Responsive Organizational Learning and Development (1/5) – Michal Fedeles

Responsive Organizational Learning and Development (1/5)

Responsive Organizational Learning and Development (1/5)

Volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous – sounds familiar? Thriving in the world of rapidly changing global markets, artificial intelligence and a hybrid workforce calls for a learning and development system that is embedded in your company’s operations and is more attentive than ever before to the needs of the people it is meant to support. 

Learning and development helps your organization ensure that employees, individually and collectively, contribute capably to the pursuit of the company’s cause. Whether you are in the business of creating, delivering or enabling, your success depends on how engaged and supported your teams are in doing meaningful and satisfying work.

This five-part series explains how responsive learning and development can underlie your company’s success.

Part 1: How Does Organizational Learning and Development Enable Business Success?

Learning and development represents all the formal and informal ways in which individuals, teams, and the entire organization learn in order to perform, and continuously build the readiness to embrace future challenges. It embodies “the deliberate efforts by an organization to facilitate the learning, growth, and development of its employees to meet current and future job demands effectively”. [1]

Hand-in-hand with learning and development goes organizational learning – the processes for systematically “enhancing organizational practices, routines, and behaviors based on new knowledge and insights” – all critically important to companies’ business success and reputation, as well as their longer-term evolution and sustainability. [2]

Each organization has a cause: creating useful products, devising novel solutions to complex challenges, positively impacting communities. Responsive organizational learning and development enables companies to advance that cause by supporting everyone in learning for high performance while developing readiness for future challenges.

In orientation programs, training courses, one-on-one coaching, and on-the-job support, responsive learning and development addresses well understood learning needs of employees serve in a range of roles (some of which may be new to them), whose dreams and passions vary, and who are at different points on their career and life paths.

Learning takes the form of the formal (and sometimes required) courses and workshops, and the complementary informal, employee-directed knowledge seeking and on-the-job peer supports where colleagues share processes (or shortcuts) they have found to work well to achieve a task, or where a mentor guides a more junior colleague.

Successful organizations seek a balance between formal and informal learning. Done well, formal learning addresses the organization’s need to ensure that everyone works to a common standard and vision. At the same time, more personal, informal learning helps meet the needs of employees in specific roles and work situations.

Thoughtfully designed, well executed and timely learning opportunities show employees that the organization and its leaders value their contributions to the collective pursuit. Being supported in learning and development conveys to individuals that they matter, belong, and are seen not just as employees but as persons.

How can an organization implement a responsive learning and development strategy?

Recognizing that learning and development plays a critical role in your company’s success, it needs to be a part of core business. This requires a dedicated team, a healthy budget, and continued alignment with your strategic goals. Employee performance and organizational outcomes must be measured to drive learning and development efforts.

Learning and development programs will almost certainly be ineffective – and thus a poor return on investment – when not based on properly understood needs of employees and leaders. This can lead to the phenomenon called ‘scrap learning’ – where training programs do not address actual learning (and performance) needs of employees.

In contrast, a responsive learning and development strategy will help your employees develop the right skills, in the right ways, at the right time. The cycle of needs assessment, design, development, implementation and evaluation will lead to learning experiences and on-the-job supports that reinforce employees’ new skills in their daily practice.

The stronger the connection between learning and practice, the greater the return on the investment in training for the organization. Managers and supervisors serve a vital role by offering guidance, developmental feedback and a helping hand to employees as they apply new ways of thinking, decision making and problem solving.

How can an organization assess the learning needs of its employees?

A needs assessment helps you understand what employees need in order to perform well, to embrace an upcoming change, or to become ready to step into a new role. A needs assessment involves identifying where employees are in terms of their skills, knowledge and abilities – and where they need to be in order to produce the desired results.

In the next post, we will explore key considerations for conducting needs assessments to inform your learning and development efforts. Keep in mind that a training course is not always the best approach to improving performance or creating different results as an organization. But when it is, a systematic needs assessment is your best friend.

[1] Colquitt, J.A., et al. (2011). Enhancing employee development: Lessons from evidence-based research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32(3), 345-368. 

[2] Argyris, C., & Schon, D. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

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