Making your learning organization future-ready is not always about tech

John Matcha & Meghana Jadhav | July 05, 2022

The idea of creating a learning organization to propel the growth of a company has been explored exhaustively for over half a century. Peter Senge’s seminal work “The Fifth Discipline” which was first published 30 years ago, proposed that companies that have the capability of fostering a collective learning experience and allow individuals to succeed within and as a team will have the competitive edge over the long term.

According to the five disciplines that Peter Senge proposed, a learning organization should be engaged in:

  • Creating a shared vision forged from the interactions required between colleagues in an organization to build common understandings and commitments.
  • Bringing to the surface deep-seated mental models (or the beliefs, values, mindsets, and assumptions) that employees harbour about their organization, which determine the way they think and act.
  • Willingly having one’s own beliefs and values challenged to ensure everyone’s interactions are authentic, congruent, and principled.
  • Thinking together, sharing one another’s experience, insight, knowledge, and skills about how to do something more efficiently.
  • Thinking systemically to identify the interrelationships that underlie complex situations and interactions rather than simplistic (and mostly inaccurate) linear cause-effect chains.

Over the years, the learning industry proposed a ‘sixth discipline’, revolving around the learning tech stack that a company needs to invest in to continuously teach and support the other five disciplines. In the last couple of decades, companies have invested substantial sums to make effective use of the learning tech stack.

The Learning Guild 2022 report on the Trends in Learning Technology highlights the primary learning technologies that companies are adopting and implementing. It is no surprise that the Learning Management System (LMS) continues to be the most universally adopted learning technology. The size of the LMS market alone is set to grow from $14.43 billion in 2021 to $40.95 billion in 2029. However, companies are diversifying their learning technology portfolio and investing in Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), Learning Record Stores (LRS), social collaboration and learning platforms, and micro-learning platforms – all of which help to increase the adoption of learning, facilitate in personal mastery, and enable shared learning experiences. Technologies like the LXP that offer employees personalized learning pathways have seen a significant uptick in deployment. This market is set to grow from $508.5 million in 2021 to $2.18 billion in 2026. Then there’s the immersive tech market, which hasn’t enjoyed as much penetration as of now, in the learning industry; however, this is bound to change soon with the advent of the Metaverse, which has already created a big buzz in the learning industry.

There is already sufficient data that shows learning technology systems help companies achieve substantially better retention rates, higher revenues per employee, higher profit margins, and savings. But the LinkedIn 2022 Workplace Learning Report serves us a good reminder that amidst the lingering pandemic, while companies look at making more investments to advance their learning technology portfolio, they should perhaps look with renewed focus at those core disciplines that formed the bedrock of their organizational ethos before the pandemic served them arguably the most severe test on company culture in the history of work.

The tumultuous changes in the post-pandemic world to our ways of working have led employees to seek more connectedness to their company’s vision and mission, and more elasticity in the way they perform their roles. Amidst this workplace cultural evolution, organizations now need to reinvent themselves such that learning initiatives are integrated with talent development initiatives for a more holistic vision, so that skill-building ties into a larger common purpose that propels employees and their businesses forward together.

In our post-pandemic next-normal world, what are some pitfalls to avoid and opportunities to capitalize on for learning organizations to make their workforce future-ready?

Make learning central to company culture

Learning opportunities are now the number one culture factor that defines an exceptional work environment for employees. Companies should create a culture where employees can have continuous access to tailored learning experiences. They should later reinforce that learning in the flow of work through strategic, thoughtfully constructed, and goal-oriented feedback loops. A company that is future-focused and is learning together will undoubtedly be on the growth trajectory.

Let your colleagues choose what they wish to learn

Instead of adopting the top-down approach of telling your colleagues the skills they should get themselves trained in, give them the freedom to choose. According to Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning and Talent Officer at Degreed: colleagues pursuing a learning journey that they got themselves onto, are likely to be more invested in the learning. What businesses should do is provide their employees with guidance about the critical skills that will make their company future-ready. Each employee can then evaluate and see which of these skills aligns with their self-interest. This intersection of organizational and individual interests will help your colleagues develop a sense of ownership with the contributions they can see themselves making to grow the business. This will increase the connectedness that your colleagues feel towards your company.

Keep your finger on the pulse of your learning organization

Make the effort to listen to what your colleagues are saying about the company’s programs. Putting out a barometer that frequently assesses company sentiment is the best way to measure the efficacy of the companies talent development and learning programs. The LinkedIn report points out that only 20% of surveyed employees agreed that their company’s leadership values learning more than ever before. Josh Bersin’s HR Predictions for 2022, lists out impactful ways that managers can lead colleagues, making learning experiences front-and-centre in all of their on-the-job collaborations. These include learning from problems to introduce change in the organization, inspiring and empowering their colleagues, being purpose-driven and passionate about the company’s objectives, and being humble, empathetic listeners with a growth mindset.

Leverage analytics to make informed decisions

Use whatever data your company has been able to capture from learning and HR platforms (and stored in data warehouses, data lakes, or data portals) to get to know your colleagues better. Make informed decisions on which skill gaps to close. Look for correlations between programs and performance scores. Reduce employee turnover rates by establishing a relationship between employee learning and engagement. Measure whether it’s easier to fill managerial positions externally or internally through internal mobility and continuous learning and development opportunities. Ask better questions when you analyse data and use these insights to generate more stakeholder interest and investment in learning.

So, while you tap into the learning tech market and look at new and improved ways to make your workforce future-ready, take an holistic view of your learning organization and ensure you’re looking at new and creative ways to engage your colleagues and make them feel valued as well.

Reach out to us to get to know how Encora can advise you on your learning tech investments, improve your colleagues’ potential through impactful learning experiences and harness the power of your data assets. We are here to help you get started!

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