Turing individual learning into organizational learning

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What is individual learning?

Individual learning is the learning that occurs by employees – the experiences that they gradually develop that allow them to perform their tasks more effectively, accurately, and quickly. 

What is organizational learning?

Organizational learning is the learning that occurs at the firm level – gradually improvements in the processes and practices that allow the company to gradually improve its practices. Organizational learning is connected to the learning curve – essentially explaining how the company is able to produce products with lower costs as time progresses, 

The danger of lost individual learnings

While organizational learning is in part underpinned by individual learning, the danger is that if employees turn over, that learning is lost. If learning is entirely resting on individual experiences, with limited formalization into organizational practices, then if they were to leave the organization, the firm looses that experiences. 

Approaches for turning individual learning into organizational learning

While there is a danger that organizational learning is lost as a employees turn over, there are ways of capturing that learning and formalizing it within the organization:

Documenting the learning

The first approach to transforming individual learning to organizational learning is to document the practices. Getting it down on paper keeps the record – allowing it to be replicated by others. 

Encouraging employees to share their improvements with others

Another approach to transfer the learnings from one employee to the broader organization is to encourage social sharing of the practices. If others are made aware of the improvements in the processes, the organization becomes more robust should any one individual leave the firm. 

Formalizing the learning in routines and procedures

A connected approach to help ensure that routines are developed and followed within the organization. Having consistent practices, followed by multiple different employees can again help keep the learnings within the organization – transforming individual learnings into overall organizational learning.