How to Build a Learning Organization


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This post is part two of three from my eBook “Managers as Lifelong Learners” and continues my earlier thoughts on “How to build talent in your organization.”

Skill Development

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

~ Henry Ford

When I tweet the quote above it’s not unusual for that message to get retweeted and favorited several times.

Ford quote twitter

It’s obvious that this statement by Henry Ford resonates with a lot of people. Employees really do represent an organizations greatest asset and it’s important to keep those assets up-to-date with proper training. The pace of technological change calls for constant expansion of our knowledge base and the skills we bring to everyday work assignments. Facebook and Twitter, which weren’t even around a decade ago, are now such critical tools for marketing departments worldwide that if the employees in the company’s marketing division aren’t savvy about how to Tweet or how to build their Twitter site, the company is severely limited in its ability to lure new customers. Companies whose employees are tied to older processes and technology are missing the ability to mine information through faster and easier means. Employees who don’t keep up on the latest applications are holding themselves back as they watch their more competitive counterparts pass them by.

In a lot of professions, such as law and health care, continuing education is required to keep practicing in the field. In the business world, it’s an unstated rule that employees keep their skills current. But the challenge to keep up can seem overwhelming. There’s so much to do as it is and so many deadlines to meet, how can a company and its individual employees make time for learning and development? Fortunately, learning can take place on a lot of fronts:

  • Conferences/Classes: Employees can take classes or go to conferences and then share what they learned by hosting a round table discussion.
  • Blogs/Articles: Employees should be encouraged to read relevant blogs and articles and keep professional contacts and associations. New tools and methods pop up constantly and need to be evaluated.
  • Mentoring: Employees can be paired up with mentors within the organization – people who know more about a particular skill than they do.


  • Cross-training: Cross-training or job rotation immerses an employee in new roles or projects that can dramatically expand their horizons. Stretch assignments are a great way to challenge an employee to reach out for new abilities in previously unexplored areas.

These kinds of individual and collaborative learning exercises tend to happen routinely when you put processes in place and make relevant learning resources available to a workforce. Training opportunities are often what motivates employees to stay at a company and attracts new staff members. Most people want to work for a company that’s using cutting-edge technology and is willing to invest the time and money necessary to ensure employees are up to speed even as technology changes.

Training does not always have to be expensive. Even with limited budgets, companies can make learning opportunities widely available. Cross-training and mentoring come at little to no cost and yet can prove to be incredibly valuable because much of what people learn happens on the job, not in a classroom or at a conference.

Learning doesn’t simply allow staff members to enhance their abilities. It opens their minds to possibilities they didn’t previously see. It may even give them renewed enthusiasm for their job. And a company that goes out of its way to keep its employees trained is sending a powerful message that it wants all of its employees to grow and believes in their ability to do so.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


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