Try online employee development training with our mini course on Strategic Communication
In my last article, we talked about the relationship between organizational development and individual professional development. So now I want to connect Learning and Development for Employees to the concept of a Learning Organization. But first, a bit of a recap on some key messages from my last article:
- Identify the competencies that you need for your “target” organization. That is, the state of your organization after you have gone through the changes. Think about skills and competencies at all levels – from corporate wide through to business units and eventually to each employee.
- In addition to identifying the new skills and competencies that will be required for the new version of your organization, I also talked about recognizing the skills that will be required for the transition. In particular, you will need leaders at all levels with skills in Change Leadership and Management. So now a third consideration in planning your Learning Organization….
Skills for the future
Depending on the scope of your change, you may be looking at corporate learning over the period of 1 to 3 years. But now is the time for some strategic thinking to look beyond. Training & development can be a huge investment of time, energy and money. So rather than focus on just the immediate and near future needs, you will likely get additional value if you also consider the long term.
For example, your help desk employees may need training to use a new system for tracking and managing incidents. But if you think longer term – perhaps some of those employees can be groomed to replace managers that are retiring down the road? Rather than waiting until managers retire and then scrambling to either hire and train up new managers – planning for that now can position you for greater success.
What is a Learning Organization?
Peter Senge is best known for his work in this area, recognizing that organizations are complex, inter-dependent systems. If you haven’t already read his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Science of the Learning Organization, I highly recommend it! Or you can get a bit of an explanation in my previous article Consider the Ripple Effect of Organizational Change.
But essentially, we need to apply some strategic thinking to how we approach learning and development within organizations. We can’t just look at one aspect in isolation. Nor can we afford to just focus on the most obvious, immediate needs. Learning Organizations recognize that skills, knowledge, competencies are valuable assets that need to be cultivated. Learning & development is a key component of their values and culture.
Learning Organizations plan ahead
While the full definition of a learning organization might seem daunting and complex, I really just wanted to introduce it to get you thinking about the need to be strategic in how you approach learning and development. Organizations of all types and sizes can benefit by thinking about professional development in the broader sense (inter-dependencies), and longer-term value.
The main take away here is to develop plans for both organizational and individual learning. You should include:
- Organizational competencies – how will leaders cultivate these at a strategic level?
- Business unit competencies – what are the specific knowledge and skills to perform effectively?
- Individual competencies – performance planning & development. Where are they now? Where do they need to be? How will they learn?
Individual Learning and Development
In my previous article, I talked more about the corporate (organization wide) and business level skill development. And I promised I would address individual skill development here. Considering that individuals carrying out the actual work, it is critical to ensure that each employee has the skills they need to make your organizational development successful!
While there may be some competencies that you want to develop throughout the organization (or perhaps this is more about cultivating new values??), there will be many that are position specific. For example: we may want to cultivate “Customer Service” as a core competency. So we may provide training and mentoring to all employees to help them understand this competency. But there are going to be different skills sets to implement that in different departments.
Leverage Employee Performance Planning
There is no getting around it – the only way to truly develop individuals is through a one-to-one discussion with their supervisor. This is where we can balance the needs of the organization/business unit with the needs of the individual. And it’s where supervisor and employee can have some discussions on the longer term – cultivating the individuals’ skills and aptitudes to best meet the longer term needs of the organization.
Unfortunately, there is often a negative association with performance management. This is due to the “old school” approach where performance reviews consisted of supervisors telling their employees everything they did wrong. But the true approach to performance management should be a positive one. It should be an opportunity to look at what’s working well and build on it, while also determining how to overcome problems and barriers.
To develop an effective learning organization, be sure that:
- Team leaders and managers throughout the organization are knowledgeable in effective performance planning and management.
- Organizational development goals are communicated throughout the organization, and that each team leader knows what is expected for their business unit.
- Supervisors at all levels (executive, middle management, business unit…) are held accountable for planning & development for each employee
Take accountability for your own learning and development
Now this may seem like a contradiction to what I just said – but it’s really just the other side of the coin. You can’t expect your supervisor to give you what you need and want if you don’t ask for it! And you can’t expect to get the results you want (including that promotion!) unless you apply yourself and work for it. We have all seen examples of people that sign up for all kinds of training that the employer pays for, but they really don’t commit to the work. A list of completed courses isn’t necessarily enough for true professional development.
The best approach is based supervisors and employees working together. I know there are sometimes conflicts, and you may not always see eye to eye. But perhaps you can make suggestions that provide a win-win – such as lower cost approaches to developing the skills you need. Be creative rather than just expecting to be provided with expensive training.
Empowering employees with their own learning and development
Another option to consider is allowing employees to choose how they learn & develop. You provide the vision and direction (and perhaps budget!), but then allow them to come up with their own plan. You might find a couple of my previous articles helpful in this regard.
Tips for developing your Learning Organization
I hope the main take away from all this is:
- Be proactive and strategic about planning for long term skills, knowledge and competency development
- Communicate corporate goals down through all levels of the organizations
- Promote learning and development planning between supervisors and their employees
- Be creative and open to new ideas! Don’t just get caught in the traditional approaches to learning and development.
Learn more about how we support learning and development for employees, managers and leaders
Give your employees the skills they need to succeed, without straining your budget! Our online strategic management learning system provides the convenience of working at your own pace & location with the support of an instructor – always just an email away. Visit our website to learn about our range of services.
Start learning now with a FREE mini course!
Try out our learning system for yourself with our mini course on Strategic Communication