Tuesday, March 07, 2006

PCMM & Creating a learning culture

In my previous posting on PCMM and Organization Capability, I had written about the value PCMM brings to the organization. However, implementing PCMM in an organization is a tough challenge - mainly because it involves changing the culture of the organization: from being what ever it is now - to becoming a learning organization.

As described in my previous post, in a service industry, the organization’s competitiveness is largely dependent on employee skills - i.e., when employee skills are aligned with customer needs. Today we see that the market requirements (customer requirements) are rapidly changing. Globalization, technology revolution etc., is driving this change. So in order to be competitive, firms must continually train their employees in new skills as needed.

Companies can conduct training programs - but the effectiveness of the training depends on the employees willingness to learn. Or in other words organization must build a learning culture. (By culture, I mean organizational culture)

Creating an environment for employees who want to learn will be beneficial to both business and employees. The learning environment will enable employees to be creative and innovative, dare to experiment, try new things, innovate new methods, processes, and new solutions for the problems.

To develop a learning culture, employees have to have the opportunity to put their learning into practice. This will encourage them to look at the way they work, to improve their performance and to further learn to benefit in their workplace.

I have listed ten ways to develop a learning culture in the organization. They are as follows:
  1. Top management’s commitment:
    A learning culture can be developed in an organization only when the top management is committed and deeply involved. The learning culture has to be top down. Learning should be imbibed in the work culture and the people must live and breathe learning culture.

  2. Aligning learning culture to business needs:
    The training professionals should change their modus operandi of developmental activities. The developmental programs have to be aimed at learning. Management must make the employees feel that learning is aligned to business strategies. HR professionals should regularly talk with the line managers or section heads about the issues and problems they are facing and enable the employees to find solutions through the learning process.

  3. Setting clear objectives:
    There should be a clear and firm idea of the goals and objectives to be achieved. The strategic nature of the job must be reflected through plans. Best plans are developed not in isolation but through joint involvement of colleagues, clients and other stakeholders in business. The business objectives are set after a thorough inquiry with clients, senior managers, HR team, and the target employees on how they want to develop their learning culture and best strategies to be adopted.

  4. Personalizing learning:
    It must be understood that learning is work and work is learning. The learning content must be appropriate and timely for every employee. The learning content and pedagogue must be customized to each employee. The learning needs can be identified through performance appraisals. Employees should be made to analyze their learning needs vis-à-vis their performance to achieve the organizational objectives. Employees can be encouraged to work in teams, share information, learning and knowledge through team learning process. The peer group networks must be encouraged so that employees learn from others in teams.

  5. Create the right environment for learning:
    A learning organization without active learners is like a college without students. In order to build a learning culture we must cultivate active learners by creating a learner centric environment. Employees must be provided with necessary tools and the relevant content to become self-learners. Refining our approach to learning must continually develop learning culture. It is possible to refine learning approach after getting feedback from employees. The refined learning approach can be implemented by piloting learning zones. After assessing the success of the pilot zones the learning approach can be implemented in the organization.

  6. Developing contract for learning:
    In developing a learning culture employees are expected to play a role in their career development. The ownership and accountability for learning should be on the employees. The contract of employment shall be clear about what the company is prepared to offer and what the company expects from the employee towards continuous learning. But the learning contracts may not be appropriate in all situations. The main objective of a learning contract is to create a clear learning strategy and communicating the same to employees. The learning contract through communicating the clear-cut strategy to employees must get their tacit commitment for the learning process to achieve the goals of the organization.

  7. Removing barriers in learning:
    The main aspect in self-learning is that the learners may not tolerate any obstacle. The obstacles if any should be removed and the work life must become hassle free for learners. The learning courses must be intuitive to use and must be available in one place and easily accessible. As the learning is important, cost must not be a hurdle in implementing a learning culture.

  8. Building learning culture:
    One may come across many barriers particularly the reluctance of employees to change their behavior. This barrier can be removed by developing a cadre of coaches and mentors to help employee development. Coaches are to be rewarded for their services. The coaches and mentors love to perform the tasks because the rewards are personalized. In building learning culture in an organization the work culture must have democratic principles. The coaches are to be assessed about their attitudes. The organization culture shall not be of command and control. The learning culture cannot be built in such an atmosphere. Organizations to become learning organizations shall have to invest time and provide resources for learning.

  9. Encourage experimental mindset: Employees must be encouraged to experiment with new ideas and to take calculated risks. Organizations should encourage employees to take advantage of changes taking place in business. In fact they must be able to foresee changes and be prepared to ace changes. Employees must be encouraged to try new things at their workplace and within the context of the organization. Employees who are innovative, creative, and experimental must then be rewarded.

  10. Listen to the feedback: The management should listen to and consider the feedback from the learners about the effectiveness of the learning process practiced in the organization. It is better to have an online assessment tool and conduct surveys to find out the employees views on the learning process and build an improvement plan.

Closing Thoughts

In the global economy, organizations will have to be competitive. To be competitive the roles and functions of an employee must be aligned with the market needs. This is possible only when there is a sincere and conscious effort to build a continuous learning culture. Only then the organization will be able to face the global competition.

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