Traditionally in Organizations, the Learning Architecture for the employees is not defined well and the only way to help employees learn is sending them to a few Training programs. Even this (sending employees to training) is done only by about 10-15% of Companies that I have come in touch with. Regretfully even now most of the Indian Companies do not look at Developing employees in a systematic manner.
When we studied in Colleges, Schools we would have been put through the paces of Learning in a systematic manner. There was a syllabus and there was a clear target of passing the Course and probably scoring well for the intellectual types among us. But, now in the Organizations, the Learning Objectives are not clearly defined, and the Learning paths are also not defined.
Resultantly, In the case of at least 90% of the Employees the Learning habit has died down. There is no hunger for learning. Employees are just expected to deliver results. The Owners / Bosses are not seriously focused on skilling up the employees and taking more from them. This is not a smart strategy. The result of this strategy is that you keep adding more people to get the work done. I would say that in Indian Companies the Productivity of White Collar and Blue Collar can be multiplied at least from 2 to 4 times if they pay attention to having Skilled employees.
For Organizations to encourage learning and to ensure their employees are continuously learning and delivering more, they need to build a Learning Architecture in their Company. This Learning Architecture is not a ‘Ready solution’ that can be transported to a company and delivered. This is something that has to be evolved.
I have been a Learner in the Manufacturing Industry for more than 3 decades now. I have gone through a lot of Learning in my career. From being an Accountant to managing Technical functions, Business responsibilities. I have been helping Organizations to develop their employees as a Boss and now as a Coach / Trainer. I have learnt a lot about helping Employees to learn in the last 6 years. There have been some resoundingly successful cases and there have been some ‘dud cases’ where I could not deliver. But, the Successful cases have been many. As I learnt the best way to help people to ‘Learn’, I am starting to see an ‘architecture for learning’ developing in my mind and practice.
Let me try sharing this with all of you.
Elements of a ‘Good Learning Architecture’
For an Organization to have Good Learning Architecture, a few elements are needed. This by no means a complete list. I am listing what I have experienced. Do not hesitate to add more by means of Comments.
01. Inclination at the Top: The Top management of the Company should believe that Learning is a foundational process for a Company to be successful over a longer term. They need to believe that ensuring your employees learn continuously is a SMART strategy for a Business.
02. Gentle push to the employees and leaders: An Organization needs to create a gentle push to the employees and Leaders to prioritize Learning. You can do it nicely by motivating the teams to Learn with some promotional measures like Learning Points that will entail you to get more increments. You can also have some hard measures that may make getting Certified for Skills mandatory for employees.
03. Skill Definition: Companies need to have a Leadership Model that prescribes the Leadership Capabilities that the employees need to have at different levels. Companies also need to define the Functional Skills defined for all levels in the organizations. This is fundamental to start learning. This definition is not set in stone. It has to keep evolving as the Organization evolves.
04. Learning Process: The Learning Process of the Employees need to have a few elements:
a. Foundational Learning: Employees need to get some Conceptual inputs for all the skills preferably in a face to face environment. Testing the absorption is important.
b. Reinforcement Learning: Once the Foundation is there, the employees need to Learn contextually and at the point of need using Micro Learning concept. E-Learning modules are a good tool for this purpose. This should be an LMS based learning.
Eg. Once a Team of employees have learnt ‘Assertiveness’ as a skill , they should be asked to log their experiences and they can also be given Micro learning modules on specific topics within Assertiveness as a topic.
c. Application of Learning: Employees should be encouraged to formulate Micro Business Processes that applies the learning in to the Business Process and enriches the Business process.
Eg. A Team of Employees who have gone through a course of ‘Business Communication’ can be encouraged to formulate ‘Guidelines for Business Communication’ for their Company. These guidelines should become a
deeper definition of their Business Process and the Skills that are needed in their company.
Usually the application is measured in terms of a Project that is taken up by employees. But, this may not be sufficient. We need to get more granular about application of learning.
d. Point of need / Contextual Learning: You need to identify the Training needs of your team for each Quarter on the basis of the Targets that they have to achieve. You need to provide the Micro Learning modules to the employees as needed.
05. Coaching of Senior employees: The Senior Employees need to be Coached on a continuous basis. It is good to get external Business Leaders to coach your Senior team. This way you approach it ‘Outside in’. You can then encourage your senior team to Coach the next level.
In the next article, we will explore one or two specific examples of how an Organization can enable the Learning on the go.