Role of Learning in Organization

Learning in Organization
Learning is a continuous process. It occurs all the time. Learning is any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience. Learning is not only important to employee but also it is important for managers. It plays a vital role on training in organizational settings. It assists in optimally developing the talents and for effective performance. They guide the employees to engage the management to accomplish the goals. By means of learning, employees get confidence at work. Similarly, employee's behavior can be changed to improve their job performance, knowledge about work, attitudes, values and ethics of profession etc. On the other hand learning is not only important for organization and employee. But also it helps in social enlistment. Learned and cited workers extend the social reputations of organization. It can extend the brand loyalty of customers towards organizational product.

In simple words, learning is any relatively permanent change in behavior that results from reinforced practices or experience. It is very essential component in both human and organizational lives. It is a cognitive, effective and physical process as all complex process and behaviors are learnt.

The important characteristics of learning includes:

  • Learning involves change: The process of learning initiates change in an individual which can be desirable or undesirable from organization point of view. Favorable and unfavorable behaviors may be learnt during learning process.
  • The change should be relatively permanent: The temporary change in an individual resulting to reflexive behavior for certain period doesn't involve learning. It requires permanent change through reinforcement.
  • Learning results change in action: Learning involves change in action. If the change in individual's thought processes or attitudes doesn't change the behavior, it can't be termed as learning.
  • Experiences initiates learning: Experiences acquired directly through observation and practice or indirectly through books and conscious attention initiate the learning process.
Organizations need people with learning capacity to adopt and cope to the changing dynamic environment. Learning is directly related to the development, maintenance and change of employee work behavior. an organization should deploy individual who are intelligent, knowledgeable, creative and are directed to achieve goals through intense learning process. Apart from learning to work through training and development, an individuals should learn norms and values of organizational culture. Thus, learning brings permanent change in behavior and mind set of an individual which is directly or indirectly related to OB in terms of increasing competency, self efficiency, HRD (Human Resource Development), behavioral change, leadership ability, technological adaptation, change management etc.
Cognitive Theory
This theory was given by Edward Tolman. He held that learning involved a relationship between cognitive environment cues and expectations. Cognition implies a conscious or deliberate process of acquiring knowledge through perceiving, imaging, thinking and reasoning. The theory implies learning as a purely an outcome of the thinking process and the act of knowing an item of information that cues to respond the expected goal. The theory was developed after experimentation on rats in laboratory. He showed that rats learned to run through complicated maze towards a goal (food), it was observed that rats developed expectations at every choice point in the maze. Thus, they learned to expect that certain cognitive cues related to the choice point could ultimately lead to food. In this situation, where rats got the food, the relationship between the cues and expectancy was strengthened and learning took place. The theory differs from classical conditioning (S --> R) and operant conditioning (R --> S) theories as the theory emphasizes learning is the result of relation between cues and expectancy (S --> S). The impact of theory on organization setting includes great impact on the human relation movement and motivation of employee at which with the establishment of relation between cognition and organizational behavior. 

Tolman approach is also called as stimulus-stimulus approach. These experiments embarrassed the behaviorist learning theories. Reinforcement failed to predict rats behavior and it was no longer a prerequisite to learning. One stimulus lead to another stimulus rather than classical S-R or operant R-S interpretation. Indeed the rat behavior was purposive. In other words, they learned a cognitive map to determine how to reach food.

Tolman made significant contributions to learning theory by forcing the behavioristic theory to evolve highly complex explanation of behavior and indicating the need to include cognition in a mediating role between the environmental stimulus and the behavior. These theories exerted a strong effect on early human relation movement.

Social Learning Theory
The theory states the combination of cognitive, behavioral and impact of environmental forces in learning. Individuals can also learn by observing what happens to other people and just by being told about something as well as by direct experiences. The learning occurs by observing other and modelling the behavior that leads to favorable consequences. It accounts for behavioral modeling approach to learning as people can learn from watching their seniors, parents, models, teachers, peers, superiors and so forth.

This theory combines and integrates operant conditioning and cognitive theories. the operant conditioning assumes behavior as the function of consequences and the cognitive theory focuses in the factor of how people perceive and define consequences for learning process rather than the consequences themselves. 

While social learning theory is an extension of operant conditioning i.e. it assumes that behavior is a function of consequences. It also acknowledges the existence of observational learning and the importance of perception in learning. People respond to how they perceive and define consequences, not to the objective consequences themselves.

The influence of model is central to the social learning view point. Four processes have been found to determine the influence that a model will have on an individual. These are:
  1. Attention process: People only learn form a model when they recognize and pay attention to its critical features. We tend to be most influenced by models that are attractive, repeatedly available and we think are important or we see as similar to us. In other words, the degree and intensity of attention paid influence the process of learning.
  2. Retention process: A model's influence will depend on how well the individual remembers the model's action, even after the model is no longer readily available.
  3. Motor reproduction process: After a person has seen a new behavior by observing the model, the watching must be converted to doing. This process then demonstrates that the individual can perform the modeled activities. Thus, the watching of modeled activities must be practically performed and demonstrated to initiate learning.
  4. Reinforcement processes: Every individuals will be motivated to exhibit the modeled behavior, if positive incentives or records are provided. Behaviors that are reinforced will be given more attention, learned better and performed more often.
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