Keep Growing Your Organizational Learning Pyramid

An enterprisewide learning strategy means all employees’ learning needs are continually addressed.

I come from a small village in eastern India, and I grew up as a mama’s boy. Until I discovered studying as a rather serious thing, I constantly followed her wherever she went.

She used to grow vegetables in our back yard. One of my morning rituals was to follow her and help pluck the vegetables. One day I had asked my mother how she knew whether the eggplant — we call it an aubergine — was ready to be picked.

She responded that the time to pick aubergine was when it stopped growing. That answer is still etched in my memory. From that day on, my thinking changed. I actually never asked my mother about whether or not to pick the aubergines. Instead, I kept staring at them, wondering whether they stopped growing.

Life is like that. We like growing trees and flowing rivers. We like to join companies that are growing. Companies also like their employees to grow. In fact, the best way to grow a company is to jump-start the growth process of its employees. Parents like to see their children grow; so do managers when it comes to the growth of the employees who work for them.

An Inclusive Learning Growth Pyramid

Some organizations provide myriad opportunities for learning at different levels of the organizational pyramid. An inclusive learning pyramid would help employees at every level to learn the relevant skills and grow to the next level. Robust offerings would bring together the technology, behavioral and functional skills needed for the employee to perform their role effectively based on the business context and the need of the organization.

According to Deloitte Global’s 2018 “Human Capital Trends” report, “Rather than an orderly, sequential progression from job to job, 21st century careers can be viewed as a series of developmental experiences, each offering the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives and judgment. Careers are no longer narrowly defined by jobs and skills but through experiences and learning agility.”

Rapidly advancing technologies and agile and team-centered business models are driving organizations to redesign themselves. L&D needs to ensure that learning opportunities are provided anytime, anywhere, and are accessible on any device for employees to learn, reskill and upskill themselves to become future-ready and operate in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment.

What the Pyramid Looks Like

Onboarding forms the base of the inclusive learning growth pyramid. The onboarding experience should provide opportunities for fresh trainees to imbibe the culture of the organization, preparing them to be productive from day one. Peer learning opportunities and a buddy system to mentor and encourage trainees to learn, explore and make their way in the organization would help create a culture of learning, sharing and greater engagement.

First-time and middle managers together form the most crucial slice of the organizational pyramid. In very large organizations, this could also account for higher rates of attrition as there is a risk of employees becoming disengaged, leading to greater attrition. Providing personalized and immersive learning solutions that address the complexity of their role would greatly enhance employee experience, resulting in higher engagement and lower attrition levels. Formal coaching and mentoring initiatives would also help.

Learning programs for employees with more than two years of experience and first-time managers should focus on strengthening leadership skills and building technology depth and functional expertise.

For managers with more than 10 years of experience, learning programs should focus on enabling associates to take up leadership roles. Often described as the “under-glorified middle,” it is this middle layer that actually creates all the business solutions, acting as a link between the senior management and operating workforce to ensure that results are delivered. This vital middle — the core of the pyramid — needs to be future-proofed, no matter what the environmental drivers are. Here are some of the key factors impacting the role of the middle manager:

  1. Pace and the speed of change in the business and organizational environment.
  2. The need to bridge the generation gap and work collaboratively with both Gen Y and baby boomers.
  3. The need to engage and motivate Gen Y to drive organizational excellence and results.

Finally, L&D strategy needs to enable senior leaders at the top of the organizational pyramid in defining the future direction of the organization through various strategy development and leadership programs. Exposure to global cohorts through partnership with leading academic institutions provides challenging learning opportunities to high-potential senior leadership team members, providing successful cross-pollination in learning and leading to greater collaboration and innovation.

The inclusive learning pyramid is a constantly emerging solution that creates learning opportunities at every level of the organization, makes learning accessible and keeps changing to keep learning relevant in the constantly changing technology and business environment.

Continuous learning and application of new learning is key to developing one’s talent, which in turn is key to developing business. Shaping individual careers with well-defined learning opportunities could be the cornerstone to organizational success. An organization that learns together, grows together.