We live in an age where the pace of change is unprecedented, especially on the technology front. One in four IT workers is worried that their skills could become obsolete, per a study by CompTIA titled Evaluating IT Workforce Needs. Organisations are under more pressure than ever to ensure that their workforce is future fit. As per a Deloitte report on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, only a quarter of executives are highly confident they have the right workforce composition and skill sets needed for the future.
So, what will it take to build a future-proof organisation at a time when there is no clarity on what the future holds? The only way to achieve this is to build a culture of learning within the organisation. The prominent systems scientist and management thinker Peter Senge defines a learning organization as one that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
But, what does it take to build a learning organisation?
When organisations operate in the context of diverse geographies, time zones, technology platforms, age groups, races, genders and what not, the only thing that can bind them together is a common purpose. The organisation needs to have a clear purpose that every person can relate to and feel motivated by. A good robust learning strategy, which impacts everyone in the organisation is an important way to drive home the sense of purpose and create a workforce that is ready to take on new challenges and learnings.
If you look at the most successful companies, you will find that their number one distinction is their ability to learn and adapt faster than their competitors. There are two aspects to this. The first is to create an environment where people have the ability to listen and express effectively. If people are not confident that they are being heard, they are unlikely to say much. Since your people are your eyes and ears in the market, getting them to participate is important. The second aspect is about the leadership team’s commitment to invest in learning. This commitment does way beyond sanctioning budgets. It is about creating consist structures and processes that make learning a priority, rather than an afterthought.
When people are able to identify with your vision and have a clear perception of their ability vis-à-vis market requirements, the desire for personal development follows. By creating a growth mindset that is based on continuous learning; by encouraging people to identify limiting mental models, you can build a team of people that are willing to learn and invest in themselves. Employees need to see and appreciate that the organisation is willing to invest in them. Again, investment is not just about the money but has to be holistic in terms of truly enabling employees’ learning journeys. It must be a constant part of the culture, and maybe even embedded into KPIs to measure progress.
Building a learning organisation isn’t just about cosmetic changes or huge training budgets. Instead, it requires a far more intrinsic change in the DNA of the organisation – in processes, structures, rewards etc. – in order to be sustainable over time.