Learning and development in Organization
Electrocom Ltd is an electronics company based in North West, employing around 700 employees. It produces high-specification office equipment and provides various telecoms and installation services. It is regarded as a major employer in the area. As the UK subsidiary of a major global operation, the company is expected to conform to head office requirements for reporting procedures, information systems, budgeting, and organisational values. The global operation is successful; the UK subsidiary is, however, increasingly in jeopardy, with a significant proportion of work volume (about 15 percent) being removed to Far Eastern locations in the last two years, and the company being exhorted to become 'more innovative' in order to be favourably considered for new projects by head office. The chief executive is due to retire back to his home country in less than two years time, and there are rumours that his departure may herald further loss of business and subsequent job loss, or even closure of the UK operation.
The company employs a large number of skilled engineers, who have achieved high capability in technical areas of expertise. A small but significant minority of senior managers have a sense of what the company needs to do to become more independent. They believe that the company could reflect customer needs more closely, and become a 'business solutions' provider; another option would be to capitalise on the company's experience of designing recycled office technology. A number of high-profile awards have been won by the company, which is seen as a model of good practice, especially in environmental policies and links with the community. The company has also built up considerable good will across the workforce as a result of a 'no redundancy' policy and very generous holiday, sickness and other benefits.
On the other hand, although there is much evidence of incremental learning - becoming better at existing processes - there is little challenging, questioning or genuine exploratory learning, partly because there are so few opportunities for understanding changing customer needs and demands. Although the company has implemented a new management development programme, and individuals found the new insights valuable, there is little or no effort to apply the ideas to enable the company to function more effectively. For this reason, learning is more akin to 'personal development' than linked with organisational performance and capability. There are few opportunities for teamwork, with most employees working in routine tasks with little task interdependency. There is also an astonishing lack of awareness of the vulnerable circumstances that the company faces. Many employees believe that 'big brother' will step in as financial issues become more pressing.
Using the ideas and research into organisational learning and development, prepare a preliminary report for head office outlining what steps the company needs to take to move beyond 'personal development' into organisational learning and consider the following aspects:
- What formal learning initiatives do you believe would help employees to engage in exploratory learning?
- What steps could be taken to promote the sharing and application of employee learning across the organisation?
- What factors need to be considered in developing the informal work environment to maximise productive naturally occurring learning?