Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learning Organizations

The world of business is changing more rapidly now than ever before. With a never-ending stream of evolving technology, expanding global markets, and cutthroat competition tactics, no organization can afford to rest on its laurels.

Organizations aiming for success must maintain a world-class workforce. While it has always been accepted that knowledge and skills gradually become obsolete, we know now that they become obsolete in a matter of months, not years. The new reality facing organizations is this: continuous learning and skill development are no longer options, but necessities. For organizations to become world-class, talent development must become a cornerstone of business. Senior executives have begun to realize the importance of building a “learning organization,” in which every employee, manager, and process continuously improves. Unfortunately, the sheer size, complexity, and speed of change in the global economy makes this goal difficult to attain. The objective is further complicated by a demographic shift in the composition of the workforce, one that many are calling an impending crisis.

As members of the baby boom generation approach retirement age and exit the workforce, they are leaving behind a much smaller, younger, and more diverse population. These subsequent generations come to the workplace with different ideals, needs, and expectations regarding development opportunities. While many organizations have tried, few have succeeded in transforming themselves into a learning organization. Most training and development professionals realize that competitive advantage is at stake, but lack the business knowledge and support needed to create a centralized development organization. It suggests that those involved with developing talent must rethink the current approach, and it offers dramatic alternatives to the status quo. It also challenges the idea that development activities must be centralized in order to be successful, and recommends shifting many development activities directly to the line manager and the employee.

While it may be provocative, traditional approaches to training and development cannot be effective in widely dispersed, lean, and rapidly changing organizations. Everyone is overworked and no one has any time for traditional development approaches and methods. Organizations need simpler management-driven approaches and tools that are designed to make continuous learning and development an integral part of the process.

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