What is Organizational Learning and How Organization Structure Impacts It?

Organizational learning has emerged as an important component in the employee lifecycle management. Organizational learning, also referred to as workplace training, learning and development (TLD) plays a major role in improving overall competitiveness of an organization. In this article, we will discuss the various ways organizational structure influences any kind of workplace TLD program and what roles an HR Team plays in this area.

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What is Organizational Learning?

Organizational Learning (OL) is the transfer of strategic knowledge and information that enables an individual or group of individuals to develop certain skills and techniques required to excel in their current and future roles and responsibilities.

We can also define organizational learning as a means to integrate knowledge management principles with an organization’s existing workforce culture, processes and tools to support sustainable agile and digitized business values.

The objectives of OL are knowledge creation, sharing, retention and transformation. Some OL programs are so deeply embedded with the roles and functions that it is impossible to establish a relationship if CHROs and HR trainers fail to understand the organizational structure. The role of digital employee training and learning platforms in the modern HR Technology stacks can’t be ignored in establishing TLD as a major investment initiative in the modern era.

How Do Employers Address Organizational Learning Programs?

There has been a positive shift in the corporate ecosystem where employers are able to connect the dots leading to a superior employee retention with TLD investments. The corporate mindset no longer consider a TLD program as part of HR development initiative, but rather an organization-centric 360-degrees corporate culture orientation to build a winning strategy. Through organizational learning, employers are able to focus on skills gaps that currently restrict organizational productivity. HR trainers often categorize their training programs depending on the type of training module, training audience, the duration of training, frequency of training and the nature of final results.

US organizations spending at least $1000 USD per employee in corporate training since 2008.

In the last 14 years, there has been a constant rise in the HR budgets specifically set aside for workplace learning and development programs. Despite the global economic meltdown of 2008-2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic, we only found one instance of a very marginal cost-cutting in the TLD investments, that too in 2020.

In the US, employers are found to be spending $1000 USD per employee every year since 2008.

In 2022, the average spending on employee training is $1270 USD.HR teams are spending so much time and effort in designing HR development and up-skilling programs. These programs not only serve as a means to improve employee performance but also as a catalyst in driving “continuous improvement” within the teams. This continuity enabled organizations to transform their workplace into remote-only space, proactively.

Bar chart showing the change in learning and development spend at U.S. businesses from 2020 to 2022.

Compared to 2021, HR managers are spending 41% more dollars in 2022 in their TLD programs. This rise is attributed to three major factors:

1) loss of learning opportunities due to the pandemic crisis

2) loss of skilled workforce due to the The Great Resignation

3) expanding skills gaps due to emergence of digital tools and techniques in data science, analytics and machine learning

4) meet expectations as part of resetting the communication channels back to neo-normal standards

5) increasing demand from DEI and neurodiverse teams to enhance cultural fit through training content and influencer

Linking Organizational Structure with OL Initiatives

Organizations that are laying immense importance on the way their training, learning and skill development programs are planned and executed are found to be better at retaining their employees and at developing an adaptive workforce to meet long-term goals.

The foundations of a solid organizational learning roadmap is laid during the stage of organizational design and development. Organizational structures play a very important role in deciding the scope of any kind of organizational learning program before initiation. Here’s how.

Company size and hierarchies

Training expenditure and the scope of TLD initiatives depend on the size of the company and the layers of hierarchy. Large companies are likely to spend more of their HR budget in corporate learning and more often compared to smaller organizations. Now, job training could depend on the employee’s relative position in the organization with respect to the CEO or the Head of Department. Job role, experience, and current job responsibilities help to decide the TLD program designed for the employee.

Frequency of Hiring

New employees require induction and orientation training to absorb them smoothly into the workplace. This is an essential part of any employee onboarding process and therefore depends on the organization structure. If a department or team hires more frequently, then the training costs would be considerably higher compared to a more settled team or department where employee attrition is low.

Functional training

In the traditional workplace nomenclature, Workshop/ Product Development, IT, Finance and Sales teams required the most number of training hours. These were mostly conducted to create a workplace that is more collaborative and performance-centric. Sales training, in particular, are done to enhance the customer-friendliness and service quality.

Data management and Compliance

Due to the growing dependency on data and digital tools, HR teams have to meet the new dimensions of challenges in the modern business world. These are related to data management, cyber security, mobile device security, personal information integrity, social media conversations, and doxxing prevention. Compliance training are designed for all levels of management, including for full-time existing employees, contractual workers, interns and third-party partners and associates.

Talent Migration

Amazon’s training program is a classic example of how it identifies workforce from non-technical background to take on software designing and other technical domains. There are many organizations that encourage workforce to take on newer roles and functions to meet larger goals within and outside the organization. These could also focus on STEM areas which encourage talent migration.

By understanding organization chart, HR managers can reduce the wastage that is often associated with TLD initiatives. Smaller teams are able to retain and apply their lessons acquired from TLD programs more effectively. Additionally, teams with better performance appraisal systems and review workflows are also able to justify the ROI from TLD and OL programs. Costs related to reusable assets, training kits, traveling expenses and other overhead expenses can be easily identified and controlled by organizing the team and groups into more effective and closely-associated gathering of employees who are striving to excel at their jobs with acquired skills.

So, better the organizational structure, clearer would be your outcomes from the training and development initiatives.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]