Work Culture

Why it is difficult to create a learning organization?

By on August 16, 2018

Organizations cannot afford to rest on their past laurels. They need to constantly reach for newer horizons once they reach their goals. Employees play a major role in this success as they leverage their skills and expertise to deliver results efficiently.

However, today technological advancements come at a rapid rate. A majority of employee skills that were in demand approximately 10-12 years ago are mostly outdated and rarely in demand. Employees need to be aware of what skills they need to learn, and how to learn those to ensure they help their organizations become more agile and sustainable. Organizations too, need to understand that hiring the most skilled employee is a short term solution. They to ensure these individuals continuously keep on learning so that their skills do not become obsolete.

This is exactly what a learning organization aims for.

The term learning organization indicates an organization that facilitates employee learning in order to regularly transform and develop itself. The pressure to remain competitive has always been present but it is more so today and will definitely keep on increasing as business environments continue to evolve. In a learning organization, employees are encouraged to develop a more interconnected way of thinking. It is similar to developing a community where employees have a higher sense of commitment. This subsequently leads them to working harder and more productively. Such organizations also experience higher employee engagement levels in the workplace.

While a learning organization may seem the ideal way to proceed, it has been proven to be difficult to implement. The management needs to take steps to bring about a drastic change in the company work culture as well as employee mindset, which is not an easy task. Certainly not something that can be done within a short span of time.

What prevents organizations from creating a learning culture

Resistance to change:

Humans, by nature are resistant to change. Anything that gets us out of our comfort zone is typically viewed as a threat or discomfort. By endeavoring to keep learning, employees need to remain on their toes.

Another aspect is that often a culture of learning is confused with training. Training is only one part of learning and the two terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Some key stakeholders such as C-level execs, managers and employees do not buy-in to the premise of a learning culture. Few associate learning with extra time being spent that could otherwise be used to perform their daily tasks and achieve their goals.

It is vital that these stakeholders be enlightened about the impact a culture of learning can have on their businesses. There are multiple benefits that both employees as well as the organizations can enjoy out of this initiative.

Involvement of leadership:

The organization’s leaders play an integral part in molding the workplace culture and context. When C-level executives set a benchmark by the way they conduct themselves and their activities, the pattern permeates downwards in the organization. Employees tend to emulate the behavior of their leaders. Thus, even without officially carrying out any learning and development sessions, employees can be educated about how to conduct themselves in different kinds of situations. Practice before your preach is certainly one way to go about it. Such leaders also make it a priority to remain connected with their employees and help when the latter require guidance.

Conversely, if the top management itself is averse to learning, it will reflect in their behavior as well as actions. It is easier for employees to believe that learning probably does not have the promised value since their superiors themselves do not support it. Thus, these individuals too will refrain from willingly taking the efforts to adjust to a learning culture. Here, employees also refrain from seeking advice from their seniors since that practice is simply not a part of their work culture. Each remains isolated from the other so learning one or the other also becomes difficult.

Fixed vs growth mindset:

We wrote about how to encourage growth mindset in the workplace. In there, we also talked about the drawbacks of a fixed mindset. In a culture where fixed mindset is dominant, individuals aim to project themselves as smarter than they actually are. They tend to see failure as something that should be completely avoided. Here, employees are entirely focused on performing well rather than dedicating a part of their time for developing their skills.

By encouraging growth mindset in the workplace, employees understand why it is important to seek challenges and opportunities for development. The underlying belief is that it doesn’t matter how good you are, as you always have the potential to get even better with consistent efforts and regular practice. For them failure is not a sign of defeat and they are willing to take risks nonetheless.

Characteristics of a learning organization

  • Encourage innovation and creativity
  • Maintain a competitive approach to growth
  • Handle pressures systematically
  • Better utilization of resources
  • Increase in performance and productivity levels
  • Develop a culture that is more people oriented
  • Encourage ongoing collaboration and continuous learning in the workplace
  • Making mistakes and learning from them


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