When employees learn and grow, driving creativity and innovation, it also optimizes organizational growth. Vital to this continuous development is a healthy learning ecosystem; this article outlines key considerations when fostering such a learning ecosystem.

What Is a Learning and Performance Ecosystem, and Why Should Learning Leaders Invest in One?

A learning and performance ecosystem is the framework that drives continuous learning and development. Because ongoing learning is vital to the creativity and innovation of an organization, a learning ecosystem drives organizational growth. It functions as guideposts for the learning and development (L&D) team as it manages the needs of business leaders and supports enterprise goals and strategies.

People only learn when they’re ready to accept new information, and training should solve immediate problems for employees when they’re most receptive. An effective learning ecosystem does so by providing the support employees need, when they need it.

L&D leaders have the unique opportunity to drive organizational learning in a way that supports employee efforts, feeds into enterprise goals and initiatives, and drives organizational growth. Organizations with a healthy learning and performance ecosystem are:

More Creative and Innovative

Employees are better able to think outside their day-to-day norm, identifying creative solutions to old and new problems alike. High-potential employees who love to learn are an organization’s most valuable asset; in fact, in the 21st century, the most important employee attribute is a desire and ability to learn.

The speed of change in business is not slowing down. In fact, it is only going to accelerate. Employees and organizations that value learning will adapt and thrive. The ones that don’t will quickly fall behind.

More Collaborative

As employees participate in training, either formal or informal, they understand more about how their role intersects and overlaps with and depends on others in the organization. They’re more likely to reach out and collaborate with colleagues in other departments, breaking down silo walls.

Better at Effective Iteration

A strong learning ecosystem instills “the power of yet” rather than “the tyranny of now” (as described by Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset”). In a learning ecosystem, there are triggers that help employees gain the confidence that while they may not have the solutions to all of their problems right now, they will in the near future. They understand that quick iterations in a healthy feedback loop will create solutions that drive organizational growth.

How Does a Learning and Performance Ecosystem Fuel Continuous Learning and Drive Organizational Growth?

A learning ecosystem fuels continuous learning and drives organizational growth in the following ways:

    • It fosters an environment of “sticky” learning and on-the-job learning application.
    • It emphasizes continuous skill-building and reinforcement.
    • It reduces the time to proficiency that many organizations struggle with.
    • It changes the way employees view learning. Perception is reality, and the more positively employees view training, the more likely they are to remember what they learn and apply it on the job.
    • Finally, a learning ecosystem can trigger positive behavioral change.

What Are Other Benefits of a Learning and Performance Ecosystem Approach?

There are several other significant gains for organizations as they leverage a learning and performance support ecosystem. Organizational change is driven by formal and informal training and the learning culture.

You can leverage the learning and performance ecosystem to offer training and, more importantly, to create a culture of continuous learning. Here’s how:

You Can Use It for Formal Training:

    • Upskilling and reskilling: Given the current environment, organizations must continuously upgrade employee knowledge and skills.
    • Cross-functional skills development: For example, teams may have strong programming skills but lack effective product design or project management. A learning ecosystem can support those teams as they develop members into Scrum masters.
    • Fixing performance gaps: A learning ecosystem also helps identify critical performance gaps by aligning training to enterprise goals and driving organizational growth. L&D leaders can identify weaknesses as well as resources that may buttress or resolve those weaknesses.
    • Effective compliance training and onboarding.

It Drives Organizational Growth Through Informal Learning

A learning and performance ecosystem enables just-in-time learning solutions, including job aids and performance support systems, such as “nudging” employees whose performance is suffering. It also fosters coaching and mentoring relationships in which managers evaluate employee performance and provide coaching when needed.

It Enables Self-directed Learning

Driving organizational growth means that a learning ecosystem provides timely nudges to employees for self-directed learning, such as listening to training when they have some downtime. For instance, one organization in the United States provides personal security audio training to its employees’ earpieces between assignments (such as when they transition from one post to another).

It Supports Social Learning

A learning ecosystem leverages social learning platforms, so that employees can curate their own content and share it with others. Subject matter experts (SMEs) can also generate content and share it on the platform. The training department can then use that content in their training efforts.

7 Steps for Leveraging a Learning Ecosystem

    1. Create awareness. Without understanding the ecosystem’s architecture and available resources, employees won’t be able to use it, and you’ll miss out on its power to drive organizational growth.
    2. Develop assets using immersive learning approaches such as scenarios and problem-based learning.
    3. Ensure that the learning is at the employees’ fingertips, so it’s available at their moment of need.
    4. Reinforce the learning by challenging employees to consider real-life situations and evaluate content.
    5. Offer time and resources for self-directed learning, individually and collaboratively. Employees can find the information they need and then share it with others.
    6. Continue to evaluate the efficacy of your learning ecosystem, including its application on the job. Determine what’s working and what’s not.
    7. Iterate and enhance the learning environment based on evaluative data. Don’t settle for “good enough”; iterate on an ongoing basis, and understand that business continues to change, and so should the learning ecosystem.

Ongoing learning is vital to the creativity and innovation of an organization, and a learning ecosystem boosts employee productivity and engagement and drives organizational growth.

Lay a strong foundation to support employee learning and performance improvement. Check out this infographic to use EI Design’s learning and performance support ecosystem model as a map to drive organizational growth.