Empower employees to stimulate a culture of collaboration and continuous learning. Understand why and how it is important that knowledge can flow in your organization
In my recent blog on how platform and IT infrastructures are used to stimulate the flow of knowledge in organizations ("From data repository to collaboration platform and bridging the knowledge gap"), I ended with the statement that the successful transfer of knowledge between organizational units is critical for a number of organizational processes and performance outcomes. This time I will elaborate on why it is important that knowledge can flow in an organization.
In today's organizations more than 70% of workers are "knowledge workers" or "service providers". According to Jane Hart (Social Learning Handbook 2014) those people realize that "learning the new" is vital to stay on top of the knowledge and skills relevant for their work. In a world of increasingly rapid change, the half-life of a given skill is constantly shrinking and is now around 3 years. Therefore organizations should foster a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration to stimulate continuous learning.
By empowering employees to become equal partners in the learning process, HR organizations can stimulate a learning and collaborating culture - driving performance, engagement, and career development. However to make this happen old learning infrastructures based on "stocks of knowledge" should be replaced by social platforms that stimulate "flows of knowledge" where the learner can take control over his own learning. Recently I found this explanation from John Seely Brown (2010 ) who captured it very nice.
"To succeed now, we have to continually refresh our stocks of knowledge by participating in relevant "flows" of knowledge. Interactions that create knowledge to transfer across individuals. These flows occur in any social, fluid environment that allows firms and individuals to get better by working with others"
To make this "flow" happen we should understand some of the key drivers that changed in corporate learning, and moreover, that the way people prefer to learn is changing. According to research conducted with some of my customers and industry experts we see some movements in L&D taking place, resulting in new platforms to facilitate learning.
- People don't want to be trained anymore based on corporate competence models and curriculum, they want an individual learning track based on their own individual goals and past experience.
- Learning and knowledge should be available anytime when needed to fulfil a task, therefore linear learning programs such as on-boarding programs are replaced by lean programs and on the job learning.
- Social learning, peer-coaching and self learning is replacing formal training, in fact when we participate mandatory formal training events like e-learning, many of us become frustrated (David Kelly 2013)
- Learning is not HR driven anymore but comes from the people involved. Experiental on the job learning and social learning counts for more than 70% of how we learn. Learning is more job and result driven.
- Stocks of knowledge like LMS systems and content libraries are being replaced by collaboration or social platforms were content can be rated, shared and learning takes place not only from the content itself but through interactions and comments on the content.
- As linear learning models are replaced by interactions between interest-minded people, the need for new performance management is found in gamification and badges.
Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement
However, even when organizations make online and social learning an accessible tool and a compelling experience, people need to feel engaged. According to Dan Pink (2010), Autonomy is a powerful motivator and therefore people should feel that they can control their own learning and development.
Some great examples of nowadays knowledge workers and how they perform even better in boss-less teams is given in the Wall Street Journal. In every case they found that "leaderless teams" outperformed those with a "boss."
What we found working to implement lean learning platforms with our customers is that we first needed to implement a learning and sharing culture that empowers the people in their own development, using continuous coaching and performance management. Facilitating like-minded communities where people are more important than technology.