Remote working will be the workforce of the future, therefore businesses need to start looking at ways to harness their employee’s knowledge and storage of tacit knowledge, otherwise, in this time of uncertainty and heightened competition, you could find you’re losing your corporate memory and capability.
The characteristics of a learning organisation are organisations that continuously transform themselves to facilitate learning capability through processes and systems to encourage a ‘learning climate’ that encompasses the business strategy, where resources can be accessible to everyone in order to encourage self-development, which, in turn, will help organisations to sustain a competitive edge in their marketplace and be the employer of choice.
The principle that underpins the learning organisation is not new; as organisations ‘learn’ at a variety of levels: individual employees can encourage learning. Company systems can be developed to support orientated to cultural attitudes and practices surrounding knowledge, so that ‘learning to learn’ becomes established as a corporate norm.
Organisational learn + activities = greater productivity.
Organisations learn by testing why problems occur in the first place and tackle the root cause of the problem, questioning assumptions underpinning the system, and considering ways in which they might productively be changed or corrected. Organisational activities involve learning a skill, how to correct certain errors, and might involve knowing how to implement a particular process, in other words, make it the norm.
One of the reasons why organisations don’t learn is that they are caught up in recurring defensive routines that prevent the openness required to learn. If certain blame practices are in place, such as the avoidance of voicing negative views for fear of alienating colleagues or searching for who is at fault, instead of resolving, becomes the norm particularly within a virtual team environment then learning stops, staff stop sharing and the power games start.
The key element of what organisational learning is all about, and what they must do in order to develop and learn successfully is to concentrate on the ‘Organisational Memory’ and enable it to become more efficient by the continuous aim of converting knowledge into information and information into knowledge that can be used.
This includes the culture, processes, and structures all of which contain both tacit and explicit knowledge and can be identified, codified, interchanged, created, and retrieved by the whole organisation. These include suggestions such as making full use of the groups’ intranet and internet sites, the group monthly newsletter and allowing the informal subculture to flourish so that the sharing of customs and stories will become part of everyday routines in which knowledge can be generated by individuals and become embedded in the make-up of the organisation.
Explicit knowledge is based on external information, available to all and can be readily codified and communicated to others.
Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is personal, available only to the individual, extremely difficult or in some cases impossible to articulate or communicate adequately.
Conversion between these two forms of knowledge by human interaction is instrumental in the formation of new knowledge, which is the heart of a learning climate. And knowledge transfers through, understanding, messages, meaning, interpretation, interaction and persuasion and also through social integration, social groups, and shared language.
One of the most important is the “socialisation”.
I cannot leave the discussion on learning organisations without addressing organisational culture, in a virtual team environment, how it is used to understand the differences in atmosphere and behaviour, and how it can be utilised to incorporate and achieve a learning organisation status.
The development of organisational culture is a natural socio dynamic process, which occurs regardless of the intent of executive management, although may be influenced by management.
Learning networking is one to be the most valuable form for organisational learning, o ensure that staff can actively contribute to team learning and encourages discussion and interchange of ideas.
The ‘virtual team’ has a specific added value especially for field-workers and the home-workers as it provides opportunities for cross geographical boundaries and boundary-crossing teams also cross-functional absorptive capacities which would cover the ability for an organisation to bridge the interfaces between different companies in the group and departments. Such as quicker problem solving, transfer of best practice and HR procedures and policies, learning & development and employee relations. And if nurtured properly language barriers between individuals and professional groups can be bridged due to the fact that community members can help each other understand.
The ‘community’ can set its own goals, boundaries, reciprocity and area of expertise, such as sharing customers stories and customers feedback, information how a particular event went, discussion on changes happening within the company, play-acting, using each other as sounding boards for their own thinking.
However wise organisation will make sure that the virtual team environment has been viewed and defined in terms of a code of practice, shared meanings, and employee behaviour.
In effect, the group organisation culture can be seen as either the root cause of many of the barriers or drivers in organisational learning, such as:
• sectionalism and the defence of professional specialism
• a culture inappropriate to learning
• group loyalties, collusion and ‘group thinking’
• control of information
But it is not enough to state that you want to be a learning organisation nor enough for individuals just to have skills either.
The winners will have a number of processes that facilitate organisational learning and workplace development to increase the employee capacity to participate effectively in the workplace, therefore improving productivity and employability.
The winners will motivate and provide opportunities to use the skills and create ways of working through conflicts of interest, multiple agendas, and diverging perceptions. The losers, in a nutshell, will not.
But whatever your business model and ambitions your organisation aims to achieve, developing a learning organisation is not all about adopting the formulae and procedures used elsewhere, what works well in one organisation will not necessarily be of value in another where resources and capabilities are different.
This article was written by Sheena Tooke a professional with 27+ years of human resource management experience, the last 18 years have been in in small to mid-size companies in industries including healthcare, technology, and financial services. She has notable experience in employment law, strategic human resource planning, performance management, management coaching and deeply passionate about Equality Diversity & Inclusive. She holds an MBA from The Open University Business Schools, A Master of Laws in Employment Law in Context from De Montfort University and is a Fellow member of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. In her voluntary work she has sat on the Board of Directors for London Learning Consortium and in the Broad of Management SMT for the Central Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau.