The Emerging Learning Organization
Organizations now and in the future must evolve into learning organizations in order to be competitive and profitable. To achieve this goal, organizational leaders must prepare managers, supervisors, and workers to be successful in a high-performance workforce. Eventually, everyone in an organization will evolve into a knowledge worker.
It is important to define some basic terms related to the emerging organization in order to better understand the concept. The terms learning organization, knowledge worker, and high-performance workforce are widely used in numerous industries. Although these definitions are standard, the terms often vary from industry to industry.
First, a learning organization is one that facilitates the learning of all members and continuously transforms itself (Morabito, Sack, & Bhate, 1999). Learning becomes an essential ingredient in the competitive strategy of the organization. Leaders must establish learning goals for employees at all levels so they can develop as knowledge workers. The term knowledge worker applies to workers who acquire, manipulate, interpret, and apply information in order to perform multidisciplinary, complex, and unpredictable work. They analyze information and apply expertise in a variety of areas to solve problems, generate ideas, or create new products and services (Helms, 1999). At one point in time, managers and supervisors would have been considered the knowledge workers in an organization. However, changing technology and work processes have resulted in more cognitive and affective responsibility for line-level workers. This has increased the knowledge role of workers at this level.
The knowledge workers in a learning organization set the work environment for the high-performance workforce. A high-performance workforce is quality driven and customer focused in order to ensure an economically viable future for the company and its employees. In a high-performance workforce, the diverse skills, knowledge, and abilities of employees are leveraged to improve the manufacturing process (Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, www.msscusa.org). Extensive training and modifications in all aspects of an organization are necessary for it to evolve into a learning organization. The primary goal of this project was to better understand the impact of basic skills training on line-level workers and the organization. A better understanding of this impact would enable more organizations to provide quality basic skills programming to their employees.