Learning organizations are those that provide new experiences and knowledge to the community and group participants. That learning is part of the payoff to those who willingly follow the leader.
Once upon a time, learning was the province of children, with the expectation that they would finish school at the age of 12 and be available to work on the family farm, or in the family business. Today’s expectations include formal education that extends well into adulthood. It is not unusual for middle aged adults to return to school for more education and advanced degrees.
Many adults embark on an informal quest for knowledge and understanding of topics with no connection to their occupation. Some of these quests are prompted by increased availability of travel, or the many cable television channels dedicated to travel, history or science. The more knowledge and education acquired, the greater the demand. We are increasingly told that success belongs to the Renaissance citizen who engages in continual learning throughout life.
Successful businesses have learned the importance of continuous learning for their employees. In the fast-paced business environment of today, employees who enter the workforce with adequate knowledge quickly fall behind the competition if they don’t stay actively involved in expanding their personal knowledge base. Proclaimed experts on the future tell us that most people entering the workforce today will experience multiple careers before concluding their work life.
The other factor is that companies who hire intelligent educated workers often discover those employees move on to other companies for intellectual stimulation. Part of the challenges having intelligent, educated employees is providing them with opportunities to satisfy their need for continual learning.
Many large companies spend a significant part of their revenue on in-house education. Among those companies is the Walt Disney Company who utilizes extensive training and continual education at Disney University to ensure that all Disney cast members (employees) perform the show that Walt Disney had in mind when he created the vision.
General Electric has a 53-acre campus, the John F. Welch Leadership Center, nestled in the Hudson River Valley north of New York, where several thousand people a year are trained. During a 13-week program, executives are taught everything from finance, sales and economics to marketing, public relations and leadership.
Since 1961 more than 65,000 McDonald’s managers have graduated from Hamburger University where the fast food giant trains their employees and franchisees how to successfully run a fast food restaurant.
The need for educating the customer of the business is as important as educating the employee. Think of all the products and services developed over the past decade that people didn’t know about or didn’t realize they needed until businesses set out to explain their benefits and usage. The word infomercial describes an emerging blend between commercial sales pitches and informational teaching tools to sell the same products and services. The trend may have begun with those Charlie Merrill advertisements to explain stocks and bonds, but that trend is accelerating in today’s world.