Changes in the last two years have caused enormous disruptions in the way organizations function. Brick-and-mortar shops have become more oriented toward online shopping. Working at the office has been replaced by working from home. In-person visits to service providers have shifted to online meetings and phone calls.
Changes abound, and being adaptable to change is one of the many benefits of a learning organization. But what, exactly, is a learning organization, and what are its other benefits?
The concept of a learning organization was developed by Peter Senge and published in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” Here are the core components of a learning organization, as defined by Senge:
Systems thinking is the ability to understand how each part of the organization affects the whole. For example, reducing staff may positively impact the bottom line in the short term. However, it could cause employee burnout, decreased efficiency, and poor customer service in the long term. Ultimately, reducing staff could negatively affect the organization if customers go elsewhere due to poor service.
Organizations, like individuals, often have a framework of how to conduct business, how work should get done, how to address problems, how to train employees, and so forth. These mental models need to be examined because they could be outdated and hinder progress. What worked 20 years ago may be comfortable and familiar, but it might not be a model that works in the modern world.
A shared vision among management and employees of what they want to achieve at work can be unifying. When people work toward a common purpose, there is often less friction and greater cooperation among team members.
Team learning is where managers and employees learn and grow together by actively participating in the distribution of knowledge. The idea is that dialogue and discussion will result in greater creativity and collaboration. People can contribute their knowledge and perspective and ask questions to expand the team’s skills.
People often think that personal mastery refers to having reached a point where you have very little left to learn about a subject. In the context of a learning organization, though, it means someone who’s curious and always learning. Personal mastery means that the employee knows there is still a lot to learn and keeps building their skill set. As they learn, they look for ways to apply their skills to develop their abilities further.
All of that sounds great, but what are the tangible benefits of a learning organization for your workplace? Most organizations want to grow, have excellent relationships with their customers, improve efficiency, and stay ahead of the competition. Here’s how being a learning organization can help you achieve all that.
A workforce that is engaged, committed to learning new ways of doing things, and aware of new technologies and external pressures is in a much better position to take advantage of changes in the market.
As a result of following trends and increasing their knowledge, some businesses already set themselves up to deliver an excellent online shopping or service experience before COVID-19 caused shutdowns. They realized there was a lot of growth potential in making the online shopping experience easy. Many of these companies were able to expand quickly because they had put systems in place to service the increase in consumer demand beforehand. One well-known example of this is Amazon, which invested in researching technology and expanding their warehouses, increasing its profits by nearly 200% during COVID-19.
Learning organizations are better equipped to link resources to customer needs. Having information that benefits customers, keeping up to date on what clients are looking for, and finding new ways to deliver better experiences improves customer relationships.
Having access to knowledge that can be found quickly and shared can improve the efficiency of your organization. Employees, on average, spend 25% of their working hours searching for information they need to do their job. Learning organizations can implement structures that allow employees to easily find the information they need. Time spent looking for information can be redirected to tasks that better use the employees’ skills.
Learning organizations are better positioned to respond to external pressures because their employees have information readily available and can share relevant information with one another. As a result, employees can adapt to new situations faster than those in organizations where knowledge is more difficult to access and there is little collaboration between employees.
Now that you’ve seen the benefits of being a learning organization, why not commit to becoming one? Elium has all the tools you need to create a successful, knowledge-sharing learning organization. Take a look at what Elium has to offer, and be sure to book a demo to see how you can develop into a learning organization.