Learning Organisation

What is Learning Organisation ?

The organisation which adopts an open learning approach for the betterment of its employees as well as the whole organisation is known as learning organisation. These organizations not only believe in creating and acquiring knowledge but also transfer it to all the levels of the organisation. They make modifications frequently in order to develop new skills and viewpoints. These skills are then used to prepare the organisation to adapt themselves according to the changes and improvise the present as well as future performance of the members. Thus, it can be said that these organizations expand their capabilities in order to have a successful future.

Definition of Learning Organisation

According to Sandra Kerka :
"Learning organizations seem to work on the assumption that learning is valuable, continuous, and most effective when shared and that every experience is an opportunity to learn".

According to Senge :
"Learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together".

According to Handy :
"Learning organisation is one that both learns and encourages learning in people. It creates space for people to question, think and learns, and constantly re-frames the world and their part in it".

Elements of Learning Organizations

There are several components that play an important role in making the learning organizations successful. Some of them are mentioned below :

Elements of Learning Organisations

1) Team-Based Structure : 
The most important element of a learning organisation is its team based structure. This means that the functioning and development of the entire organisation. depends upon the group efforts made by all the members of the organisation. Different teams have number of skillful employees who not only work together for accomplishing particular organizational goal, but are well-prepared to face upcoming challenges effectively. Since, no boss system is followed by the learning organizations; it is of great benefit to the team members as they get an opportunity to express their viewpoints and new ideas without any fear. In such organizations, employees at the lower level are also given equal opportunities to make decisions regarding the job methods to be adopted, scheduling the tasks, training and development programs, safety policies and maintenance of coordination among different teams. Communication is carried out by the employees themselves, not only within the particular department but throughout the organisation which makes them more autonomous.

2) Employee Empowerment :
Learning organizations focus on employee empowerment under which they provide equal opportunities and freedom to all the employees to show their creativity. Unlike the traditional management system, these organizations do not set boundaries for their employees. In fact, they provide their employees with necessary resources, relevant data and authority to make decisions on their own. This further helps them to perform better without any supervisor holding his gun on their head. Learning organizations believe that empowerment makes the teams self-directed and their performance qualitative which not only improves their way of working but also motivates them to contribute to their group by participating in different tasks.
For the empowerment of employees, learning organisations provide. them with good compensation and healthy working conditions as they believe that the employees are the greatest strength of any organisation. They even conduct several training and development programmes for the overall development of the employees. Sometimes, employees are even rewarded by giving some share of profit to make them feel an important part of the organisation.

3) Open Information : 
Learning organizations are well aware of the fact that more the information is provided to the employees, more beneficial it proves for the organisation. Though these enterprises are full of relevant data, but until they are identified by the employees, they are useless. Thus, it is essential that each and every member of the organisation should be aware of what is happening within the organisation, the budget of the company, profits received, expenses incurred, etc. The understanding of all this information not only makes them realize that they are important part of the organisation but also prepares them to handle various organizational issues that may arise Proper sharing of information throughout the organisation is also encouraged learning organizations.

Features of Learning Organizations

Features or characteristics of learning organizations are as follows : 

1) Constant Readiness : 
Learning organisations are always prepared and ready to utilize the upcoming opportunities. They are constantly connected with their surroundings and are always willing to adopt the changes to improve their methods of doing business.

2) Uninterrupted Planning : 
In learning organisations, preparing the plans is not only the top management's cup of tea. Instead, the members of the entire organisation are given equal opportunities to participate in policy making process, re-assess the plans made, understand and accept the strategies established and make modifications, if required. Thus, the old saying "the top thinks and the bottom acts" is not being followed in learning organisations. They believe that the thinking should be combined and must be performed by all the members of the organisation equally.

3) Better Implementation : 
Since the learning organisations give equal importance to the thinking of lower level employees and provide them with the to plan for the entire organisation, this shows that such organisations encourages improvisation and experimentation. Coordination among each and every member of the company not only helps in effective implementation of learning establishment but also ensures the success within the organisation.

4) Action Learning : 
Learning organisations emphasize on frequent re-assessment of changes made so that the appropriate actions can be taken accordingly. These organisations believe that evaluation of strategies established after a long gap or once in a year reduces the chances of making suitable adjustments at appropriate time.

