Improve Business Operations by Becoming a Learning Organization

Embracing the culture of a learning organization is about valuing team members and their development, as well as focusing on growth and evolution across the organization.
By Sarah Skidmore
September 10, 2018

Human resources is an evolving part of organizations, and the role of the department continues to transform from policy enforcers to a strategic asset. In the book “The Future of Human Resource Management,” Losey, Mesinger and Ulrich note an important shift in human resources: the shift from problem solving situations to an appreciative inquiry.

This shift moves from identifying a problem, analyzing the cause and planning action to appreciating what is, envisioning what might be and dialoguing about what should be in organizations. The perspective moves from an assumption of a problem to an assumption of embrace. Maintaining this type of appreciative culture across teams, departments and locations is critical for leaders in the construction industry.

In light of this shift toward appreciation, collaboration and strategic embrace, building a culture emphasizing learning and development creates a new paradigm in construction companies. Organizations that embrace this are learning organizations, which often see the benefits of innovative thought, empowered team members, flexible and adaptive teams, and a loyal work environment.

Incentive packages are one of the tools leaders can use to encourage a learning environment. Burton, Obel and Hakonsson write in “Organizational Design: A Step-by-Step Approach:”

"You can influence the activities of the employees or sub-units in an organization in basically three ways: you can tell them what to do; you can have a set of behavioral rules that specify what they should do in certain situations; and/or you can create an incentive system that indirectly influences your employees to do what you want them to do.”

Creating incentive packages that work for a construction team is an important aspect for team members. Consider ways to offer a mix of pay, bonuses, profit-sharing, PTO offering and career development opportunities. These packages can serve as useful tools to ensure effectiveness and efficiency towards the goals of learning organizations and a culture of appreciation.

Embracing this culture is really about valuing team members and their development. It’s about focusing on growth and evolution across the organization, including:

  • Learning from other teams;
  • Learning from other departments;
  • Learning as a team responsibility; and
  • Learning as an individual responsibility.

This concept of learning emphasizes the future. It shifts organizations from thinking in the past to thinking of new ways to expand. Ultimately, there are several benefits to construction leaders who embrace learning organizations. Some of these benefits include enhanced teamwork and collaboration. Organizations are able to build a heightened competitive advantage, develop talent management programs and ensure organizational sustainability in the future.

As construction leaders seek to cultivate learning organizations, it is critical to understand the connection between strategy, organizational design and culture. Leaders should brainstorm ways to shape their construction companies into learning organizations. Let the following three areas below serve as a starting point for conversation.

Strategy and Structure Considerations

  • Is the organization’s structure conducive to learning? How can the structure be adapted to be more suitable to a learning culture?
  • Does the current leadership embrace a learning culture? What changes may need to be made?
  • How does the organization ensure alignment when it comes to strategy, organizational design and structure?
  • What organizational components are currently misfits when it comes to alignment?

Training Programs Considerations

  • Offer jobsite welcome tours for new employees.
  • Consider having team members shadow the production team or installation crew, or customer service and sales teams.
  • Consider offering a lunch lottery with the R&D team for team members to learn more about the company’s product/service.
  • What types of team training does the company offer related to the organization’s vision, mission and values?

Policies and Procedures Considerations

  • How can construction leaders enhance internal communication efforts to share the company’s vision and strategy?
  • How can the company provide career mapping for employees?
  • How is the construction company communicating succession planning and future opportunities for team members?
  • How can leaders develop incentive packages that encourage a learning culture?

by Sarah Skidmore

Visit or email [email protected] today to schedule a complimentary session with a Leadership Doctor to explore if your organization is ready for the future of work.

Dr. Sarah Skidmore, DSL, MA (she/her/hers) is a leadership development consultant, leadership futurist, and online executive coach. Dr. Sarah’s passion for the future of leadership, work, and learning drive the perspective she brings to leaders. She is the creator of the Stronger People Leaders workbook and offers both online and on-site leader development programs



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