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4 Strategies of High Performing Learning Organisations

  • 4 Min Read

High-performing learning organisations are more effective at leveraging and supporting workforce learning.

With the world spinning ever faster, organisations need to be able to adapt their employee development systems, processes, methodologies, and mindsets to enable workers to respond effectively to change and support organisational performance. Leveraging strategies used by high performing learning organisations can help.

“Every organisation has goals they need to meet. All want happy customers, and all want to innovate,” says learning and development professional David Mallon, Head of Research for Bersin by Deloitte. “But we have to ask, why is it that some organisations are higher performing and more capable at attaining their goals?  The answer is they are more effective at leveraging and supporting workforce learning,”

Mallon recently completed the latest edition of Bersin’s High-Impact Learning study, a body of research conducted every four years. The study seeks to understand how organisations can better support workforce learning. It also characterises the personalities of high performing learning organisations, and plots organisations on a maturity curve.

“Traditional methods of learning and training aren’t working anymore,” says Mallon. “Learners are distracted, overwhelmed and impatient. With their smartphone in their pocket, they have an expectation that they can access information and learning on their own time and from any location. They want to be in control. So, the notion that we are going to pull people out of their work lives to train them is just not likely to work.”

The latest version of Bersin’s High-Impact Study confirms that work and learning are essentially two sides of the same coin.

“Traditionally they have been separated, but our study shows that work and learning can’t be broken apart,” says Mallon. “Learners don’t want learning out of context. What this means is that we are not just studying an organisation’s formal learning and development responsibilities anymore, but rather the way workforces learn and are supported in their learning.”

The Bersin study also shows that learning organisation maturity is not exclusively the domain of large, resource-rich organisations.

Mallon explains: “Companies who are able to attain top level maturity are not necessarily characterised by size, revenue or industry. Every industry, every size of organisation, and every geography is represented at both the bottom and top of the model.”

Bersin’s learning maturity model categories organisations within four levels:

  • First level: Learning is about training. It is episodic, reactionary and focused around classes and courses. There is no notion of learning’s relevance in the context of the business strategy.
  • Second level: Organisations are beginning to wake up to the notion of learning integration into other parts of the business. Learning is more than a one-off course. It fits within a program and introduces new methods, techniques, and context.
  • Third level: Organisations understand that learning helps the business solve its own needs. Learning has broader context and broader ownership.
  • Fourth level: Very few companies have achieved this level. Organisations anticipate the learning needs of employees and get out ahead of them. They intentionally stage content, provide support in advance of worker need. Employees are never lifted out of work to learn. The organisation understands and is mindful of learning and development opportunities that arise on a daily basis. Level four is about supporting learning in the flow of work.

Strategies of high-performing learning organiztions

So, what are the highest performing organisations doing to drive effective learning in the flow of work? Mallon identifies four strategies that separate the haves and have-nots in the maturity model.

1. Designed for growth

High performing organisations put their time and energy into two key areas: improving the performance of employees in their current role through in-the-moment learning, and they offer longer-term development paths. Organisations designed for growth also reward individuals who actively engage in their own growth. Learning and development professionals view learning from the employee’s perspective and focus on simplifying an employee’s work life, anticipating their needs, eliminating the barriers to learning and delivering experiences that are relevant, current and in the moment.

2. Support engineered exploration

High performing learning organisations create conditions that allow an individual to control their destiny and influence their future. Through process and decision-making clarity, they encourage greater risk-taking and exploration among employees.

3. Offer guided adaptation

High performing learning organisations invest time in making learning happen faster for the individual and for the organisation so that they are leveraging that learning every day to accelerate performance, move faster, and adapt quicker.

4. Engage in accelerated evolution

At the highest maturity level, organisations evolve as a result of their learning, rapidly adjusting their mental frameworks and mindsets. These organisations encourage learning on the fly, quality conversations between a supervisor and employees and position risk as impactful and helpful.

Mallon concludes that organisations that are good at these four things create learning opportunities that are useful, valuable, and delivered in the flow of work. They also experience better business outcomes.

He notes: “When you are moving from activities to outcomes, from courses to experiences, and when you are culturally moving away from conformity you create conditions for stewardship of ideas and for individuality in learning. This should be the approach we all strive to achieve in our organisations.”

Interested in learning more about Bersin by Deloitte’s research into High Impact Learning and the strategies of mature learning organisations?

Watch the webinar

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