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Learning and change: the best of bedfellows

Posted 23 June 2016
by Allegra Consulting

Whether it’s a merger, change of CEO, rebrand or all of the above, organisational change inevitably involves a huge learning curve. And with recent research by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) showing 61 per cent of organisations experience at least three major changes every year (and 26 per cent experience at least six!) that’s a lot of learning to facilitate.

In any organisation, it makes sense for the learning and development area to be in the loop when it comes to change management, yet it’s surprising how often they’re left out of the equation.

The ATD recommends the organisational learning function be involved during the entire change management process, from planning to design through to execution. ATD also suggests implementing a clear timeline for learning and development as well as providing this area of the organisation with enough funding to successfully deliver the required training to support the change.

Sounds easy, right?

In fact, engaging and partnering with learning and development is clearly harder than it looks. ATD’s research (which included a survey of more than 700 business and learning leaders, and was conducted in conjunction with the Institute for Corporate Productivity) revealed that when a major change is in progress, only 27 per cent of organisations provide change management training to all staff. Less than half (43 per cent) provide it to all managers.

According to the survey, a key challenge, or obstacle to engagement with the learning and development team is a reluctant organisational culture – organisational cultures that are resistant to change find it more difficult to move forward.

Creating an organisation-wide mindset that welcomes change is crucial. According to author, change expert Open Innovation Program Manager at NASA, Beth Beck, organisations should aim to “cultivate a team of innovators and developing a shared understanding of the case for change.” Read more here about how Beth suggests organisations achieve this.

Change and learning go hand in hand. Organisations that enjoy the long-term results of successful change projects by continuously enhancing their capabilities are referred to as ‘learning organisations’.

The term ‘learning organisation’ was coined by Peter Senge, founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning who in 1999 was named ‘strategist of the century’.

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