motivation, through which human beings graduate on a journey towards self-knowledge and fulfillment.

The system is usually represented as a pyramid, with the pinnacle, or final phase of development, classified as “self-actualisation”. Maslow pointed out that human beings are innately curious, naturally seeking out opportunities to learn. Self-actualization is the point in life at which human beings are focused on becoming the best versions of themselves – seeking out opportunities to improve, grow and develop. Typically, this coincides with people reaching their mid-thirties to mid-fifties. This is when most people are putting down roots – ‘settling down’ and starting families – having addressed the preceding phases of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Learning Is Not Just About Jobs

Learning is a continuous activity. It is something we do all our lives, through
every new experience and interaction with which we engage. An organization that recognizes this and turns it into a core value, is on its way to becoming a learning organization.

Learning is intrinsically linked to value. By providing the right opportunities for people to learn and develop, we create value both for themselves and for their organizations.

This means that most of us don’t just want to learn to get better at the jobs we are doing. We want the knowledge to take our roles to the next level, or to do the job that we will have next. We want to develop our sense of self-worth and to become the best version of ourselves.

5 Lessons to Help You Put Learning at The Center of Your Organization

  1. Culture & Environment

A learning organization is one that supports continuous learning and in which learning is embedded into its fabric. It is an organization that recognizes the importance of investing in its people and provides opportunities for them to learn formally, informally, within a structure, but also with autonomy. This means making time for learning, because not all learning happens on-the-go.

Taking its cue from the first phase of Maslow’s hierarchy, a learning environment is one that offers psychological safety. It is an environment in which it is ok to ask questions, to disagree with other perspectives, to try new ways of doing things – to take risks, test ideas and fail.

Such an environment is cultural, and organizational culture is determined by leadership. Leaders who are open to new ideas, discussion, debate, feedback and failure tend to be the leaders of learning organizations.

TOP DIGITAL TIP – Provide a safe learning environment
Design content that makes it ok to fail. We learn best from our mistakes. By making mistakes we sometimes find new ways of doing things.

  1. Goal Setting & Reward

For learning to make a difference, it cannot exist in a vacuum. All learning, whether task oriented or more generally developmental, should be part of a clearly communicated trajectory. Goal setting helps create a structure within which individuals and managers can understand the progress that is being made and what needs to happen next. Such structures also help to determine the processes that need to be put in place to facilitate the right learning opportunities.

Rewarding your learners for achieving their goals reinforces a culture of learning. At IBM, people are recognized with badges for completing 40 hours of learning within a year, with additional recognition for completing 80 hours and then 120 hours.

TOP DIGITAL TIP – Structure your content
Provide options for compulsory and optional content, but make sure that content is part of a clearly defined, systematic learning trajectory. The courses a learner chooses to complete don’t all have to be relevant to a person’s immediate role, but could be useful knowledge in a different role as they progress through the organization.

  1. Learning Fast and Slow

A learning organization is a supportive learning climate providing opportunities for people to not only absorb knowledge that helps them perform existing roles, but that encourages them to engage with additional learning that helps them develop professionally, beyond the scope of their existing role. This is the road to what Maslow terms self-actualization.

In a fast-moving world where immediacy is the prevailing wind and increasing emphasis is placed on concepts such as learning in the flow of work, just-in-time and real-time learning, we also need to know how to slow things down. The chance to examine challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives and explore possible solutions with colleagues is just as valuable an opportunity as learning in real-time to perform a task as you execute it. Slowing the learning down in this way helps develop analytical skills, lateral thinking ability, and problem-solving know-how.

Such a culture cannot survive on intention alone, it needs the support of well thought-through processes and practices that support self-directed and optional learning avenues as well as compulsory training. So, no matter how you are learning, you are on course to somewhere.

TOP DIGITAL TIPS – Enable Collaboration and make it social
Use communities of practice and closed groups to encourage colleagues to unpack problems and find solutions together. Also, make it easy for people to share ideas and experiences through social media walls and user-generated content.

  1. Use Data To Improve

A learning organization not only teaches but is itself learning all the time.

Whether you are using a traditional LMS or have a newer, Learning Repository Store enabled system in place, tracking learner performance and behaviors will help you understand whether the learning is working or not.

Additionally, encouraging learners to reflect on their learning and giving them ample opportunities to share feedback helps you continuously improve learning design.

TOP DIGITAL TIP – Track learner progress
Track your learners as much as you can to understand what is working for them and what is not. Use simple functionalities such as polls and likes to gather initial reactions, coupled with more in-depth feedback gathering.

  1. Learning On the Inside and From the Outside

A learning organization is not just inwardly focused. Finding ways to engage externally and learn from suppliers and customers is hugely helpful for improving the way your organization operates. Armed with such information, employees can learn to do their jobs better and with more satisfaction.

TOP DIGITAL TIP – Use the feedback
Give learners inside and adjacent to your organization opportunities to deliver feedback, contribute to courses or access learning themselves where appropriate.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about how online learning can help you transform the power of learning for your organization, get in touch with the Motimate team and we’ll show you how.