What is Organizational Learning?

Jen Ainoa

Organizational learning is a term used to describe the systematic instruction or training administered to the employees of a business or professional group. Organizational learning is sometimes called change management because it frequently involves an entire group of workers learning to conduct business in a new way. An example of this concept can be seen in a company that sends most or all of its employees to a seminar or workshop to learn a new computer program.

One example of organizational learning is a business sending its workers to a seminar or workshop to learn a new skill or business method.
One example of organizational learning is a business sending its workers to a seminar or workshop to learn a new skill or business method.

There are a variety of approaches to the education of large groups or organizations. Sometimes, a whole group approach is taken and the business or operation closes down for a period of time during training. It is also common for only the department heads or upper level management to receive new training, and then it is filtered through the system to other employees. With all organizational learning, effective leadership and accountability are vital for true change to occur.

In many cases, only department heads and trainers receive classroom instruction and are expected to teach their employees what they learned.
In many cases, only department heads and trainers receive classroom instruction and are expected to teach their employees what they learned.

Effective professional development must clearly express the need for the new information or techniques being brought forth, and must allow individuals to buy in to the changes to come. This may be done by providing clear, dynamic instruction and training in the initial stages, and following it with frequent checks for understanding and support during implementation. Facilitators or trainers who are highly knowledgeable, personable, and able to provide individual feedback can be helpful in achieving positive organizational learning.

With adult learners, it may be beneficial to provide organizational learning that meet the individual needs of different learners and learning styles. Adult learners are often quite skilled and comfortable with the techniques currently used, and introducing new techniques may result in resistance or discomfort. New methods also involve a learning curve for current employees, so effective organizational learning should take these factors into consideration.

An established business or organization may find that change can be helpful in adapting to new developments in the industry. For this reason, organizational learning is sometimes called adaptive learning. A business may take pride in and market themselves as an adaptive organization. One area in which companies must invest in the education or organizational learning of employees is with emerging technologies. As consumers change use of technology increases, industries must change and adapt to meet new consumer needs.

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