Organisational Learning, You Say. But Why Bother?

By

Eva Christodoulou

18-11-2016

4 min read

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As a small to medium-sized enterprise owner, you juggle myriad urgent concerns every day for the survival of your business. Sure, you know that training and employee development are important for any organisation.

But how does it make sense to redirect your attention towards making a structured, organisation-wide system of learning available to all your employees? Especially since you most likely have so many other pressing matters that top employee satisfaction by far?

First, let’s have a look at a few questions:

What is your problem as an organisation?

Before trying to find a solution, it is important to identify what the root cause of a problem really is. A company might face issues that are easily resolved by training their people to perform tasks more efficiently or by thinking about an issue from a different perspective.

Sometimes, however, the problem could be something else that even employee training will not do wonders to address. This could be a flaw in the business structure, the business plan, or the processes that are in place.

Providing organisational learning can therefore help identify and address many flaws, but if you are unsure of what the problem really is, then you might not even know what type of learning is required.

It is only after you have identified the overall “problems” in your organisation that it pays to take the next step and identify specific skills, knowledge and competencies that would help resolve these problems.

A Brandon Hall Group study found that although identifying critical skills and competencies is crucial in ensuring that learning and development efforts pay off, “few companies believe they are very effective at doing so. . .Fewer than half of the companies surveyed say they are effective at it, and only a select few believe they are very effective.”

The study goes on to say that ensuring effective learning and development initiatives is also a differentiating factor among high-performing organisations.

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Where are you right now, and where would you like to go?

Based on awareness of your organisation’s current state of affairs, you as the company’s management team can then set meaningful goals that employees can understand clearly.

These goals provide a sense of direction and the justification for resulting initiatives that will be carried out in the company.

It is not easy to expect yourself or your people to just keep running without a specific instruction about the end goal. Thus, setting clear expectations and goals will provide something to guide all activities – including any learnings you would like to incorporate for your employees.

What would success look like to you?

This differs from one person to the next. For the majority of business leaders, success looks something like this: Commendable revenue and profits for the company, a great brand in the market, happy and loyal customers, and perhaps also happy and loyal employees willing to give their all for the company.

Once you identify what success means for your organisation, you can then plan your actions to get there.

What must you need to get all of the above?

First things first, identify your problems and needs. This is no easy feat; however, taking a few hours (or days) together with your management team and taking a step back to look at all the issues that your company faces, and even at specific functions within your company, might just save you much valuable time and effort in the future.

Going down to the root cause of problems, and by that I mean really identifying why certain things occur, not just what seems to be the issue superficially, will allow you to move on to the next step, which is to set your goals and plan a strategy to get there.

How can learning help you in this?

Organisational learning can play a significant role in terms of getting your workforce up to speed and in line with your goals.

Once you have identified the needs your organisation has in terms of skills, competencies and structure, the right kind of learning can be provided to the right individuals in order to get them where you need them to be faster.

Unfortunately, no organisation, big or small, can expect employees to have all the required skills when they first enter the company. That’s why it is crucial to provide structured learning opportunities throughout their employment.

Measuring the ROI of learning

Measuring the ROI of learning is one of those elusive topics that has troubled training professionals and HR practitioners for decades. Unfortunately, there is no direct, easy way of doing so.

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Josh Bersin. Pic courtesy of www.bersin.com

It is possible, however, to have measurable indicators in place, whether in the case of physical training or online. I’ll focus here on the online option, also known as e-learning or, as we call it in Leaderonomics, Digital Learning, since that’s what I know best.

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, has identified important e-learning measurements such as enrollment, activity, course completion rates and scores.

Since online learning can track all of the above, this gives an indication of comprehension, engagement, uptake of courses and willingness to see them through.

Another useful tool is the Kirkpatrick Model, which is now seen as the standard for assessing organisational learning. Through its four levels of learning evaluation, this model offers a results-focused measure to gauge the effectiveness of an e-learning programme.

As you can imagine, Level 3 and 4 are, as expected, harder to measure.
Level 3 measures behaviour change as a result of the training. Common ways to assess this could be observation surveys, surveys of the learner and feedback from supervisors or customers, conducted a few months after the training.

Analysis of 60,000 professionals shows that 85% believed that training resulted in at least a moderate increase in skills and knowledge, and 53% saw a significant increase in productivity.

Organisational learning is definitely the way to sharpen your most valuable resource as a business – your people.

Needless to say, for any learning initiative to work well, you need a correct, well-thought-out and planned application, coupled with proper measures to track the progress.

Put this together and you’re on track to ensure the success and growth of your organisation.

Eva Christodoulou is heading the Digital Learning team in Leaderonomics. If you would like to find out how Digital Learning by Leaderonomics can help you put in place a systematic, well-researched plan for the development of your people and your organization, e-mail learn@leaderonomics.com

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