The world is settling into the disruption from Covid19 pandemic; and organizations are swamped with reviewing and re-assessing their corporate strategy, so as to effectively respond to this crisis.
As boards and executive management teams deploy Covid19 response-strategy for their organizations, it is important to be sensitized on a key factor that determines present survival and future competitiveness – which is Organizational Learning. I dare to say that any strategy designed to drive organization competitiveness, without factoring learning is not a smart strategy.
When all about corporate strategy is said and done; the fact is talents and leaders will always respond to problems at the level of knowledge, skill and ability they are building or have built. Capacity (in individuals or institutions) is not an overnight result but an overtime one! It is therefore imperative that organizations embed an effective learning approach into the corporate strategy that they deploy, in response to Covid19 business realities.
I have asked leaders in the past about their learning cultures, and most leaders will affirm learning culture is necessary for sustainable organization performance. However, what is evident with leaders is much talk and little walk, in building learning organizations. Leaders need to understand and accept the reality that learning helps their organizations to prepare for uncertainty, absorb disruption and adapt to change
Some reasons organizations do not factor learning into their corporate or growth strategy are;
- Leader learners are few – this is sad but it is reality (It is difficult to drive what you don’t value)
- There is no institutional drive that requires talents and leaders to be agile learners.
- Most organizations in principle, consider learning to be an expense not an investment
In reference to an investment mindset towards learning – organizations that still think cutting off learning spends as they attempt to trim and control expense, will only be cutting off their competitive edge! There is no excuse – the facts are there and corporate history abounds with lots of cases for leaders to reflect on. Lessons should be taken from organizations who faced disruptions (and did not have the additional reality of Covid19 we now face); but nonetheless lost market share and industry dominance because they failed to learn. Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak, Xerox and Yahoo should be a reminder to boards and executives that when organizations fail to learn, they fail to lead
It is only when organizations – their talents and leaders are learning that growth occurs; and it’s only when growth occurs that innovation is consistent. To capture this simply – learning drives growth; while growth empowers consistent innovation. When learning stops, innovation stops; and when innovation stops, competitiveness stops. CEO of CableLabs – Phil McKinney said “Without a robust and resilient innovation strategy, no company can survive”. Learning is that anchor which enables any robust and resilient innovation strategy.
There must be strategy, structure and sustainability to learning, in any way it is being deployed – training (digital/online for next 6-12months), coaching, project assignments, taskforce/committee responsibilities, job-rotation and acting opportunities. Organizations no longer have the luxury of adhoc or haphazard learning approach. Disruption cannot be combatted with chaos – there must be a science to conception of learning solutions and an art to their deployment.
I will like to summarize what I call 7 Outcomes Of Learning;
- Keeps organizations competitive
- Creates environment for innovation to thrive
- Powers growth-mindset in employees
- Enables high-performing teams
- Fosters talent retention and engagement
- Drives workforce productivity
- Prepares organizations for change
These outcomes are not exhaustive or absolute. However, the consequences of not embracing a learning culture are fatal. Organizations that don’t adopt learning will lose their top talents to organizations that are adopting learning culture. A global executive search firm has found that high-potential candidates perform better than their peers with less potential; thanks to acquiring new skills and their thirst for Learning. Therefore learning becomes a strategic anchor for talent retention – which is highly needed in this Covid19 times. Also, lack of learning means lack of growth; which means lack of innovation. The question leaders should be asking themselves is – Are we surviving Covid19 to end up being a dinosaur in the next 18-24 months?
To kick-start or sustain organization learning, take this simple approach;
- Decide WHY, WHAT, HOW of your learning culture
- Align learning to drivers of business strategy
- Drive learning from a competency framework
- Collaborate with stakeholders within your organization’s learning ecosystem
- Provide endless learning platforms for talents and leaders in your organization
- Ensure learning is learner-focused, to guarantee learning needs are met
- Embed expectations into your impact metrics, so you can measure Return On Expectations
- Leverage technology
My final words to leaders: if you will compete and win in your industry in months to come, then your organization must adopt a learning mindset and culture. Your competitive edge is only as sharp as your learning focus. To thrive post Covid19: enable the right learning, in the right manner, for the right people, at the right time and with the right expectations. Jim Kwirk has been credited with quote “…Learning is a superpower”. Your corporate strategy will only be as potent as the superpower anchoring it. Learning is the superpower that guarantees sustainable organization success and dominance. I wish you success!