Why Organisations Don’t Learn

If you’re holding on to the status quo as an organisation, you’ll probably be out of the game pretty soon. In the VUCA world we face today, organisations need to be able to adapt to changes. And because organisations are made up of people, it is they who need to be exercising flexible thinking and behaviours as well as embrace life-long learning (Yang, 2015). This will benefit both the organisation and the individual learner.

Learning organisations are places where people continuously discover how to create their reality and how to change it. The good news is that people nowadays are increasingly willing to learn. They are looking for work that not only seems purposeful to them, but that also entails growing individual learning needs.

Why then is it so difficult for organisations to learn?

There are four common behavioural patterns people in organisations show that can be identified as barriers to organisational learning:

  1. “Fear of Failure”

We tend to avoid failure, because it makes us feel embarrassed. When it comes to learning something new, failing is a natural part of acquiring the new skill or knowledge.

  1. “This is my job, that isn’t”

Drawing a line between one’s own job, position, competences & the rest of the organisation produces silos and brings about a mindset that hinders learning beyond one’s own set boarders.

2. “Not my fault”

This mindset refers to assigning blame and responsibilities for failures to the outside world (or outside of the own department), instead of owning & learning from them.

3. “Fixation on short-term happenings”

The long-term consequences of decisions lose importance next to short-term gains that often seem more significant, because they are more tangible.

These mindsets can be found in most organisations, serving as barriers to lifelong learning, the competence that is essential for people in organisations to embrace. As mentioned above, the problem doesn’t stem from lacking employee willingness to learn - it is the culture of the organisation that has to be providing an environment for continuous learning to take place.

How to Create a Learning Culture

An organisation that has a healthy learning culture is one in which people are not only willing to continuously learn and apply their knowledge and skills to the workplace, but they also share this knowledge with others.

Take these 4 steps to build the foundation of your learning culture:

1. Recognition

In the organisational setting, you’re probably mostly sharing your recognition with employees when they perform well. When your employees learn, they don’t perform. Therefore, for learning to take place, you need to give your employees time in which they are not expected to perform, but to learn.

Acknowledge these learning efforts by recognising them through your formal reward system, showing that you value learning just as much as performance.

2. Support risk taking & failure

Encourage your employees to take acceptable risks in order to support learning and growth. Be open to failure by tolerating and even encouraging your employees to make mistakes. If your employees are afraid of failure, they will never be open to learn new things.

It is important then that these mistakes are analysed so that they serve as the base for improvement, learning and growth in the future.

3. Team Learning

Learning from others fosters open-mindedness, more effective problem solving & changing of the organisational culture.

For team learning to be effective, communication must run smoothly between all members. Thereupon, team learning can lead to increases of social competencies & process oriented thinking & acting of the learners. Make sure to recognise team over individual performance.

4. Lead by example

There is no better way to inspire your employees to embrace learning than by actually doing it yourself. Walk your talk: Take out time to read and share your favourite books with your employees. Sign up for tasks that challenge and take you out of your comfort zone. Learn new skills, nurture your curiosity and share your mistakes and learnings.

Embracing these 4 steps sets the foundation for a learning culture, in which the barriers of learning don’t stand a chance. Organisations NEED to learn & employees WANT to learn. It is therefore essential that you set the path for the organisations learning culture on which learning can take place.

Feel free to contact us at connect@pace-od.com if you have any further questions concerning how to build the foundation for your organisations learning culture!

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