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Recognizing learning at work

Are we ready to learn at work?
The pace of organizational life means that change in its many forms, is never far away. In theory then, there is a significant opportunity to learn from change. This cannot be easily accomplished from outside because the organization itself provides the best place for learning to occur. By exploring and capturing the issues that really matter, it is possible to customize and cascade an agenda for learning that connects individuals to each other (for shared learning) and in turn, small groups to the challenges that confront them at work. So what if the outputs from individual and collective work could be recognized and certified, so that people are recognized and rewarded for their respective contributions to learning?

The aim here is to consider the benefits of linking external recognition to learning at work. In part, the e-learning revolution pointed the way towards larger scale, lower cost learning, though for many, web-based learning does not appeal. Why is this? While web-based resources provide access to a wider range of materials than ever before, people generally engage (and learn) more readily with their peers and (learn from) the issues that they confront each day at work. What next then? We believe that if the organization runs its own brand learning initiative to recognize and celebrate achievement, it will help to embed learning.

Interest in the corporate university concept can be traced to the late 1980s when computing and high technology firms in the USA began using their own products to craft new style educational initiatives, which they called corporate universities. As there are no external constraints, there is no reason why a training function shouldn’t reinvent itself as a corporate university or business school. The digital revolution has already brought with it a change in expectations and behaviour. Dixon (1998) observes that many executives now refuse to attend on-site training, insisting on remote learning wherever possible. This is partly a reaction to learning overload in a changing world where Dixon believes, almost all their knowledge base is redundant in five years.

The ideal solution is to align learning and development behind the strategy of the business, but this is easier said than done. In a world that is already fast and getting faster Dixon thinks that the fundamental challenges for both leaders and learners centres on the pace of life issue. Here are some of the questions he poses:
Fast and getting faster…Some key questions for the executive team: Is our organization sufficiently flexible and adaptable to keep up with change? Do our people understand the key business priorities? Are we harnessing intranet/extranet power to learn effectively? How do we capture what we are learn?

Fast and getting faster…Some personal challenges for managers: How do you cope with constant, rapid change? If you find continuous, rapid change stressful, what must you do to restore work-life balance? When did you last learn something new and unrelated to what you ‘do’? When did you last assign time to think ‘out of the box’, with people outside your own discipline, and area of work?
The relative success of corporate universities at firms like Motorola and General Electric is linked to a concerted effort to maintain alignment between learning and corporate vision. Here, learning is viewed not only as a means of personal and organizational development, but as a tool for initiating cultural change and sustaining competitive advantage during periods of internal re-organization.
If so, is our vision for learning visionary enough?
Will our people want to learn at work?
Where does recognition fit and what benefits will it bring?
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