Transforming learning: building the future of business

The problem many businesses face is anaemic growth. To operate in low growth economic conditions, organisations need to focus their efforts on innovation and productivity. The ability to innovate and develop new ideas is not an innate skill. It’s a learned skill, as is the ability to do more with less and be more productive. 

As much as we can gather our people together and chant the words innovation and productivity like some sort of corporate mantra, an organisation can’t increase either without building the structures that enable them. Core to these new structures is the way people learn and how knowledge is built within teams. 

Transforming learning has become the new focus for L&D professionals in 2016. A recent survey by Towards Maturity revealed that transforming learning (30%) was the number one priority for L&D professionals, followed closely by understanding modern learners (22%) and equipping L&D for the future (20)%. As convincing as those statistics are, what does it really mean to “transform learning”? Is it just another HR buzz term or are there steps an organisation can put into place to actually achieve this learning utopia? 

Learning technologies firm, LEO developed a report in 2015 that outlines some ideas for what this learning transformation might look like. LEO’s Director of Learning, Imogen Casebourne believes that workplace learning strategies are essentially strategies for change and should therefore be linked to strategic business activities: “As learning and development professionals, we need to be aligned to HR, IT and marketing in order to successfully drive through organisational change.” 

The report suggests that learning transformation involves constructing an entire learning architecture rather than thinking about learning in individual components. Understanding of the 70:20:10 model of learning enables an organisation to explore new approaches to learning. This model suggests that we learn best by spending 10% of our development time in formal courses, 20% working with others who can role model, guide and offer feedback and 70% of our time operating at work while gaining guidance, direction, information, feedback and encouragement. This means we learn through experience, through social interactions and through formal training. 

So how do you build a system that brings all of these elements together? While formal training sits at the pointy end of the 70:20:10 model, this is where an organisation can begin to build the other components of a new learning architecture. Senior leaders and L&D professionals can use formal training to develop their abilities for becoming role models and designing systems that enable employees to leverage their task-based experiences. The aim is to give employees at every level a toolkit they can take back into the workplace and use immediately in their own roles. 

Overall, as a cultural change program, transforming learning is about showing your employees that you are willing to invest in their knowledge and skills. When staff know their employer is willing to invest in them and their skills they’re more likely to be invested in the organisation and committed to business outcomes. It's hard to measure, but it's one of the core benefits that learning and development can offer to an organisation. 

This posting was written by Hamish Williams and published by Australian Institute of Management.

We understand that SME owner-managers learn from experience and that is at the centre of our LEAD-GOLD-GAIN strategic leadership and innovation programmes. 

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