Building a Learning Organisation

Certain steps are to be followed to make an organisation a learning organisation. The steps involved in the process of creating a learning organization are mentioned below in figure :

Building Learning Organizations

1) Commitment of Top Management : 
The success of any learning organisation entirely depends upon the dedication and cooperation of top management. While changing any organisation into learning organisation, major transformations are to be made in existing structure, guidelines, practices, actions, principles, beliefs, etc., which becomes impossible in the absence of top management's support. Sometimes, the need to modify the goals and objectives also arises which again depends upon the support of the officials at the top level. Without the help of top management, it becomes difficult to arrange for the resources required for the alteration and even the other members of the organisation become lenient and do not actively participate in the entire amendment process.

2) Sharing of Commitment and Creation of Vision : 
When it is observed that the top management has become committed towards the establishment of learning organisation, the officials working under them automatically get ready for the transformation process. After this, a Vision is developed by the top management about the future challenges that may be faced by them and the direction in which they need to proceed. This vision also enables them to visualize the portrait of their learning organisation.

3) Wider Acceptability of Desirability of Learning Organisation : 
After the vision is created by the management, it is communicated throughout the organisation so that all its members are made aware about what a learning organisation is and what its advantages are. Once people come to know about the need for creating learning organisation. its importance. modifications to be made, time structure and role play of each member, they easily prepare themselves to accept the changes. Higher degree of desirability for the creation of learning organisation results in reduction of any kind of obstruction from the employee's side and leads to smooth functioning of such organisations.

4) New Techniques /Structures /Processes : 
The most important requirement during the establishment of a learning organisation is adoption of new tools and techniques, framing new structures and policies, and advancement of already existing processes. Sometimes, previously adopted methods and organisational structure even prove to be beneficial for current situations and do not require any modifications. Sometimes, they may be altered depending upon the requirement.

5) Commitment of Entire Workforce : 
Commitment of top management alone is not sufficient for effective working of a learning organisation. Along with the entire makeover of the organisation, support of entire workforce is also essential. The commitment of the employees towards the creation of learning organisation encourages them to respect novel and innovative ideas given by other members and share their own outlook with others confidently. It prepares them to work collectively in a new environment and change their old mind-sets, beliefs, values, etc., according to the need of the circumstances.

Thus, by following all these steps an effective learning organisation can be established which further leads to growth and development of its employees.

Importance of Learning Organizations

Learning organizations offer numerous advantages to its employees. Some benefits of learning organizations are as follows : 

1) Motivates Employees : 
Learning organizations give equal importance and admiration to creative thinking, capabilities, knowledge values of all its members. This makes them realize their significance within the organisation and motivates them to put in more efforts to perform better. These organizations appreciate all its employees equally which provides them with greater job satisfaction. Besides this, it also encourages all the employees to search for mutual solutions to various organizational problems.

2) Increases Flexibility : 
Learning organizations offer flexibility to its employees in order to prepare them to adapt themselves according to the changing environment. It offers its employees with new knowledge and skills so that they can understand and perform different roles and tasks of different departments. These organisations have flexible structures so that the employees are not bounded to their specific job and can work freely and confidently within the organisation.

3) Inculcates Creativity : 
Since the perspective and new ideas of the employees are effectively recognized by the learning organisations, the level of creativity also increases within the organisation. These organisations promote experimenting creative ideas, ignoring the mistakes made by the employees. The contribution of the employee in developing something innovative is given huge importance.

4) Enhances Social Interaction : 
Social interaction plays a very important role in making the learning process effective. Learning organisations motivate their employees to become more social and communicate with large number of people More the employees interact with other people, their performance becomes better.

5) Facilitates Teamwork : 
The healthy and motivating work environment provided by the learning organisations is most suitable for the growth and development of its employees. This environment encourages the employees to perform as a team and accomplish the desired goals successfully.

6) Improves Customer Relations : 
Learning organisations are capable enough to change themselves rapidly as per the requirement of their clients. This shows that these organisations give importance to their customers. There exist very less number of official procedures that increase the direct contact between the organisational members and their clients.

7) Makes People Independent : 
Unlike most of the organisations where people are dependent upon others in order to get their work done, learning organisations try to make their employees independent. These organisations ask their people to interact with others on their own and identify the roles played and tasks performed by other members. This identification helps them in proper management of time which further improves their work process. Rather than depending upon others, these organisations inspire its people to have confidence in themselves and be self-dependent.

8) Breaks Traditional Communication Barriers : 
Earlier, most of the organisations followed the traditional way of communication or in other words a communication barrier, where the managers used to command their subordinates. But learning organisations have absolutely changed the scenario by breaking this communication barrier between the managers and employees. Now the managers support their employees, motivate them and appreciate them for their good work. The awareness of employees about whatever is going on within the organisation makes them realize that they are also an important part of the organisation. Open and free interaction among all levels of the organisation motivates them to work mutually and helps in making their performance better.