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How does a learning organization emerge?

Lately, I have been very interested in how an organization becomes a so-called learning organization. What does it take?

What is a learning organization?

A learning organization encourages employees to continuously learn and develop, not only by providing encouragement but also by enabling learning and development at a practical level, starting from job design, compensating for learning time, allowing for learning to take place during work hours, and showcasing concrete learning opportunities. A learning organization has elevated the value of learning to a strategic level. This means that different learning paths, future-oriented thinking, involving and committing employees to development planning, and using various training programs have become part of everyday life. Additionally, a learning organization values curiosity, willingness to experiment, courage, and innovation. It does not fear the new, but rather welcomes it with joy and encourages employees to explore everything new.

The foundation of a learning organization

The development of a learning organization is significantly influenced by the organization's view of people. This, in turn, is influenced by the organization's values, culture, leadership style, and mutual interaction within the workplace. It also seems that to become a learning organization, one must truly understand the benefits of diversity and live according to DEI principles in everyday life. Valuing and investing in employee experience also affects the organization's view of people and, in turn, the formation of a learning organization.

Do these things actually happen in daily life?

Learning organization, learning leadership, enabling development... Very broad concepts. But where should one start in their own organization and what things should be paid attention to?

At the level of values and organizational culture

In the words of Panu Luukka: company culture eats strategy for breakfast.

What are the organization's values? Do the values emphasize the importance and worth of every individual, both in the written and lived values? Are employees themselves a valuable asset, each as an individual, or are they viewed as resources within the organization?

And what about organizational culture? How do supervisors or the management team respond, for example, when an employee or team wants to use work time to learn something new? Honestly, what is the first thought that comes to mind?

Shouldn't you be working during work hours!


Awesome, learning something new will definitely bring value to the company!

How are learning and development opportunities talked about for employees? Is the topic routinely discussed in such a way that it has become part of the daily routine, or is a bureaucratic process required before permission is granted for learning during work hours?

At the strategic level

Has a future-oriented perspective regarding the skills and knowledge required in the future already been integrated into the organization's strategy? Have any gaps in skills and knowledge between the current and desired situations been identified? Is training procurement being carried out in a strategy-driven manner? Is learning being monitored at the organizational, team, and individual levels as part of the implementation of the strategy, development discussions, and quarterly goal achievement?

Has sufficient funding and work time been budgeted for enabling learning? Are the learning facilities provided by the organization (such as online learning environment) up-to-date, accessible, and supportive of the learner? Are DEI considerations adequately incorporated into learning and development opportunities?

At the practical level

What does an individual employee or team need to do to start learning something new or to enhance their existing skills? Is logging into the online learning environment and selecting the desired learning path sufficient, or are applications, permits, or justifications required? How can individual employees or teams have their voices heard (even up to the strategic level) regarding the learning that would be essential for the development of the entire organization?

At the employee experience level

Whether an organization is a learning one or not has a significant impact on the employee experience - in terms of the organization's view of humanity, values, culture, and infrastructure. One can ask how valued an individual employee feels: can they learn new things if they desire? Are they seen as worth investing in, capable of development, and a valuable building block of the organization?

The employee experience is heavily influenced by, among other things, how easy it is to learn new things within the organization. Are intelligent online learning opportunities offered to employees, are there different training paths, does job rotation happen, and how does learning manifest itself, for example, in salary development?

A new role for help

Achieving a learning organization is a rather extensive task, especially if there are individual or multiple deficiencies at the aforementioned four levels. In this case, the simplest and most cost-effective way to begin implementing the principles of a learning organization is to establish a new role within the organization - either in addition to the current job or as an independent position.

We're talking about competence management, about Chief Learning Officer, and close cooperation with the executive team and especially the HR function.

Want to talk about it?

If you are interested in building a learning organization or would simply like to talk about the topic or related issues, you can book a coaching session in my calendar (here, link opens in a new tab). Together we can go through where your organization currently stands and what still needs to be done.


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