Organizational learning
Training & Learning

Why You Can't Afford to Ignore Organizational Learning

Your company is brimming with unique knowledge and even more unique people who house much of this knowledge. But having those competent people on your payroll isn’t enough. You need to turn that individual knowledge into company knowledge; that’s where organizational learning comes in.

Organizational learning takes one person’s know-how—say, Craig from marketing’s method of doing tasks X, Y, and Z—and packages it in a public, permanent form that new and existing employees can learn from. The organization learns from Craig, and everyone is better for it. But, the benefits of organizational learning go beyond this hypothetical case study.

For starters, organizational learning can drive profits—some businesses applying organizational learning principles in a Learning Organization setup have seen profits three times higher than their counterparts. But this is only scratching the surface of organizational learning and the competitive advantage it offers. Organizational learning brings scalable knowledge creation, institutional knowledge management, time efficiency, faster knowledge sharing and decision-making to your company.

Organizational learning is the practice of ensuring knowledge is stored, disseminated efficiently, and utilized to the fullest.

What is organizational learning?

Organizational learning is the practice of ensuring knowledge is stored, disseminated efficiently, and utilized to the fullest. The organizational learning process often entails the use of a company wiki, a learning management system (LMS), and company-wide practices.

Organizational learning keeps institutional knowledge within the company

Institutional knowledge is any knowledge specific to your company. It’s one of your organization’s most valuable assets, because it’s unique to your setup, it plays a big role in how your team works, and it contributes significantly to the functioning of your business.

This information often takes a long time to identify, as its existence relies on employees figuring out unique solutions to problems. This is also why you can’t snap your fingers and replace the new knowledge on a dime. By implementing a system for knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer while your employees are still with you, you safeguard that knowledge if they leave.

The average employee stays with their job for four years. That’s four years of discoveries, problem solving, innovation, and intimate knowledge of how their work gets done. And when an employee leaves, that’s also four years of unique knowledge that walks out the door with them—if it’s not preserved in a company wiki or disseminated via training.

Properly storing institutional knowledge ensures it’s there for your entire organization to use when they need it. When Craig from marketing quits, recorded knowledge helps you train Craig’s replacement without having to involve other team members in re-creating the knowledge that walked out the door.

Losing institutional knowledge, in short, slows you down and runs the risk of causing a total disruption in your learning environment. If you’re a small company, it’s possible Craig was the only one who knew how to do a certain task. He likely had new insights into the task and gained new perspectives while performing that task. If he leaves with that information, you’re left trying to figure out how he was doing his job and then faced with teaching a new hire from scratch.

Organizational learning doesn't just capture institutional knowledge. It also helps you capture the four main types of knowledge at your organization:

  • Individual
  • Organizational
  • Inter-organizational
  • Group

A company wiki and LMS allow for all your knowledge to be stored and shared. It also makes it easier to transition to a full Learning Organization model, (more on that in the ebook, below).

Embracing Learning Organization ebook cover | 360Learning

Learn how to become a true Learning Organization

It scales with your organization

It’s easy to feel as if training and learning are more difficult the larger your company gets. But, with an organizational learning approach, this isn’t the case. In fact, the more employees you have, the more minds there are contributing to and refining your organization’s collective knowledge.

When you want to train 10 people on your own, that’s doable. When you have to train 10,000? You need a new approach. Organizational learning pulls knowledge from every corner of your organization and makes it available to everyone. In the organizational context, that means those 10,000 learners are essentially training themselves.

Scaling organizational learning and building a learning culture is more doable today than in years past, thanks to new Collaborative Learning tools. An LMS that allows for collaborative authoring makes the task of capturing institutional knowledge and using it feasible for teams, even as they scale.

It's easy to capture, share, and improve institutional knowledge with an LMS that enables co-authoring.

an example course in 360Learning
It's easy to capture, share, and improve institutional knowledge with an LMS that enables co-authoring.

For example, 360Learning follows the organizational learning model by giving your team the ability to send up learning requests and answer requests by creating courses around those topics. This allows for more knowledge to be captured, both faster and before the source leaves. This also makes it easier to scale your L&D efforts, as your entire team is now capable of creating courses versus just your L&D team.

It improves employee experience and reduces churn

Bad training is the bane of employees' existence. But training that's founded in strong organizational learning practices is linked to higher employee satisfaction, happiness, and retention.

Onboarding is one of our only chances to make a great first impression on employees. Training plays a large role in that experience. If someone’s just starting out at your company, and you don’t have an effective system that supports them in learning how to do their new job, they'll likely turn right back around and leave. In fact, a strong onboarding experience can boost retention by 82%.

Without organizational learning, you’re setting yourself up to deliver a rocky onboarding experience with tons of in-person training or no training at all. Make your onboarding experience as strong as possible by building a Learning Organization that makes institutional knowledge easy to access and training intuitive and self-guided where possible. This gives your new hires the chance to carve individual learning paths. That is, learn at a time that fits their schedule or time zone and doesn’t bog down your seasoned employees with the task of leading training initiatives.

Organizational learning results in a self-service experience where employees get the training they need when they need it most. Learning theories suggest that this will ultimately result in a better, more personal training experience, which can do wonders for your company churn. Consider the metrics—companies with well-regarded training experienced 53% less employee churn than those with poor training.

Your Human Resources team worked hard to secure the talent that powers your company. As an L&D professional, you’re in a unique position to deliver an experience that keeps your talented team happy and not walking out the door.

It makes your business more adaptable

If your industry or business experiences a shift, organizational learning puts you in a position to quickly create training and roll it out to your entire company.

Imagine for a moment that some kind of global catastrophe, like a pandemic, rocks your organization and sends your team scrambling home and away from the office. Your auditorium area for training is out of the picture, your in-house learning network requires a VPN or is simply inaccessible, and your entire team is faced with a new way of working. (And all the tools that come with it.)

Now, imagine your company is fully embracing the organizational learning model—you have a company wiki, a proper LMS, and policies in place around updating those tools and documenting knowledge. With your L&D no longer locked down and stored in individuals’ heads and disseminated exclusively through instructor-led training sessions, your company can easily train new hires and spread new information—digitally and safely from home.

The above concept carries into every facet of your training, too. If your team is struggling to adapt to remote life, you can quickly create trainings on how to use Zoom, Slack, set time boundaries, and so on. Change is often scary, but knowledge goes a long way toward combating that fear. It also helps prevent embarrassing Zoom mishaps.

Disneyland Paris is a great example of organizational learning’s adaptability. Early last year, Disneyland Paris was faced with sending 3,000-4,000 people home to work remotely. They quickly implemented a remote learning system, sent everyone home, and then used that learning system to train employees on how they’d operate remotely. Without organizational learning—a proper LMS and guiding principles for their team—Disneyland Paris would have likely tried training everyone on remote work before transitioning home and disrupted their business.

Become a Learning Organization through and through

Integrating organizational learning best practices in your company is a giant step toward creating a culture of learning. But, you can do even better. Take things a step further and fully embrace the Learning Organization model. Our ebook will help you start on the right foot and begin your journey toward creating a culture that fully embraces learning and collaboration—even amidst a pandemic or Craig throwing a wrench in the gears.