Organisational learning is key to telcos’ success in the Coordination Age
Developments in technology and organisational digital transformations increased the pressure on learning and development (L&D) departments in telcos. L&D departments, many of which were compliance-focused, were tasked with upgrading telcos’ entire skills inventories to ensure that workforces were fit for new ways of working (e.g. AT&T’s “Workforce Reskilling” effort announced in 2016).
What was perhaps under-appreciated initially was that the need for L&D would not go away:
- Telcos continue to operate in dynamic environments that are inherently unstable (e.g. pandemics, climate crises, new and evolving technologies);
- Traditional telco revenue streams have remained under pressure, requiring new and innovative thinking to identify opportunities for growth.
The VUCA acronym (first coined in 1987) – standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity – provides a useful framework to describe the current telco environment.
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The telco’s highly VUCA environment
Source: STL Partners
Telcos have made changes to organisation structures in order to accommodate this reality, e.g. “flattening” the organisation and decentralising decision-making to accelerate the pace at which organisations can take action (absorb change and innovate).
Additionally, they are recognising the importance of learning to this process. Workforce skills must remain relevant and collective corporate intelligence must evolve to decide and inform winning strategies.
This type of “organisational learning” requires conscious efforts on the part of both the organisation and individual employees. It is not enough to make L&D the sole responsibility of an L&D team, or an HR department and to task them with identifying appropriate content and courses to push out to employees.
Organisations need to foster an environment where learning is encouraged and enabled in pursuit of organisational improvement, customer satisfaction, innovation and growth. After all, it is impossible to improve/do something new without learning in the first instance. Learning tools, processes and practices are required – and barriers to learning should be removed.
Learning barriers can include:
- L&D teams creating bottlenecks to learning (e.g. restricted course access)
- The existence of knowledge silos
- Beliefs that “knowledge is power”
- A lack of clear goals around using knowledge/new capabilities for improvement (i.e. learningto create behaviour change)
- No incentives for individuals or teams to engage in learning
- Uncertainty about processes for capturing and sharing learning
- Fear of failure inhibiting trials in order to learn something new.
This report considers the key practices associated with organisational learning and identifies lessons from telcos who are progressing towards becoming a learning organisation.
Table of contents
- Executive Summary
- The value of organisational learning
- Enabling organisational learning
- Types of learning in organisations
- Organisational learning in practice
- Learning as an organisational priority
- Identifying learning purpose
- Content-based learning
- Person-led learning (knowledge sharing)
- Process-led learning
- Trial, reflection and practice
- Recognition and rewards for learning
- Towards learning organisations