THE LEARNING ORGANIZATION IN THE AGE OF DIGITISATION
In the age of digitalization, rapid change, constant challenges and the need to learn new approaches again and again require a rethinking of the topic of "learning in organizations".
By "learning organization" we mean an adaptable organization that reacts and acts in response to internal and external stimuli and is constantly evolving. Accordingly, change is nothing unusual in the learning organization, but the normal case and constantly on the agenda. This agile lifelong learning in companies is a novel learning culture. The goal of the learning organization is to permanently increase the learning and knowledge potential of the employees - and thus of the entire organization - in order to enhance the performance of the company. The concept is knowledge and innovation oriented. For this reason, a well-trained knowledge and innovation management system is needed that goes beyond mere further training.
Knowledge & Innovation Management
Knowledge management deals with the acquisition, development, transfer, storage and use of knowledge. Knowledge management is much more than information management.
Information is an accumulation of information or a flow of news and means know-what. Knowledge is created by linking the information with already existing previous knowledge, i.e. know-why. Information is only transformed into knowledge when it is interpreted on the background of previous knowledge and linked to it, and then becomes part of the personally available action plans.
Explicit knowledge: coded & articulated or articulatable knowledge that is available in the form of e.g. notes, documents, databases, instructions and instructions. In this explicit form, it can be distributed quickly and easily to a large number of employees in the company.
Implicit knowledge: "experiential knowledge", know-how & intuitions with a personal & subjective character, collected through many years of dealing with complex tasks and stored in the head of the respective employee. This knowledge cannot or only incompletely be put into words: "We know more than we can express".
Activities with a typically high proportion of "implicit knowledge" include for instance:
- Conceptual, planning, creative work.
- Development of new solutions.
- Management of complex procedures and non-standard processes.
- Establishing & maintaining customer relationships.
- Assessment of the behaviour of customers, employees & superiors.
In companies, implicit knowledge in particular is considered a source of competitive advantages that can be defended in the long term. It is particularly difficult to imitate if it is possible to anchor this knowledge in knowledge management processes organizationally. An accumulation & storage of a lot of information or the employment of employees with specialist knowledge is not enough. Although implicit knowledge is the basis of knowledge management, it does not in itself represent a sustainable competitive advantage for companies because individual knowledge carriers can be enticed away.
Innovation management serves to increase the value of a company and is a core business activity with the aim of achieving something new in the entrepreneurial sense by a novel combination of means, purposes, etc: Competitive strength through innovation (new products, processes / technical procedures, services, internal or external forms of organization, etc.)
A particular challenge for innovation management is the personnel structure. In innovation areas, it is often predominantly highly and highly specialized specialists who have to be managed. On the other hand, communication and cooperation between different cultures of different functional areas must be optimally designed.
The "Learning Company"
Essential characteristics of "learning enterprises":
- Changes in the markets are permanently monitored.
- Opportunities & risks resulting from these changes are identified at an early stage.
- Success-relevant structures are created so that opportunities are used and risks are avoided.
Essential organizational elements of "learning companies":
- Decision-making authority at the highest level of competence: whoever has the greatest competence in terms of knowledge & experience is authorised to make decisions.
- Delegation of responsibility: employees are given the freedom necessary for optimal solutions.
- Making those affected into participants: The guiding idea is that employees who are involved in relevant decision-making processes and identify with the company will then be more motivated to achieve success-relevant goals.
- Goals are clearly defined: Transparency with regard to the sense of the implementation and the way to reach the goals.
- Internal communication: Conviction instead of instruction. Communicating meaning is an elementary factor in learning companies.
- External communication: Communicating meaning to the outside world through close and permanent dialogue with customers and all stakeholders.
Learning in the Learning Organization in 2025
The learning organization is an important factor in the learning of the future. The following trends can be named for learning organizations:
1. Interdisciplinary network instead of departmental thinking
As part of an interdisciplinary network, the HR department will help to develop the company into a learning organization. This will be done primarily in cooperation with managers, IT staff, digitization experts, communication managers, innovation teams and employee representatives.
2. Self-determined learning
Employees will enjoy more freedom in their role as learners when it comes to influencing the learning process and selecting learning methods. Lifelong and self-determined learning is an expression of this trend.
3. Physical & digital learning environment
In the future, classical frontal teaching in seminar rooms will only be a part of further education. In the year 2025, a learning environment can be expected that combines physical components and digital elements. The aim is to enable formal and informal learning methods. HR departments in learning organizations must be familiar with and able to apply the following methods:
- Co-Learning Spaces: spaces for collaborative learning.
- Creative spaces: space for innovation & lightning.
- Video portals: easy access to up-to-date information.
- Enterprise Social Networks: networking & communication of employees.
- Future Workplace: individual solutions based on needs.
Managers must promote a culture of learning and act as role models themselves. They should be committed to an open exchange of knowledge and experience with employees and create scope for innovative ideas.
5. Learning culture: mistakes, communication & innovation
In learning cultures, approaches such as "learning from mistakes", "communicating knowledge", "learning by working" and "promoting innovation" are moving to the forefront. Employees must have the opportunity to try out new approaches, as well as to make mistakes and be allowed to learn from these experiences. Knowledge carriers must be able to pass on their know-how within the learning organization.
Keeping, developing and inspiring employees has become essential for the success of a company and has defined a new way of thinking for HRM with "Employee Experience". It is a fundamental and active further development with the focus on the people in the organization and encompasses all points of contact of an employee from candidate to alumnus.
Success factors for a positive Employee Experience include
- Full & binding support (binding commitment) from top management.
- Interdepartmental communication & cooperation to create positive experiences for the employees with combined knowledge.
- Regular employee feedback in order to identify entrepreneurial needs of employees that are of high importance.
- Understanding employees and their entrepreneurial needs, taking them seriously and placing them at the centre of all measures.