Back in December, I participated in the Argyle Executive Forum conference 2011 Leadership in Human Capital Spotlight: Learning and Development, and if I had to sum up in one word how participants defined today’s organizational learning environment, I’d have to say: EVOLVING.
Recently, we’ve been seeing the organizational learning environment evolve along two axes:
- Focus on individuals
- Emphasis on conversations
In the past, leaders were rewarded for operating with a traditional command and control approach. Today’s learning environment is better defined by an increased focus on the individual, and appreciation for the wholeness of each individual worker’s life.
Wise leaders understand that organizational hierarchies are diminishing across most industries. The fact that one individual may have management competence may not necessarily make him/her more valuable to an organization than a worker who may have a particular skill-set. This is, of course, part of the ongoing trend toward flattening of the organization context for learning.
The learning environment is also evolving to include greater focus on dialogues and conversations.
Leadership of yesterday was a top-down model, while today, leadership means facilitating conversations among all team members across all functions of the organization. A truly refreshing example of this is that we’re witnessing organizations placing far less emphasis on performance reviews, and much greater focus on developing more meaningful understanding of an individual’s career aspirations, passions, and how they balance their work-life responsibilities.
Organizations that can understand learners as individuals – each with a particular set of motivations, learning preferences and capabilities – can better tailor their learning initiatives and modalities to the specific needs of each worker.
Fostering ongoing dialogue also deepens understanding of what learners need in order to accomplish specific learning objectives. Organizations that want workers to learn effectively are themselves learning about how to facilitate an environment where learning best takes place.