You used to “go” to training. You left your job for a few days, probably traveled to the classroom, and spent the better part of a week listening to a lecture. You had hands-on access to training systems, and most of the time you learned a lot – but once you packed your bags and returned to work, your relationship with the training provider was over, and you were pretty much on your own.
“Training” was scheduled, instructor driven, and assumed there was a fixed start and end to the knowledge transfer and support process. “Training” assumed that a fixed curriculum applied to all workers with a similar job role. “Training” assumed there was a time when your workforce is “trained,” and that it was a permanent state.
No longer. Organizations around the world are rapidly learning the advantages of replacing old style training with a vibrant, ongoing learning environment. As an article in Forbes magazine points out, “a learning culture is perhaps the most important asset a company can build.”
Well, then. How would you define a “learning culture” in the first place?
The concept has actually been around for a quarter of a century – first defined by Peter Senge, author of the 1990 book The Fifth Discipline. According to Mr. Senge (who released a revised edition of his book in 2006), learning cultures exist in “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 how to learn together” (Senge, 2006, p.3). In other words, an organization that doesn’t see learning as an isolated event, but rather as a key business process that keeps it ahead of its competition – that fosters both individual mastery and team learning, and a shared vision of the organization’s future. And the results are tangible: according to Bersin & associates, companies embracing a learning culture outperform their competition, with 58% better prepared to meet future demand, 34% more likely to be first to market, and 35% that see greater employee productivity.
But building a learning culture isn’t easy: it doesn’t just happen. It takes leadership, a commitment of resources, and a focus on what Senge calls “System Thinking” — a concentration on the long term. And organizing that learning culture around a contemporary learning management system (LMS), provides a huge advantage.
What’s especially important, however, is to choose an LMS that meets both the expectations of a rapidly changing workforce and the exacting requirements of management. While most LMSes on the market offer basic learning management functions, not every system makes it easy to also build the vibrant learning community you’re seeking. For example, in a corporate culture where 35% of employees look for answers on their cellphones first and social media access is a given, an LMS needs to provide a familiar, intuitive interface on all devices and an easy exchange of information across departments and job titles. But at the same time the LMS is building community, it needs to provide the analytical tools to document success and justify the business value of learning.
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 Pew Research Center, 2012.