What Is Organisational Learning and Why It's Important

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 15 January 2023

Published 8 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As companies grow and markets change, organisational learning is essential for employees to advance their professional growth. This type of in-office learning makes it possible to share new information on-the-job while allowing employees to develop a broad range of knowledge in their position. Learning about the importance of organisational learning can help your employees think critically and adapt during times of change. In this article, we define what organisational learning is and how managers can promote it within their teams.

Related: What Does a Learning and Development Manager Do? (Plus Salary)

What is organisational learning?

Organisational learning is a method of transferring knowledge to employees. It's usually information gained through business experience and shared by management. Learning provides companies the ability to train multiple employees or one individual at a time. It can also be an effective way to share new company information to others.

Depending on the type of information, there are many ways to facilitate learning methods properly. Learning can occur in an office or at a separate training location. Some companies may also choose to schedule remote learning sessions by leading the learning sessions independently or hiring an outside representative to host them. For example, a company that's rolling out a new software system may benefit by organising a training session for employees and having a representative from the company present to answer questions.

Read more: On-the-Job Training: Definition, Types and Examples

Four types of organisational learning

Organisational learning can take on several different forms. Each form can be beneficial depending on the shared information and employees receiving the training. For information that affects the company, learning within a group setting may be best. For learning specific to just one employee, an individual learning session may be the right option. Here are four types of organisational learning:

1. Individual

Individual learning occurs when one employee participates in the sessions. This employee may attend a learning session to gather new ideas, skills or best practices. Implementing this new knowledge can help them improve their performance and productivity. This may have a positive impact on both the team and the company. The employee may find they have a clearer understanding of job processes and are be able to problem-solve more efficiently. The employee may also share their knowledge with the team, thus creating a conducive learning environment.

2. Group

Group learning occurs when a team, department or other group participates in a session together. These employees may also learn about new skills, ideas or approaches. Through learning, teams can form cohesion when they work as a unit. This phenomenon is called 'social-psychological awareness', where group members identify themselves as part of the team instead of an individual acting alone. There's typically this mutual awareness that one individual's actions can affect the rest of the team. In some cases, 'social-psychological awareness' improves the group's learning ability by sharing information quickly and encouraging problem-solving.

Read more: Improving Collaboration at the Workplace

3. Organisational knowledge

Organisational knowledge is specific to the business' internal system of successfully gaining progress-related information and sharing information across the company. This information may be helpful to employees when adapting to changes in the market or understanding new business standards. Companies may change according to this newly attained information to make growth possible. They may also adjust their practices when new market information becomes available.

4. Inter-organisational knowledge

Inter-organisational knowledge involves the participation of multiple organisations. It typically occurs when different company branches or franchises share information. For example, when one business location develops a new best practice, other organisations may follow the same path. Mutual amongst different organisations is key. To build trust across businesses, management teams can share common goals, create a sense of community and increase employee social relations. Each organisation can decide how collaboration may benefit both parties from that point.

What are the processes behind organisational learning?

While the training material may be essential or time-sensitive, each employee may process new information differently. They may pick up information at different speeds or retain it better than others. If management believes learning opportunities will benefit their team, it's important to understand that learning is usually a process. Here are three steps that take place during and after organisational learning:

Creation of knowledge

During learning, the creation of knowledge occurs when employees begin learning and processing new information. Employees may either understand new information quickly or require additional time to fully comprehend the training material. For this reason, it can be valuable to allow enough time for questions after learning.

Retention of knowledge

After the learning concludes, the retention of knowledge begins. This usually occurs when the employee is able to recall the concepts they have learned. Additionally, the employee may start applying the learned information in their day-to-day work activities.

Spread of knowledge

The spread of knowledge is the final step in the learning process. This occurs simultaneously or shortly after the retention of knowledge when employees begin to share new information with their team. Doing so, facilitates the spread of information between employees and may also begin the three-step process through other departments.

Why is organisational learning important?

Many companies may find themselves adapting to the changing markets. By creating an appropriate learning environment within a company, management can prepare employees for upcoming changes or shifts in expectations. Additional learning opportunities can also allow the company to stay updated when new technologies become available.

Organisational learning can improve overall employee job satisfaction. Companies that implement this form of learning typically have a higher employee retention rate. Within companies that host learning opportunities, employees may feel more invested in their job or organisation. They may also experience higher productivity and fewer mistakes from the training. Here are some other benefits of organisational learning:

  • increased sense of commitment to the company

  • reduced turnover rates and employee dissatisfaction

  • leadership development from within the company

  • improved sense of job understanding

  • increased productivity and fewer mistakes made

  • improved understanding of market changes

Read more: The Importance of Training Employees (With 11 Benefits)

How to promote organisational learning

There are many ways that management can encourage and promote learning within their teams. One of the first steps is to foster a positive learning environment. It may also be beneficial for management to involve themselves in learning sessions. Showing an interest in professional advancement can open other employees to training and create a comfortable learning environment. Here are some important considerations to have:

1. Understand the implications of knowledge management

Becoming familiar with knowledge management may improve learning techniques. It can help capture, explain and distribute new information among employees. Understanding and following the steps for knowledge management may be an appropriate way to begin training sessions. These are some of the requirements of knowledge management:

  • understanding how to foster a proper learning environment

  • ensuring that the concepts learned apply to the business's success

  • being aware of how and why an individual or a group has learned something

2. Integrate learning into normal business routine

Implementing other changes may become easier within a learner-friendly work environment. When management encourages learning and employee development, they may find employees more receptive to future learning opportunities. The company may also benefit from learning systems that include management-level training. You can facilitate a positive learning environment by including data in everyday business communication. Utilising data provides employees with more knowledge of the market and company. It can also assist when overcoming potential challenges. Effective data usage may require employees to be more aware of new information and encourage the implementation of new strategies.

Read more: What is Employee Training and Development? (Plus Benefits and Types)

3. Encourage employee feedback

Feedback regarding each learning session may be valuable information before, during and after the training takes place. An open line of communication between employees and management may indicate a sense of inclusivity between the groups. Management can also learn from employee experience and utilise that information in the future. Employees may have a substantial amount of knowledge around their areas of expertise and can assist in developing future learning programs.

4. Consider feedback and implement problem-solving

While many corporate training programs focus on problem-solving, organisational learning allows employees to go beyond the knowledge provided and understand the cause of a business challenge. A successful learning program may cultivate employees to have a deeper understanding of complex issues. Accuracy and precision are both important for learning in corporate environments. Implementing systematic problem-solving may promote additional learning opportunities as it encourages employees to identify the underlying root of an issue, not just the result it creates. Several effective ways to implement systematic problem-solving include:

  • using data as the reason behind decision-making

  • collecting data when there isn't much to obtain

  • organising and explaining data by using simple statistical tools

  • applying the scientific method when problem-solving

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