A sustainable learning organization is one that sets strategic direction, links learning with performance, and works to create a culture of continuous learning at all levels within the organization. Sustainable learning is applicable to nearly all types of organizations, from schools and universities, to non-profits and small businesses, to large corporations. Creating sustainability in your organization can provide for increased skill, knowledge, productivity and retention.
Characteristics of a Sustainable Learning Organization
A number of characteristics define a sustainable learning organization. As with other changes and shifts in corporate culture, sustainable learning is most effective when it is fully supported through all levels of the organization. Employees should all be involved in this process, from the executive staff to the low-level temps.
Engaged Senior Leadership
Upper level management should be clearly engaged in learning activities, alongside employees when possible. If staff-wide training is planned, at least some of your executive team should attend and actively participate. In addition, senior staff should be actively pursuing and acknowledging their own learning activities.
Efficient Learning Resources
Provide staff with efficient and accessible learning resources. These should be available and practically accessible in the workplace. When an employee has a question, they should know how to find the answer in a timely manner. This could take the form of printed resources, online training options, video learning, or other staff members.
In order to create a sustainable learning organization, it is essential to track the effectiveness of learning resources. You should be able to assess which staff members are making use of resources and how they are using those resources. For more formal learning opportunities, you should be able to assess understanding. Analytic tools are essential to shape sustainable learning.
Investment in Learning
Creating sustainable learning and growth requires investment in time, money and staff resources. The need for time to support sustainable learning is critical, and essential for all staff. In practice, this means that staff need time to pursue learning, while on the clock. This can be dedicated periods of time or consistent flexibility to support the learning process.
Some portion of your human resources budget should be devoted to continuing education and staff development, as well as to salary resources devoted to staff education and training. Members of your staff should spend time assessing the effectiveness of learning resources, and developing new resources as needed.
In many cases, spending time and money developing a clear resource center incorporating analytics, video learning, documents, and assessment tools can provide organizations with a cost-effective option.
Organizations require a clear and focused strategy to support sustainable learning at all levels. Performance-oriented goals are ideal to shape strategy. Depending on the type of organization, the metrics may be quite different. In a corporation, those goals could be sales-oriented, while in a non-profit, they might be related to fundraising or other needs.