Only 8% of executives see any clear results from their learning efforts. That’s a startling measure of the wasted potential of L&D programs. The truth is, learning doesn’t need to be forced into a “program” if you bake it into your operations all day, every day. In other words, become a Learning Organization with continuous learning and knowledge-sharing to maintain a competitive business advantage.
A Learning Organization makes active learning more convenient and accessible by placing employees at the center of training creation, where they can surface Learning Needs, create relevant courses, and engage in collective problem-solving. Mentorships, collaboration, and continuous professional development are cornerstones of a true Learning Organization.
However, the high-level benefits of becoming a Learning Organization are best understood through real-life examples. Here, we paint a clearer picture of what exceptional Learning Organizations look like in practice—or you can download our dedicated ebook for an even deeper dive:
As CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch made two sweeping changes in communication and transparency—encouraging employees to solve common problems together and fearlessly provide constructive feedback—helping GE become one of the foremost Learning Organizations.
When Welch became CEO in 1981, the company was buried under top-down hierarchy and knowledge silos. Imagine these almost-comical bureaucratic scenarios: A manager in one division had to read seven reports every day, of which one report was routinely 12-feet high. In another case, the head of a department couldn’t sign for approval without a supervisor’s approval.
Welch recognized that his company needed to work differently and turned GE into a “boundaryless organization” focused on collaboration and open communication across departments. He initiated the famous Work-Out process, which physically brought employees together to share knowledge and solve common problems collaboratively. As a result, an unrestrained flow of expertise and ideas led to better communication and quicker decisions, contributing to GE’s rise to a $400 billion company.
Welch further tapped the valuable institutional knowledge within his company and introduced “reverse mentoring” to help junior employees teach senior executives about the internet. “We tipped the organization upside down. We now have the youngest and brightest teaching the oldest,” he explained. The benefits of reverse mentoring are widely applicable even today—learning seeps into organizational culture, millennials feel recognized and valued, and the relationships developed with senior leaders lead to an ease of communication and feedback.
Related: "Because I said so": Why Top-Down Management Doesn’t Work
As a result, an unrestrained flow of expertise and ideas led to better communication and quicker decisions, contributing to GE’s rise to a $400 billion company.
With 900+ team members spread across the globe, AlphaSights, a research platform, streamlined its course creation process with digitized training so that employees could onboard, learn in the flow of work, and continue to sharpen their skills. The switch to learning technology helped AlphaSights transform itself into a Learning Organization with an all-time high training engagement rate.
AlphaSights had an in-person training portfolio that worked under one roof, but as the company grew to a global remote workforce, it needed a new solution. Its rapid growth meant that AlphaSights needed a scalable solution that would help it digitize its training, enable subject-matter experts (SMEs) to easily create and update courses, and make learning accessible and flexible for all employees.
Luckily, AlphaSights recognized this need before the pandemic, which set it up for success when 2020 brought its challenges. With 360Learning, a Collaborative Learning platform that helped democratize content creation, AlphaSights taught 240 internal SMEs to create courses with an easy-to-use authoring tool and transform a two-week in-person program into a blended learning program.
Employees love learning from their peers, even through screens, and AlphaSights saw this in action with a 95% course completion rate. In addition, 97% of in-course Reactions were positive, indicating that new employees found the training content useful and relevant, engaging them to continue on the road to learning.
Related: Post-Covid, Will L&D Ever Go Back to In-Person Training?
97% of in-course Reactions were positive, indicating that new employees found the training content useful and relevant.
As a company that hires 100+ global employees every year, Appen, an AI solutions company, moved quickly to scale its training programs and ship them out with the agility required to keep up with the constant changes in the field of artificial intelligence.
With over 1,000 employees across four continents, a roster of new hires, and a slew of acquisitions, Appen’s onboarding program wasn’t efficient for new or existing employees. Its Professional Services team was spending 12 hours onboarding new clients in face-to-face training. The company was moving quickly to meet training needs, but the courses were all over the place—for example, employees had to visit five different sites to take one course on data privacy training.
Appen saved time and cost by streamlining its remote learning stack in a central spot with the 360Learning suite. Employees used their expertise to create courses, prioritized important projects through a collaborative feedback loop, and surfaced questions in a discussion forum. This helped employees solve problems in real-time and keep content updated with changing technologies and market trends.
Related: How Spendesk Overhauled Their Onboarding by Turning Subject-Matter Experts Into Content Creators
Zotec Partners, a medical billing solutions firm, transformed its existing compliance training in a highly technical subject matter by using gamification to make learning fun and engaging.
Medical billing is a highly regulated area of business and doesn’t lend itself easily to an exciting or engaging learning experience. Zotec Partners had a flat and boring approach to training that checked the regulatory boxes but saw little engagement from learners. Like most traditional training courses, learners had to read through the program from start to finish and answer questions at the end to pass.
To change this, Zotec Partners wanted to offer an experience that looked and felt different. It started with a course in privacy and security and gamified it with the help of a virtual escape room. For example, any items related to privacy and security in the room would glow, and learners had to click on each to unlock the door to answer questions.
Through the game, learners could interact and engage with the content on their own terms, with knowledge questions baked in along the way. It shortened the training completion frame by half, from 60 days to 30 days, and registered a record satisfaction score of 4.5, up from the 3 to 3.5 the training would usually see.
Drift, a revenue acceleration platform, pioneered a strategic merger between its marketing and L&D teams to form a Content, Community, and Learning & Development Team so that the culture of learning could have a direct impact on business outcomes. This partnership is rooted in one of the eight leadership principles of the company—“be a curious learning machine.”
Often, L&D and marketing teams within an organization are polarized. The L&D team is looking inward—focused on developing people within an organization—while the marketing team’s efforts are concentrated on driving business outcomes. The thought behind the blending of departments is that curious, lifelong L&D practitioners will master the brand voice and then amplify it through the content they create.
By placing L&D within its marketing department, Drift sought to make a bigger impact on business outcomes by inspiring and educating customers, partners, and prospects with consistent messaging and a uniform tone of voice. It facilitated this by centralizing internal and external-facing content—blog articles, webinars, and certification courses—in a single spot.
As a result, the marketing team helped systematize the outcomes for the L&D team while the L&D team, in turn, helped them view content from a more pedagogical perspective.
Related: How Drift Merges Marketing and L&D to Create 'Curious Learning Machines'
Setting your company on a path to becoming a Learning Organization might take some wrangling, yet as we’ve seen above, the benefits are well worth it. If you’re considering championing this model for your place of work, or looking for a more in-depth treatment of why Learning Organizations lead to more productive teams and happier employees, check out our dedicated ebook, Embracing the Learning Organization Model.