Today, more than ever, C-Suite executives are charged with delivering more with less while leading increasingly complex organizations in a rapidly changing, risk ridden, global economy. To survive and compete amidst such changes, organizations must recruit and retain employees who remain agile and adaptive by continuously learning new skills and knowledge.

C-suite executives can now turn to L&D to build a learning culture and use certain rules for choosing and developing successful business solutions. L&D organizations can play a pivotal role in organizational efforts to foster a learning culture and improve the bottom line by building and deploying this set of rules known as the “Learning Architecture.”

In the 2014 industry study, “The Learning Architecture,” David Mallon, SVP, head of research, and Dani Johnson, vice president of L&D research at Bersin by Deloitte, define learning architecture as a map of the learning culture of an organization and describe its components, structure and benefits to the bottom line. A learning architecture adds value by:

  • Mapping the agreed upon learning needs and L&D strategies in relation to the business needs
  • Helping business leaders prioritize and deploy resources to achieve business goals

According to this study, organizations that encourage a continuous learning culture show 46 percent overall improved business outcomes. Moreover, organizations with a strong learning culture outperform their peers across these key business metrics:

  • Innovation – 92% more likely to devise novel products and processes
  • Time to Market -56% more likely to be first to market
  • Customer Satisfaction -53% better response to customer needs
  • Productivity- 52% greater employee productivity
  • Cost-cutting -50% greater ability to manage costs
  • Profitability-17% more likely to be a market-share leader

To achieve such results, organizations need a learning architecture to map its learning culture. A learning architecture constitutes a bottom-line focused solution for executives and business managers to define a continuous learning culture that carves a specific path to achieve business goals in their lines of business and the organization as a whole.

The case of the Marriott hotel is a poignant example of how learning architecture for a specific audience results in a positive business impact for the organization. Marriott is a diversified hospitality company with over 3,700 properties in more than 74 countries. In their efforts to build a leadership program for its management associates, Marriott uncovered three key challenges: it had a large and geographically dispersed management associate audience; it could not train associates away from their customer-facing roles; and it had a history of using only formal type training programs. With a learning architecture, Marriott first defined its leadership audience to 26,000 associates and then, specified the business needs to offer more applicable and timely development opportunities, while curtailing costs and personalizing the learning solution to the individual.   Next, Marriott built the solution: an online leadership learning guide which maps all formal and informal activities to Marriott’s management core competencies and provides tools, quick tips, pivotal assignments, reading references and self-coaching guidance based on the learning needs of each manager. As a result, the company realized savings of $1.2 million annually and increased development opportunities for its associates. In addition, the learning architecture proved a win-win for all stakeholders. It helped L&D identify gaps and further improve Marriott’s learning curriculum by level, brand segment and continent. On the individual employee level, associates now increased ownership of their career development and professional growth.

A well-formed learning architecture is a learning culture map of an organization and includes all paradigms of continuous L&D C-suite executives can leverage to deliver more with less in a complex, global economy. A learning architecture is an effective solution L&D can offer to improve the bottom line.

Marina Theodotou Photo

Marina Theodotou is a learnings solutions manager at the American Management Association and is responsible for content development of B2C and B2B L&D solutions for Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations. She brings over 20 years of experience in training, program and project management, in the  L&D and  financial services industries in the private, government and non-profit sectors in many countries around the world.