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Learning At Work

Learning At Work by Richard Teare
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This issue is dedicated to ‘‘learning at work’’, arguably one of the most significant enablers of business strategy now and in the future. Speaking on the theme of ‘‘learning and leadership’’ at a recent corporate event, a UK board director talked of his firm’s drive to become the world leader in brewing. His view was that the growth needed to achieve this objective could only be achieved by ensuring that learning for everyone – not just organizational leaders – received top priority. How is this to be achieved? The indications are that the major firms in hospitality and related industries are creating their own learner-centred structures, sometimes called corporate universities, corporate business schools or ‘‘own brand’’ learning initiatives.

For possibly the first time ever in an international hospitality management journal, this issue profiles the rise of corporate business school structures in major hospitality firms, from both professional and practical perspectives. Eight of the nine articles are co-authored by organizational leaders and learning specialists from the major firms: Compass, Granada, Interbrew, Rocco Forte Hotels, Sodexho USA and Whitbread. Each in their own way is using accredited action learning to facilitate the development of large scale, learning designs, facilitated and certified by the University of Action Learning at Boulder (UALB), Colorado, USA. How do these initiatives differ from the post experience courses offered by other universities? First, the approach here uses an embedded system called IMCA Socrates2 second, the learning designs are customized to meet the dynamic requirements of the workplace; and third, the process celebrates professional (rather than academic) excellence.

Gordon Prestoungrange, Chancellor of UALB, poses the question, ‘‘Why do managers learn best at work?’’ He considers the factors that are driving the switch from mainstream higher education to internalized corporate university/corporate business school structures and reviews the reasons why managers learn best using a customercentred curriculum. He profiles the role of the Internet in ‘‘democratizing’’ knowledge access and the signs of maturity and progress that characterize the emerging corporate structures for learning at work.

The ‘‘learning at work’’ theme is developed in the next four articles, interlinked by coauthor Richard Teare. With Stephanie Monk the changing nature of managerial and organizational work is explored in relation to the opportunities that this affords for learning from change. The article concludes that a logical step is to create an internal template for learning that mirrors the business challenges and realities and that this can be used as a basis for affirming the company’s own agenda for learning via an internal business school structure. With Jane Neil, the state of organizational readiness is related to the type of infrastructure needed to support effective corporate learning. It is argued that true customization requires a learner-centred, questions-driven approach that lends itself to the principles of credit accumulation. Here, ‘‘credit’’ is used to recognize the achievements of the individual learner and to track return on organizational investment in learning. With David Pantin the practicalities of crafting and implementing a learning design are considered. This approach begins with the organizational priorities and draws in participants who are able to address these and their own learning needs, certified by an externally accredited award. Finally, with Chris Rayner, the process of organizational change is related to the opportunities to align strategy and learning that this affords. The article concludes that a learner-centred knowledge network is the best way to capture and utilize ‘‘experience from doing’’ as well as ‘‘new knowledge’’ generated by learners as they find, develop and implement solutions to problems.

Alison Winch and Hadyn Ingram present a model of leadership maturity in which individual learners draw personal meaning from the events around them. The article concludes that action learning has real power to facilitate ‘‘sense-making’’ in the workplace, but that learning effectiveness depends largely on the individual’s level of maturity. Practical insights on learning at work are revealed in the next two articles. Debby Hudspith and Hadyn Ingram provide a corporate case example of a customized approach to learning design, with reference to a model of the key issues to be considered before, during and after an in-company learning initiative. Finally, Richard Teare, Hadyn Ingram, Gordon Prestoungrange and Eric Sandelands, contend that high performance in terms of managerial learning, attainment and return on investment in learning can be readily achieved using the process of action learning. They provide a case study illustration of how one UK hospitality firm secured a significant return on investment during the early pilot work for IMCA Socrates, a corporate business school solution designed around an embedded system for accredited learning at work. In the concluding article, Harry Lenderman and Eric Sandelands draw together some of key the strands of thinking, strategy and action reflected in this collection in their ‘‘call for action’’ article: ‘‘Learning for a purpose: building a corporate university’’. Among other themes, they appraise the role of ‘‘e-learning’’ and, looking forwards, they foresee an expanding role for the corporate university in management development, team development and strategy implementation.

We sincerely hope that you will enjoy this leading-edge collection of articles from the workplace campus.

Richard Teare
Hadyn Ingram

Previously published in: International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Volume 14, Number 7, 2002

Emerald Publishing Limited; Read online
Title: Learning At Work
Author: Richard Teare; Hadyn Ingram

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