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An Empirical Study to Understand Organisational Learning within a Non-State Sector Higher Educational Institution in Sri Lanka: A case study of XYZ Ltd

Purpose – In today's evolving business world learning has become an obligatory trend for both individuals and organisations to maintain sustainability and growth. The aim of this research is to empirically examine organisational learning through
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  1 | Page  An Empirical Study to Understand Organisational Learning within a Non-State Sector Higher Educational Institution in Sri Lanka: A case study of XYZ Ltd Rasmi Sheriffdeen Department of Management Business Management School Colombo 06, Sri Lanka  Abstract  Purpose  – In today's evolving business world learning has become an obligatory trend for both individuals and organisations to maintain sustainability and growth. The aim of this research is to empirically examine organisational learning through a comparative evaluation and asses the ability in generating organisational benefits.  Design/methodology/approach  – The survey will be carried out among employees of a private sector higher educational institution using web-based questionnaires. While, Senge’s five disciplinary model to appraise organisational learning within the selected organisation.  Finding  - The results demonstrate a positive understanding of organisational learning within the selected organisation. Further recommendations are made to promote continuous improvement and support long term business goals, innovation and the ability to deal with change.  Research limitations/implications - A learning culture is one with personal and career development values that supports and encourages individuals on growth. This report is a single case study while  further study could be focused upon the importance of learning patterns for growth and effective results.  Practical implications  – It is crucial that higher educational institution set learning goals that advance the organisation’s mission married into individual career development paths. This nurtures an environment that rewards knowledge sharing and empowering staff to enact their duties more effectively. Originality/value - This study primarily contributes towards understanding organisational and continuous learning and its benefits towards enhancing the quality of service offered by the chosen higher educational institution.  Keyword  s: Organisational learning, Higher educational institution, Continuous learning  Article Type - Research paper I. INTRODUCTION In the evolving business world, organisational learning has become a centre of attention in management literature. Today learning and change are intertwined for both individuals and  2 | Page  organisations, where learning transforms us while change requires learning (Campbell & Armstrong, 2013; Gamlath, 2013; O’Keeffe, 2002; Massey & Walker, 1999; Argyris & Schon, 1996). Meanwhile, Montgomerie, Edwards and Thorn (2016) articulate that human capital is recognised as a sustainable source of benefit, therefore organisations invest significantly on employee development to maximise their returns. The purpose of this research is to observe organisational learning through a qualified evaluation and identify its capability in generating organisational success. According to Patterson (2014) a learning organisation is the term given to a company that assists the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. Nevertheless, development of a learning culture is becoming an established subject matter in the strategic plans of many organisations (Patnaik, Beriha, Mahapatra & Singh, 2013; Findlay, McKinlay, Marks & Thompson, 2000). This  being so, the author intends to explore the nature and extent of organisational learning in a higher education institution in the private sector in Sri Lanka. In addition, the objective of this study is to examine the dimensions of organisational learning as experienced by different categories of employees represented within the selected organisation. A. Why a private sector higher education institution? Today higher education in the private sector generates an attention driven education system that targets lifelong learning that establishes the country’s capacity to embrace the benefits of a knowledge based economy. However, successful education systems will focus on learning rather than teaching, crafting and enabling an atmosphere that encourages creativity, develops the quality of basic education and provides opportunities for lifelong success (Kasturiratne, Lean & Phippen, 2012; Jordan, 2006). Meanwhile, the government performs a major role in the provision of higher education services in Sri Lanka, although the competence of the state university system is limited (IPS, 2016). This being so, the government has increased the opportunity for higher education in the state university from 21,547 in 2010 to 25,200 in the year 2015 out of which 120,000 students who qualified for university have been abandon and enter private sector universities and institutions to fulfil their higher educational aspirations according to their financial statue (Kelegama, 2017; Wickramasinghe, Peiris & Peiris, 2015). Meanwhile, Ambepitiya (2016) claims that the government has invited the private sector to invest in education for approximately 100,000 who seek further studies annually through the private sector education system. Accordingly over time, several factors have caused private sector education institutions to expand rapidly as government universities are  plagued with frequent