You Have an Education Department, Staff, Budget, Training Rooms and Resources. But Are You Truly a Learning Organisation?

February 14, 2019 By Wayne Woff

For organisations to truly show that they are committed to being recognised as a learning organisation, education must be embedded, not simply bolted on. It must be a constant organisational conversation – from the management level, right down to potential employees.

Education mustn’t begin and end with the education department and program. It must be a way of thinking and acting, a deliberate and purposeful organisational approach.

Individuals (employees, clients and families) shouldn’t have to go far before they ‘bump into’ examples of education in the service. It should exist in the systems, structures and strategies of the organisation and be reflected in its policies, procedures and people.

In this article I’m going to address some of the ways that I believe organisations can move towards becoming a genuine Learning Organisation. I’ll reference strategies that may not explicitly affect the organisation’s education department or program, but instead focus on key operational structures, documents and processes.

Mission and Vision Statements

“A Mission Statement defines the company’s business, its objectives and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company’s purposes, goals and values.” (Bain & Company, 2018)

If you re-read your organisation’s mission, vision, purposes, goals and values, would you find reference to learning or education? In the healthcare industry these key documents often reference safety, respect, community, individualised care, leadership, integrity, accountability … but where is the explicit mention of learning or education?

Documenting a commitment to education in an organisation’s mission and vision statements is an essential statement of intent and starting point for further organisational documents, structures and activities.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures are often seen by employees as dry documents that, after a first read (if read at all), can be relegated to a ‘shelf’ to gather dust. However, a well-written policy or procedure should be:

  • A vital educational document for staff;
  • An accurate reflection of organisational standards;
  • Clear, concise, up to date; and
  • Read, referred to and regularly reviewed.

Another way to enhance these documents is to include references, further reading or other resources related to the particular policy or procedure. In doing this, you encourage employees to dig deeper and continue to broaden their knowledge on relevant practice areas. It also highlights a celebration of further learning from a diverse range of resources.

So, start treating your policies and procedures as incredibly valuable learning documents that are dynamic and practical, instead of as stale, out of date and avoided at all costs.

Recruitment, Orientation, Performance Management and Exit Interviews

Education and learning should be among the first words mentioned in a job advertisement and subsequent interview.

Openly and purposefully communicating that your organisation requires an active commitment to education, reflective practice and improvement from each and every staff member is essential. This clearly communicates that education matters and that it is an integral part of the organisational approach to service provision and staff management.

This seed, sown at the outset, must then continue going forward. Education must be frequently and positively referenced/discussed in the following documents and processes:

  • Position descriptions;
  • Orientation and staff onboarding;
  • Performance management; and
  • Exit interviews.

Organisations should also consider explicitly mentioning Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the above areas. While CPD may not be the direct responsibility of the organisation, it is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure the highest quality and safest care for clients. Current registration, for which completion of CPD is required, forms a part of this.

Roles and Responsibilities

From an organisational point of view, is education seen to be solely the responsibility of educators and the education department? If this is the case a silo can be created whereby other people within the organisation do not embrace the possibility that everybody can and should be an educator.

Workplace awareness campaigns often talk about safety being “everybody’s responsibility” – the same thinking can apply to education. Education across wards, professions, departments and levels, must be the responsibility of all staff in an organisation – whether that be educating clients, colleagues, contractors, new staff or visitors.

Building a Learning Organisation

Other Relevant Areas to Consider

  • Senior management’s commitment to and engagement with learning;
  • The continuous improvement, quality assurance, feedback and benchmarking mechanisms by which the value, influence and improved outcomes generated by educational activities are demonstrated;
  • Organisation website: the prominence that learning is given in information available;
  • Research activities;
  • Links to Universities, TAFEs, other learning or aligned organisations.

Read: Creating a Learning Culture in Your Organisation

The importance and benefits of learning can never be underestimated. True learning organisations see improved client outcomes, compliance, reduced costs, staff engagement, retention… the list goes on. However, simply declaring an organisational commitment to education is not enough. Organisations must take steps to embed education in their mission and vision statements, structures, policies and procedures, other key documents and employee journeys.

I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas, experiences, anecdotes … feel free to leave a comment or share this article to your networks. This article has also been published on my LinkedIn page – click here to view it.

Further Reading and Resources

Document this CPD

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