This leadership principle is part of the Organizational Health series: 15 principles that relate to the overall health of your organization. Other Human Systems Leadership Principles are contained in the Change Management, Community Embedding, Mutual Empowerment, and Ethics categories.
Just as exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and other healthy lifestyle choices support the long-term health of the human body, the Human Systems Organizational Health Leadership Principles support the long-term health of your organization. By following these principles, you invest in the sustainability and longevity of your organization, as well as minimize burnout and turnover.
HS Leadership Principle #5: The organization provides educational opportunities that promote employee and organizational growth.
By far, any organization’s most valuable asset, and the one most worth investment, is its people. In addition to working to create a positive and sustainable organizational culture, one of the best investments you can make is in quality educational opportunities for your employees. In addition, employees are starting to expect more quality learning opportunities that are underwritten by their organization. Multiply the benefits of your investment using the following steps for creating a strategic organizational learning plan .
- Hire or designate an employee to manage and develop the organizational learning program.
You have to designate somebody (or a team) to develop and manage the learning strategy for the organization. An organization-wide learning strategy is an extremely beneficial, and also time-consuming project. You will need somebody to ensure that everybody understands the purpose and process and is playing their part.
2. Every employee should have a collaborative learning plan.
A written learning plan for each of your employees is a critical investment of time and resources, as it comes with many benefits that far outweigh the investment. This plan should be a collaborative endeavor between the employee and their supervisor or mentor, and should include specific workshops, conferences, etc. Employees are responsible for directing and executing their own learning plans, including the research to find the best opportunities, making sure they put in for the time away from the office, and ensuring travel arrangements are made.
Employees should be encouraged to pursue opportunities that are not necessarily strictly within the organizational knowledge base. Sometimes workshops that may not seem to have a direct connection to what the individual does every day could have exciting and unexpected benefits. For example, I once attended a one-day workshop by Edward Tufte, “Presenting Data and Information”. Known as the “da Vinci of data”, Tufte’s course changed the way I think about visuals and data, and I found applications for what I learned in many areas of my business. His course was accessible and inspiring – I left with an appreciation of the world and the uses of data that I didn’t have before (and I have a PhD, so I had already drowned in data and statistics for over 4 years).
3. Create a system for information sharing.
Get the most out of your investment by creating both a digital and practical information sharing system. You can create a digital space on your shared drive for employees to upload their learning plans, as well as add to a spreadsheet of workshops, conferences, and other learning opportunities employees are planning to attend. After they attend the event, have them summarize the event on the spreadsheet and upload any materials they received. On the practical side, set aside time at each staff meeting for employees to share what they learned at each event. You may want to prompt them with questions similar to the following:
- Why did you decide to attend this event?
- What did you find that was unexpected?
- How do you plan to apply what you have learned to your work? How could people in other roles apply the learning?
4. Create an organizational learning strategy that is linked to your mission and vision.
Once you have a year or two of accumulated information on learning events employees have attended, you can see what has been especially useful for employee growth. Create a workgroup to do the following through a combination of digital information review and research, as well as employee interviews:
- Determine which events have been most useful to employees and the organization and why.
- Link the information in a) to your mission, vision, and strategic plan to determine what organizational goals are being met by current learning opportunities, and where the gaps are.
- Use the information in a) and b) to put together a list of essential, desirable, and skippable learning opportunities that include basic information (size, location, cost to attend, subject matter, applications, suggested roles for attendance). Tie these opportunities directly to the mission, vision, and strategic plan.
Contact Human Systems to talk about the benefits and challenges of implementing an strategic organizational learning in your organization.