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How Enterprise Organizations Use Continuous Learning – and What You Should Learn from Them

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Erin Cushing
on August 31, 2016

Organizations of all sizes are experimenting with a form of organizational learning called continuous learning, which enables employees to develop and improve their skills and knowledge at their own pace. Continuous learning empowers employees to perform effectively and adapt to changes in the workplace.

This type of program can successfully support employees and enable business success at an organization of any size; however, we found out during our continuous learning research that the majority of our respondents (39.5%) represented enterprise organizations with more than 10,000 employees. Even more interesting, we found that these enterprise organizations are using continuous learning programs differently than other organizations – with varying degrees of success. Here are two ways we discovered enterprise organizations are using continuous learning differently – and what you can learn from these insights, no matter how large or small your company might be.

Enterprise Organizations Are Better at Identifying Potential Leaders

Every industry is facing an impending leadership problem; with an average of 10,000 experienced Baby Boomers leaving the workforce each day, organizations are hard-pressed to find these leaders’ replacements.

One solution to the leadership problem is to find and cultivate your future leaders from your current employee pool. This process should be closely aligned to your organization’s learning and overall business strategies, and should be tailored to each individual, as well as to the specific leadership path envisioned for each individual.

The good news is that enterprise organizations on the whole seem to be much better suited to identifying and training their talented contributors to assume the role of leader. Our survey found 51.2% of enterprise organizations have programs in place to identify potential future leaders, as opposed to 41.7% overall. These identification programs help enterprises not only prepare for the future, but also better engage, motivate, and retain their most talented workforce. By demonstrating an appreciation of these individuals’ contributions and a commitment to helping them on a specific career development path, enterprises hold on to their best employees – and encourage them to become even more productive.

Enterprise organizations aren’t just identifying potential leaders at a higher rate; they’re also designing learning programs that prepare them for leadership at a higher rate too. Of the enterprise organizations surveyed, 47.8% indicated they developed a specific learning track for identified potential leaders to prepare them for these future leadership roles; only 38.1% of organizations surveyed overall are investing in such programs.

In order to create specific programs that identify and train talented contributors to become future leaders, organizations need a sophisticated learning management system that can access and understand employee talent profiles, and that can tie into performance management systems to align learning activities with trackable goals. These programs should also align with current and future organizational goals, to ensure that high-talent individuals are concentrating their time and efforts on moving the company forward – and moving their careers along with it.

Enterprise Organizations Depend on Learning Programs to Stay Compliant More Than Their Smaller Counterparts

There are a number of reasons why organizations offer learning opportunities to their employees; however, one of the most overlooked at times can be compliance-based reasons. Enterprise organizations, according to our survey results, are more committed to leveraging learning programs to help their employees acquire and maintain compliance-related skills needed for their current roles. In fact, 47.8% of enterprise organizations consider this a core goal of their continuous learning programs, as opposed to 41.3% of organizations overall.

Compliance is an important consideration, especially for large, complex organizational structures. However, organizations must not allow the opportunity to better empower employees to control their performance and career development to slip by. The personalized learning paths that a good continuous learning program can support means the same employee can meet multiple learning objectives; for example, an employee participating in a robust continuous learning program can be assigned a course on a compliance-based skill that mitigates risk, but can also complete a learning path that better prepares that employee for a leadership position. Luckily, it seems that the enterprise organizations represented in our study recognize this program ability; 42.8% also list “helping employees improve in their current position” as a core learning program goal as well.

Learning programs are a great opportunity for enterprises to protect themselves from risk by empowering employees with opportunities to acquire or maintain compliance-mandated skills and recognition; however, organizations should be able to support multiple goals with their learning programs. A robust, continually updated library of learning content, along with collaborative resources, can help employees not just mitigate risk, but improve their core competencies and progress into leadership opportunities throughout the organization. Personalized learning paths also helps ensure that employees can access the content they need when they need it, no matter what the goal of that learning path is.

Want to learn more about the insights we uncovered in our continuous learning research? Read more about it here, and download the full research report here.


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