Learning and Development in Organizations

Organizational learning is the process through which managers seek to improve employees’ performance and commitment, enabling them to make wise decisions that continuously raise organizational effectiveness. A learning organization is one in which managers do everything possible to maximize the ability of individuals and groups to maximize the potential for organizational learning to take place.

Learning and development plays an important role in the decision making process. Professional knowledge and skills enable someone to be in a better position to make correct and reasonable decisions. The term “knowledge” is quite broad but in a business environment, regarding the degree of being able to transfer it, it could be divided into two main categories-explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge could be defined as the type of information that can be conveyed relatively easily and taught during learning interventions. On the other hand, tacit knowledge is what someone can usually learn only through gaining experience. It cannot be communicated effortlessly but it is one of the most important aspects of what an individual can learn within an organization. In a nutshell, it is about the beliefs, intuition, insight, skills as well as practical and tested intelligence. From the point of view of an organization, this unspoken knowledge that its employees gather may be a significant strategic asset a company possesses.

However, learning is not necessarily easy. It is a challenge for organizations to boost employee expertise and improve decision making through certain ways and mainly through learning. The reason why this happens is because employees not always make good use of the learning opportunities. Companies organize training in an attempt to assist employees in receiving job-related know-how and conduct. They are integrating technology in order to shift from instructor-led classroom trainings to online self-study programs and other forms of e-learning.

According to Peter Senge, a well-known American systems scientist, in his book “The Fifth Discipline”, mentions that there are 5 important steps to be followed by managers:

1. For organizational learning to occur, top managers must allow every person in the organization to develop a sense of personal mastery. Managers must empower employees and allow them to experiment, create and explore what they want.

2. As part of attaining personal mastery, organizations need to encourage employees to develop and use complex mental models- sophisticated ways of thinking that challenge them to find new or better ways of performing a task- to deepen their understanding of what is involved in a particular activity.

3. Managers must do everything they can to promote group creativity. Senge thinks that team learning is more important than individual learning in increasing organizational learning. He points out that most important decisions are made in subunits such as groups, functions and divisions.

4. Managers must emphasize the importance of building a shared vision-a common mental model that all organizational members use to frame problems or opportunities.

5. Managers must encourage systems thinking. Senge emphasizes that to create a learning organization, managers must recognize the effects of one level of learning on another.

Thus, it is a pre-condition that employees need to be guided, inspired and motivated, being allowed to enjoy the freedom to develop a sense of personal mastery so as to be better equipped for developing as a group inside learning organizations. Job performance and commitment can be improved and enhanced if proper attention is dedicated towards creating a learning culture within the organizational environment. 

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