5 Steps: Transform your organization into a learning one


What do member organizations, small business, and large corporations all have in common (no, this is not a joke!)? They are all experiencing the changing world of work, from cloud technology to web meetings to social media campaigns and marketing. They are all also trying to keep up with new tech devices and ways of communicating, which seem to change every day.

In last week’s blog, Doris presented an infographic, based on Jane Hart’s new approach to learning, that outlined some basic needs organizations have in regards to working with and attracting members and competent staff to fulfill the organizational mission and goals. A large part of attracting volunteers and staff is the learning opportunities the organization provides and keeps providing to equip people with the skills they need to work towards and achieve organizational targets. Here is the section of the infographic that shows the learning gamut from structured to unstructured, guided to Do It Yourself (DIY) learning:

section of infographic

How people learn section of the WLS Infographic

In this new model of workplace learning (replacing “training”), you can see a lot of group, network, and informal learning where people learn and work together. How can an organization get ready for, and start, this new model of learning?

Here are  5 steps to think about as you plan to create a learning organization for the future, compiled from several workintelligent.ly and other resources:

  1. Examine the way you work now and what needs are not being met. Are project teams that work collaboratively within as well as outside of the team encouraged? Are experts and expertise outside of the organization included? How do staff members and/or volunteers communicate to get work done? What communication tools are used to keep the organization informed about affiliate, member, or staff work, and them informed about yours? How distributed is the work and information network?
  2. What technology are you using to communicate, share files, keep everyone updated? According to Mary Meeker’s The State of the Internet report, tablet and mobile technology is on the rise and internet and personal computers are on the wane. Are you planning for this? Collaborative cloud-based programs that allow everyone to view and edit files, web conferencing programs for meetings, are essential elements. For example, Scott Berkun’s The Year Without Pants details the former Microsoft manager’s stint at WordPress.com. WordPress’ teams are distributed, engaged, and always seeking to escape slowdown. They do not use email for discussions about work. Teams and their members post what they’re working on and struggling with on internal blogs. Chats are kept open all day, and Skype comes in when a meeting or semi-private discussion is needed. Have you started to work this way to engage everyone in the organization?
  3. Do you reward learning? As you can see in the infographic above, there are many ways to develop new knowledge and skills including formal courses and webinars. Do you also reward participation in the more informal online and in person learning groups? Do you award badges, give bonuses or highlight this method of learning, and give shout outs to those who learn in both formal and informal ways? Do you advertise your learning?
  4. Do you allow members and staff to use their own technology devices and preferences, and is everyone encouraged to use what works best for them? The blog Understanding Today’s Technology states that all browsers are not created equal, and outdated digital equipment (kept because of the capital investment in purchasing them) or proprietary browsers can hold back organizations from working in new ways and in ways that staff and members are already utilizing in their private lives. Separating learning in private life from learning in work or volunteer life can inhibit creativity, inquiry and collaborative learning opportunities. Privacy regulations and protocols need to be followed in all settings and can be managed.
  5. Do you utilize the expertise that staff and volunteers have, especially when it comes to social media, collaborative technology, and mobile devices? The blog 3 Signs Your Company Doesn’t Understand Today’s Technology states: “Technology is an ever-evolving beast, but the dizzying array of choices it offers shouldn’t be dismissed just because it’s intimidating. Go to a more tech-savvy colleague if first-hand involvement is beyond you right now (we all deserve time to learn). And take this as an opportunity to grow your knowledge base and skillset by delving into some of the latest tech options for your business.” Dismantling hierarchies and opening up opportunities for collaborative learning that values everyone’s expertise benefits everyone.

What is your organization doing to promote future learning to support staff, volunteers, and users of your services and programs? Do you have other steps to add to this list? What are some of the challenges you face in switching from “training” models to “learning” models?

The Women’s Learning Studio is here to help you plan and implement your organizational learning transformation. Contact us today!

Featured image courtesy of EnergyWorks

2 replies
  1. Lyn Boyer
    Lyn Boyer says:

    Lisa, You have made some excellent points about continued learning in organizations. I particularly like your focus on avoiding the separation of learning in private life from learning for work. The little bits of new ideas outside of work often form the nucleus of great solutions to an organizations problems. The suggestion to reward that kind of learning through badges, bonuses or shout outs can encourage employees, managers and top leadership to seek out new ideas.

    • Lisa Levinson
      Lisa Levinson says:

      We all bring all of our learning and skills to what ever we do whether it is intentional or not, don’t we! How can we help it? I think the big shift is going to be in breaking down hierarchies – no one is the expert and everyone is the expert. In our work worlds we are so used to having that authority figure manage decisions or determine what is best that opening up decision making will be a real cultural shift. Online leaders, and good leaders anywhere, know that utilizing everyone’s strengths creates better results, fosters innovation, and leads to job and personal satisfaction.

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