Employee Engagement and the Learning Organization
The first time I heard the term “learning organization” was in the best-selling business book “The Fifth Discipline” by Sloan School of Management professor Peter Senge. Published many years ago, the principles outlined by Senge are as timely and relevant today as the day it was written. Among them is the idea that organizations with the brightest future are those that recognize the need to develop the broader knowledge base of their team members.
While many companies provide job specific training, Senge was focused on a higher order of learning, starting with business basics, what is required to properly serve customers, how to earn a profit and what those profits do for all stakeholders. While business leaders know these things (well, mostly) there is much to be gained from teaching these basics to team members organization-wide. Here are a couple of resources to get you started.
The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham is a highly effective training tool which is especially popular with businesses that have recently converted to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The thought is that since employees now have an equity stake in the company, they’ll take more of an interest in understanding what makes for an effective, profitable business. True enough. But as key stakeholders, chances are that irrespective of the ownership structure, team members will take more of an interest in how the business works and why their contribution matters every day if they are made aware of these things.
Here's one more. A great place to start a “business training” initiative is with a focus on finance. And one of the best tools for this is a training workbook called “Beyond the Bottom Line.” Organized in separate modules, “Beyond the Bottom Line” includes a short quiz and a glossary of terms at the end of each chapter. Covering the basics, (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow and the importance of cash, calculating break even, and much more). It can be used individually or as part of a group learning process. A companion Instructor’s Guide is available and can be used by a group leader to organize and facilitate the group learning process.
While teaching basic business to team members has a positive impact on the organization, there is an additional benefit to this effort. Employees who have gone through these training initiatives report higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. Many express sincere appreciations for gaining a deeper understanding of how business works and why profits matter. Some indicate that business training, especially training in finance, has great benefit in their personal lives.
For more information on getting started with your “business learning” initiative, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.