Introduction The revolution in information technology and the diverse workforce environment have been rapidly accelerating the global transformation of the competitive business environment, hence raising the need for organisations to pursue the competitive advantage that lies in learning and knowledge. Organisational learning and effective knowledge management in organisations help in generating and sustaining competitive advantage and lead to the creation of new markets and niches. Knowledge management refers to the planning, organising, motivating, and managing of people, procedures and systems in an organisation so that the organisation’s knowledge-related resources are improved and utilised in an effective manner (Wang & Ellinger, 2011, p.
512). On the other hand, the action of obtaining, integrating, disseminating and creating information as well as knowledge among an organisation’s members is called organisational learning. The relationship between organisational learning and knowledge management can be viewed in various ways. Wang and Ellinger (2011, p. 512) consider knowledge management to focus on the content and organisational learning to focus on the process. Organisational learning can also be viewed as a goal of knowledge management. Whichever way, organisational learning is complementary to knowledge management and has several benefits to an organisation.
This paper examines the importance of learning in organisations. To understand this better, it will be prudent to briefly examine the concept of organisational learning. The concept of organisational learningThe concept of organisational learning simply focuses on the process of acquisition of knowledge or skills through formal or informal means in the workplace. This includes both informal workplace learning and formal on-the-job training. As Panagiotakopoulos (2011, p. 351) explain, organisational learning is the practical approach to developing relevant knowledge and skills for the benefit of individuals and the organisation.
It is a corroborative model whereby management and employees in organisations jointly address skills development through the process of social dialogue. In its full development form, organisational learning implies carrying out training needs analysis and establishment of individual development plans from the training needs analysis. Thereafter, employee development can meaningfully be aligned with organisational development. Ideally, the concept of organisational learning does not focus on the correction of short-term job-performance problems. Rather, the real benefits of organisational learning align workers’ skills development goals with organisational objectives of achieving a sustainable learning organisation and developing a culture of continuous improvement (Malloch 2010, p.
348). This leads to a significant improvement in an organisation’s performance in the long-term. The importance of organisational learningOrganisational learning has numerous benefits to any organisation. To start with, it helps to improve the quality of skills of the workforce, leading to an improvement in service delivery performance. According to Eraut (2010, p. 8), learning in organisations leads to an increased feeling of professionalism among the personnel and a greater probability of their career progression.
This increases efficiency in service delivery, leading to better utilisation of resources. Further, it enhances workplace relationships leading to improved team cooperation, coordination and performance. This can well be illustrated by the performance of the Taylor’s Fish, a small organisation based in the UK. It employs 14 persons and sells fish and chips (The Conference Board of Canada, 2009, p. 11). Several years back, a lack of skills among the employees made it difficult for the organisation to produce high quality products and services and to compete effectively in its industry.
The two patrons of the organisation recognised the critical shortfall in skills and took the responsibility to introduce the relevant training to the workers. Consequently, customer satisfaction increased and the organisation recorded lower operational costs and a tremendous improvement in sales (The Conference Board of Canada, 2009, p. 11). The training contributed considerably to employees’ confidence, resulting in them being accorded greater respect and contributing to an improved feeling of self-esteem among workers and customers.