The New Learning Organisation: what is it and how to get there

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Jamie Lawrence
Managing Editor
TrainingZone
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This is an interview with Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, and Genny Dixon, Head of Research, at Towards Maturity. It was conducted off the back of the release of Towards Maturity's free new report, In-Focus: Driving the New Learning Organisation.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What are current trends suggesting the future of workplace learning will look like in five to 10 years?

Genny Dixon, Head of Research/Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: The future is already here and we are in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Our research has shown that today the C-suite and leaders face major risks to the four critical levers of business: profit, productivity, growth and transformation.

PWC's 20th CEO Survey states that 77% of CEOs are concerned that skills shortages will impact their ability to grow whilst other thought leadership studies show that the C-suite cite talent shortages in their top three risks. 

The future of work and workers is that organisations will become boundary-less and networked and it is predicted that the freelance/gig economy will make up the majority of the workforce by 2030. The knowledge economy is becoming more valuable by the day and organisations that recognise the value of their organisation's knowledge are predicted to become more successful. The learning organisation will replace traditional (transactional) forms of learning. 

To survive, the learning organisation will need to be a living and learning ecosystem that intelligently facilities the performance and learning of its entire people population, continually transforming itself , with learning as a strategic pillar and not an enabler or cost centre as it is seen today.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: People don't always agree on what defines a learning organisation: what do you guys define it as?

Genny Dixon, Head of Research/Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: Towards Maturity’s Top Deck (organisations within the top 10% of Towards Maturity’s index and consistently reporting the best results across our research sample) have helped us shape six characteristics / habits that we define as:

  • Clarity of Purpose: a shared vision and an open dialogue on how people are valued and need to adapt to deliver the organisation’s performance
  • Holistic People Experience: a trusted brand that keeps to its promises and develops innovative, commercial and continuous learning opportunities
  • Thriving ecosystem: a people-led system that enables its people, teams and the extended enterprise to thrive and learn linked to common goals
  • Agile, digitally-enabled infrastructure: a virtual environment that enables a fluid exchange of knowledge, ideas and the adaptation of competence
  • Continual Engagement: a dynamic community that continually builds on business relationships resulting in energy, resilience and growth.
  • Intelligent decision making: a robust platform using insight & performance analytics to drive organisational performance & customer experience 

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What are the key things needed to transition to a learning organisation? Can it be evolution or does it have to be transformation?

Genny Dixon, Head of Research/Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: As this is an organisational model, both business leaders and people/L&D leaders have a part to play. It depends what risks the organisation faces in terms of whether they drive an evolution or transformation. We suspect most will drive an evolutionary process.

Our report outlines the key steps against each of the characteristics but a few highlights for leaders and people/learning leaders are:

  • Raise awareness of what a modern/future-focused learning organisation looks like and how this can propel bottom line value 
  • Develop a learning organisation mindset shift through innovative thinking, engagement, language/communication etc
  • Audit the current 'AS IS' people experience and design a holistic 'TO BE' experience with the same focus as your customer experience models 
  • Encourage the ecosystem to connect, thrive and capture knowledge and drive competence 
  • Drive, reward and measure managers to become 21st century line coaches/guides 
  • Get comfortable with using benchmarking, people analytics/data so that both evidence and experience is used to transform decisions 

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: What does leadership tend to look like in a learning organisation?

Genny Dixon, Head of Research/Jane Daly, Head of Strategic Insights, Towards Maturity: Leadership is people-led. Leaders know what a modern, 21st century learning organisation looks like. Leaders have a learning organisation mindset, they set up learning as a strategic pillar and propel the value of learning at an organisational level to impact growth, transformation, profit and productivity.  

Leaders know how to embed future-focused people practices so that people thrive, learn and perform at their best. Leaders demand more value from their people/learning leaders and managers and they invest more. 

Leaders lead knowledge to competency strategies that are spoken about daily by creating a safe environment for individuals to grow and transform but to also make mistakes, disrupt their thinking, try different things, truly learn, share and create more value. 

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