What is a Learning Organization?

Article by Lizanne Schippers
Article by Lizanne Schipper on Learning in Organizations in the NRC Next.

A colleague and I had an interview with a journalist last week for an article in the NRC-Next newspaper. The image above shows the actual article (including my colleague reading a book) in the newspaper. The subject of the article was learning in an organization; What do organizations do to stimulate their employees in order to keep learning. It tells the story of a few young professionals and what they do in order to keep learning while they work.

The article also shows a list of the top 20 Most Learning Organizations. And this is a zoomed shot of the list with the most learning organizations in a research done by Satisaction for the newspaper:

TOPdesk scores #2 in research for the Most Learning Organizations
TOP 20 Learning Organizations

That’s right, TOPdesk reached second place in the Most Learning Organizations research! How do we do that? I will give you a couple of things I think contribute to being a Learning Organization.

How do you become a learning organization?

Having different forms of budgets helps, but it is not what is most important. At TOPdesk we have several types of budgets so colleagues can buy books, follow courses or visit conventions. These help stimulate learning in an organizations. Every organization can, and should, do this one way or the other. But just having a budget won’t transform your organization in a thriving and learning one.

One of the most important things for your organizations is stimulating people to try new things and allow them to make mistakes. Give them the freedom to discover new things, which can be good for the company. And if something happens to go wrong, just talk about what went wrong. Don’t be angry with people that tried and failed, stimulate them to learn from it and keep trying. It is the exact opposite of a blame culture, where people try to cover up mistakes, or even worse, try to pin the blame on others. If your organization can be open about mistakes (which everyone makes regularly) your organization will learn more and have a better work atmosphere as a bonus.

In TOPdesk, most team leaders are both the coach and the person appraising their colleagues. This situation has a natural tension where people should talk with their coach about the things bothering them or ask their coach for help, while that same coach is the one appraising them every year. This can only work if you are very open about mistakes and have a strong trust component in your culture. And that is what makes a Learning Organization in my opinion.