Sue Nador, a partner of NVision Consulting Ltd. in Toronto, specialists in people issues, change and communication, says team learning can work but organizations need to make it happen. A good start is to identify organizational qualities and behaviours of team members that enhance team learning and help to create a learning culture.
Nador’s criteria for success in the promotion of team learning include:
1. Team-oriented behaviours
. Being a member of a team that wants to learn as a group comes with certain responsibilities. Team members need to think not only about their own needs, but also the needs of others. Being part of an effective learning environment requires the following:
: Every employee has a responsibility to read, attend conferences and do research to maintain a currency of knowledge and skills within one’s role. This includes sharing this knowledge when the employee leaves so that it is not lost.
: Every employee has a responsibility to be approachable, to answer questions of other team members and to have a keen desire to help others learn and succeed. This includes recognizing that team success can bring greater gains than individual success, and that offering information or resources, often unsolicited, will help others. An organization can integrate these behaviours into performance management and compensation programs.
2. Risk-oriented culture
. Team learning is more successful when management is open to change, encourages innovation and supports the taking of risks within reasonable limits. It makes a big difference when a work environment encourages employees to challenge the status quo and involves them in changes that could benefit the organization.
3. Committed managers
. Team learning can be a success if there are managers committed to the process who regularly schedule time to review work issues and challenges, past successes and failures. This means managers need to involve employees in the analysis of work problems to ensure they learn from their own experiences and those of others.
4. Recognition programs
. Many organizations are introducing recognition programs, and those that have a commitment to coaching, teaching and helping others can reinforce team values.
5. Team-based compensation
. Similarly, compensation systems that recognize team effort and success also reinforce organizational commitment to the team.