The Learning Organisation: Promoting a Healthy Environment

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There is little doubt that organisations are heavily investing in their Learning and Development programs, attempting to stay agile and adaptable in the increasingly complex world of work. Those organisations who are able to capitalise on developing employees see an impact on performance, productivity, and motivation. Those who are not creating learning environments are falling behind – attraction and retention of talent is challenged, the inability to keep apace with advances in technology impacts productivity, and people are less equipped to perform at a sustainably high level.

This is not a new insight. In 1993, David Garvin wrote for the Harvard Business review:

‘In the absence of learning, companies—and individuals—simply repeat old practices. Change remains cosmetic, and improvements are either fortuitous or short-lived.’

This is as true today as it was then, and in an age of constant flux and change, organisations who successfully unlock a learning mind set are better equipped to adapt, grow and execute.

At an individual level, a learning mind set empowers employees with the mental plasticity needed to work and grow. When an organisation supports continuous employee learning, they are better able to think critically, take the right kind of risks, experiment with new ideas, and learn from experience – which may include mistakes, as well as successes. Not only this, but it has been shown in numerous studies that lifelong learning has a positive impact on people’s health (for example, Schuler and Desjardins, 2007; Field, 2011) Some of this work examines the effects of learning upon factors such as self-efficacy, confidence or the ability to create support networks; others address factors such as earnings and employability.

At the organisational level knowledge management is critical, alongside an accelerated learning mindset that is supported and valued by the organisation. For learning to be more than a local affair, knowledge must spread quickly and efficiently throughout the organisation. What sets organisations apart are those who are able to convert an individual’s expertise into a collective knowledge available to the entire organisation. When translated into the collective a dynamic, innovative, resilient and robust workplace is created.

Learning organisations have the ability to create, support, encourage and transfer knowledge; updating actions and behaviours to reflect the new knowledge and insight. When individuals can disseminate new knowledge throughout the organisation for incorporation into day-to-day activities, the organisation benefits. As Scott and Price outlined in McKinsey Quarterly:

‘Healthy organisations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time.’

As part of the model, Healthy Place to Work investigates the extent to which an organisation has an active learning mind set, and how that mind set is perceived by employees. Added to this, the wider methodology allows organisations to showcase their investment in learning and development, which has an impact both on their people internally, as well as attracting talent. Healthy Place to Work can help you to capitalise on the investment you are already making, as well as identify the strengths and opportunities within that investment.

If you want to know more, drop us an email at for more information.


Field, J. Researching the benefits of learning: the persuasive power of longitudinal studies, London Review of Education, 2011, 9:3, 283-92

Garvin, David. Building a Learning Organisation. July-August 1993. Harvard Business Review.

Keller, Scott and Price, Colin., Organisational health: The ultimate competitive advantage, June 2011, McKinsey Quarterly

Schuller, T. and Desjardins, R. Understanding the Social Outcomes of Learning, Paris 2007, Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development