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Article -> Creating a Learning Organization

Date Added: January 2006

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge or understanding an experience. It is a key characteristic of lively and responsive organizations that continuously incorporate findings and feedback into their strategic plans and actions. Many organizations fail to define what needs to be learned within the organization before actually learning it. Organizations need to create a learning strategy that can be included as a core element within their corporate strategy because this will enhance the strategic role and relevance of both HR and marketing.

A learning strategy represents key opportunities and objectives that match employee capabilities to market demands. The strategy creates new investments to get employees involved in learning within the organization so they can become more productive and successful. Many organizational leaders will focus their learning needs to the Human Resources department; however, leaders also should consider becoming aligned with the marketing department. HR effectively engages employees into this process, while marketing can lead efforts in creating a learning strategy because they are continuously viewing the markets and observing industry trends. Together, the linkage between HR and marketing represents an actionable framework to help communicate key opportunities and objectives throughout the organization.

These departments will be heavily focused on the Sphere of Learning (Figure1)1 . The Sphere of Learning connects to - and builds connections within - the employees and the customers it serves (or might not serve). The learning sphere is comprised of all of an organization's employees, customers and prospects. The sphere directs the marketing department to create a Voice of the Customer process, allowing them to ask, listen, and learn about customers' needs before they become wants. It also allows HR to do the same with employees through a Voice of the Employee process.

Marketing must develop powerful and effective marketing campaigns to gain a competitive advantage over the competition. They should partner with Human Resources to create an integrated culture with employees, which directs action to build teams, skills, and capabilities necessary to lead a learning effort.

After a thorough assessment process, a determination needs to occur where skill gaps and morale problems exist. The organization should then invest in new communications, training, coaching, networking, and career development efforts that would be necessary to execute the company's growth plan. The organization should pursue a "policy of engagement," which involves reaching out to executives and leaders throughout the organization, including the CEO. Active communication and collaboration helps gain a better understanding of strategies from other organizations, learn what capabilities can bring to bear on market demands, and communicate its findings and analysis with employees and customers.

The learning strategy can be thought of as a plan to invest in new frameworks, cultural changes, skills, capabilities, and infrastructures necessary to address organizational learning objectives. This will influence internal and external action plans for positive results to increase profitability.

Figure 1 - Sphere of Learning

Sphere of Learning

1 Demma, Ken; Phillips, Julie; and Budds, Niall. "The New Learning Curve." Marketing Management. July/August 2005: 26-32.

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