What is a learning architecture?

Let’s be clear: the term ‘learning architecture’ is not just another industry buzzword. Getting it right can have significant impact on bottom line business results. Yet according to a Bersin study published earlier this month, very few organisations have a defined learning architecture to support workforce development. Why is this the case? Although the term ‘learning architecture’ has been around for some time, it seems that the concept behind it is not as well defined as it could be. So what is a learning architecture and how can it work for your organisation?

Definition of learning architecture

Bersin (2014) defines a learning architecture as:
‘An organisation’s unique map of agreed-upon learning needs, learning strategies and delivery strategies for all of its training.’

Why create a learning architecture?

1. To meet changing learning needs
To determine why a learning architecture is so important, let’s begin by looking at current learning trends. The modern workforce demands more from learning than ever before. In response, organisations are seeking to optimise employee development by creating an environment that supports all forms of educational and experiential learning using an appropriate mix of strategies, channels and technologies.

2. To do more with less
At the same time, learning must remain effective, efficient and aligned with overarching business objectives for success in the long-term. In the face of these wide-ranging and often conflicting variables, a plan for making investment decisions is unlikely to be enough. This is where a learning architecture comes into play.

3. To see the bigger picture (and inject some realism)
A learning architecture provides a complete picture of what people development looks like within your organisation and how it reflects your business values. It helps you clearly define learning needs, evaluate current approaches and resources, and determine the people, processes, technologies, and cultural inputs required to meet key objectives. Better still, it forces you to be realistic, limiting your options so you focus efforts on achieving optimum business results.

4. To achieve ‘high impact’
Bersin’s 2014 study shows that ‘a well thought-out, explicitly stated, and aligned learning architecture can have significant impact on business results’. Furthermore, a comprehensive, sophisticated architecture that links to company strategy and targets specific needs and capability of employees is 14 times more likely to be a high impact learning organisation. In effect, this means that getting it right can provide effective learning that is budget and timeline efficient and aligned with business goals.

How to create a learning architecture

So where do you start? If you are interested in finding out more about how to create a unique learning architecture to support strategic people development, have a look at our new insight guide which summarises the latest thinking on the benefits of learning architecture and what you need to consider to develop your own. For your free copy of our guide, please e-mail our Business Development Team at businessdevelopment@kallidus.com

Do you think that a learning architecture could benefit your business? Or do you have one in place already? If so, do you have any tips to share on creation or implementation? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.  Alternatively, you can Tweet us @Kallidus or visit our LinkedIn page.

Mallon, D. & Johnson, D. (2014). The Learning Architecture: Defining Development and Enabling Continuous Learning. Bersin.

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