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Understanding and Embracing Organizational Learning

Matthew Reyes

Associate Principal, Thought Leadership & Advisory Services, Cornerstone

If your business doesn’t take advantage of organizational learning principles, you may be leaving money, and all kinds of resources, on the table. Embracing organizational learning is one of the most prominent best practices in today's business world.

If that sounds hyperbolic, read on to see why this type of theory is so important and how it can be a boon for your business.

What is Organizational Learning?

Organizational learning is a theory about how knowledge exists in an organization. It covers how knowledge flows through an organization, how it’s aggregated, how it’s used, how it’s acted upon, and how an organization ensures its consistency.

When you think about organizational learning, think about each process that workers perform as part of their daily job as its own informational resource, with its own knowledge base. When you look at each process associated with various roles within your organization, what do you see? Is there enough information available to understand how each person completes their tasks.

For example, let's say that an insurance company has to put client records through a thorough evaluation before providing coverage. Initially, some employees may have established best practices to do this task well. However, let’s say these individuals left the company, taking their knowledge with them without formally recording these best practices. What impact will the loss of this best practice have on the company?

With organizational learning, you analyze the process, ask these sorts of questions, and then take this knowledge and add it to an archive or repository that current employees can access. This process establishes a knowledge transfer from those who came before them to prevent any organizational disruptions.

Organizational learning is used to enhance processes by improving access to information. It's the ability to crowdsource knowledge from various parts of your team to others. Knowledge is a resource that can be preserved or lost. Knowledge preservation is a crucial principle of organizational learning.

The Benefits of Organizational Learning

Organizational learning isn’t a new concept. Organizations have been finding success when they put these processes in place for years now. Some of those benefits have included, but weren’t limited to:

Job satisfaction – Along with creative control and employee feedback, organizational learning is vital in developing a desirable workplace. Having the transparency and the knowledge available to perform your job at the highest level makes people feel more confident and more capable in their roles. The confidence and security they feel drives better morale and job satisfaction across the organization.

Lower turnover – People leave jobs for many reasons: toxic bosses, workplace conflicts, boredom or poor behavior, amongst many others. They also leave if they feel overwhelmed by their jobs or can’t perform the tasks you hired them to do. Establishing a solid organizational learning practice provides the knowledge base, transparency of information and resources employees need to succeed in their roles.

Leadership development – Think about business processes as pieces of fine oak wood. They can be seasoned and enhanced over time. Workflows can be like this, and as the business seasons its knowledge, leadership development often happens as one of the byproducts of organizational learning. With this kind of routine care, companies develop their assets and people achieve greater career advancement through skills and experience.

Succession planning – A consolidated, organized knowledge base is a cornerstone of any good succession planning strategy. Onboarding new employees is streamlined and easier for everyone when everything needed to hit the ground running is all in one place. It also opens up your candidate pool because you can focus more on finding a great culture fit and not just someone who can "do the job."

How to Promote Organizational Learning at Your Business

There are several guidelines and models available from workplace experts for how you can establish an organizational learning practice at your organization. These helpful tools are an excellent foundation to start educating your employees on how organizational learning works.

Generally, these models are built on the idea of a life cycle. Each step in the life cycle has its own protocols that contribute to organizational learning outcomes. Understanding each stage of the processes will help you break down organizational learning best practices into parts that you can adapt around your business.

Review and apply these models to your various business processes. Create automated assignments, completion records and other types of tools that assimilate organizational learning into your employee workflow.

Cornerstone can help. Cornerstone Learning is uniquely designed to help your organization enhance its processes and make organizational learning a priority. If you have questions about how Cornerstone Learning could be the perfect product for establishing your organizational learning practices, speak directly with one of our solution consultants today!

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