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Beyond E-Learning: How HR Can Move Staff to the Next Level

Have you ever watched a musical where the orchestra was a little off and not playing to the tempo of the actor? You noticed. And it was BAD. But, what if the orchestra had played in tempo with the actor? Would you have really noticed them? Probably not. Human resources (HR) and organizational development (OD) are the orchestra behind the production of a company, and each department is a leading actor. When HR and OD are even a little misaligned with the departments they are supporting, it is obvious. Good HR and OD partners make the show go on without a hitch. Great HR and OD partners make the departments they support look even better and ultimately enhance the performance.

Ticking boxes is good…

How do your HR and OD initiatives support the company, departments, and individuals you serve? Are you focused on ensuring your organization has appropriately skilled staff through ongoing mandatory in-services? Are you a reporting whiz who ensures that when your organization is audited you have all your mandatory staff training completed and in compliance? That’s great. You are matching your department’s tempo and ensuring that they tick all the required boxes.


Going above and beyond is better

Here’s the crux. Great HR and OD business partners don’t just support their departments, they enhance their overall performance. They move from considering if the department was compliant with hiring and training protocols into determining how to enhance individual and team performance through employee development beyond employee training. When learning is embedded in the culture, it becomes much more than just taking courses.

For healthcare organizations, a culture of learning matures into a culture of safety for employees and patients. Reinforcing continuous learning and development in a culture means that people aren’t afraid to ask questions. They aren’t afraid to ask another employee who doesn’t accept the flu shot every year what influences their decision. They aren’t afraid to speak up in the operating room when they see the wrong incision site draped. A culture of learning gives employees permission to be curious, to challenge the situation, and to speak up about errors as well as learn from them. In fact, in the AHRQ tool, the Hospital Survey of Patient Safety Culture (HSOPSC), it includes a section linked to continuous learning and specific items such as, “We are informed about errors that happen in this unit” and “In this unit, we discuss ways to prevent errors from happening again.” While this tool is often used in the United States in hospitals, it has been adapted for other settings with more generic language for facilities. It has also been used in other countries like Saudi Arabia to identify ways of improving a health system’s Patient Safety Culture. In-depth analysis of responses can influence system-level interventions for improving the culture of safety. For example, in the study, there were marked differences in perception of patient safety depending on staff role. Understanding a nation’s cultural nuances can also be key to unlocking patient safety, particularly in situations when hierarchies are embedded in the cultural schema. Developing a culture of learning that matures into a culture of safety requires intentional crafting of an environment that recognizes that humility is the foundation of learning.

So, full disclosure here: I work for company that provides e-learning, so why on earth would I be claiming that e-learning doesn’t solve every organization’s problems? Well, the answer to that question can be explained most easily in a simple analogy: Give a bad driver a new Corvette, and the fact that the driver is driving a Corvette makes little difference to the success of his driving as compared to if he was driving a well-loved Subaru. The shiniest, newest technology is only as powerful as the person commandeering the technology and the environment he/she is operating in.

When learning is embedded in the culture, it becomes much more than just taking courses.

The same is true any time HR and OD departments buy new software. The software and content may be a Corvette, but without a good driver, the purchase of a Corvette doesn’t solve any problems. But in the hands of a capable race car driver, the Corvette’s potential is maximized.


Preparing HR and OD teams to intentionally shape, refine, and support a culture of learning followed by providing top-of-the line tools drives better outcomes. It takes both the organization’s culture and tools to maximize performance – with a culture of learning as the prerequisite.

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