strikes, agitations, government corruption and violence resulting is regular closure of campuses (Ambepitiya, 2016; Liyanage, 2014). However, the existing Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) are either institutes registered under the Ministry of Higher Education as degree awarding instructions or unregistered HEIs that operate  3 | Page  outside the purview of the Ministry of Higher Education (Dahanayake & Gamlath, 2013; Kelegama, 2017; Wickramasinghe, 2018). Henceforth, it is evidence that the country’s literacy rate is around 92  per cent as of 2017 (World Bank, 2017). In a parallel argument, Ambepitiya (2016) applauds that all higher education providers in the private sector have established affiliations with different foreign universities and they follow their own quality assurance systems and standards. Nevertheless, due to the demand for HEIs the author will focus on a selected private sector HEI XYZ Ltd, which has been in existence for the past fifteen years in Colombo to understand their organisational learning culture. Next the author will focus on the literature review. II. Literature Review A. Definition to Learning According to Kolb (1984), “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience where Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it”(as cited in Kolb, 2015, p.41). However, learning may be defined as a positive change in an individual’s behaviour as a result of experience (Rossum & Hamer, 2010). Thus the concept of learning is observed from different perceptions such as individual learning, training and development processes and knowledge management. Alternatively, learning outcomes and lifelong learning have become increasingly recognised as an important factor to achieve continuous improvements (Cebrián, Grace, & Humphris, 2013; Tam & Gray, 2016). Table 1 below depicts the learning theories; Table 1. Learning Theories Behaviourism Cognitive Constructivism Social Constructivism View of knowledge Knowledge is a repertoire of  behavioural responses to environmental stimuli. Knowledge systems of cognitive structures are actively constructed  by learners based on pre-existing cognitive structures. Knowledge is constructed within social contexts through interactions with a knowledge community. View of learning Passive absorption of a predefined  body of knowledge  by the learner. Promoted by repetition and  positive reinforcement. Active assimilation and accommodation of new information to existing cognitive structures. Discovery by learners. Integration of students into a knowledge community. Collaborative assimilation and accommodation of new information. View of motivation Extrinsic, involving positive and negative reinforcement. Intrinsic; learners set their own goals and motivate themselves to learn. Intrinsic and extrinsic. Learning goals and motives are determined  both by learners and  4 | Page  extrinsic rewards provided by the knowledge community. Implications for teaching Correct  behavioural responses are transmitted by the teacher and absorbed by the students. The teacher facilitates learning by  providing an environment that  promotes discovery and assimilation / accommodation. Collaborative learning is facilitated and guided by the teacher. Group work. Source: Author developed (2018) based on Boström and Lassen (2006) Learning at the organisational level happens through shared insights, knowledge, and mental models and builds on the past understanding and practice of organisation members as the knowledge  possessed by an individual may share with other individuals in an organisation and indeed to other organisations as well (Cebrián et al, 2013; Dierkes et al, 2003; Kolb, 2015). However, according to Locke and Jain (1995) not all organisational activities and performance are results of learning. While development in performance may be a result of organisational learning as well as of a number of other  possible factors, such as generally good business climate, default by competitors, economies of scale, regulations, strategic choice, or simply good management practice (Baum, 2001). Organisational learning (OL) is a means where employees within an organisation involves in an uncertain situation and explore into it on behalf of the organisation (Baum, 2001; Dierkes, Antal,Child, & Nonaka, 2003). According to Garvin (1993) OL is an organisation's skill at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge and transforming itself to reflect new knowledge and insights. Despite this Isaacs (1993) articulates that in the current uncertain environment, utilizing the shared intelligence of members in an organisation is compulsory for solving complex problems experienced  by organisations. Fig. 1 below illustrates the organisational learning cycle; Fig. 1 Organisational Learning Cycle  5 | Page  Source: Author developed (2018) based on Yadav & Agarwa (2016) The above diagram recognises four elements as integrally correlated to OL: understanding attainment, information sharing, information analysis, and organisational memory (Yadav & Agarwa, 2016). They further claims that learning need not be conscious or intentional. However, learning does not always increase an individual’s effectiveness, or even potential success (Baum, 2001). Similarly, it is individuals that create organisational transformation (Dodgson, 1993; Locke & Jain, 1995). Moreover, organisations which provide importance to learning gain better adaptability in being able to immediately develop new opportunities in the market (Baum, 2001; Slater & Narver, 1995; McGill, Slocum & Lei, 1992). Alternatively, Lim, Song and Yoon (2014) believe that continuous learning is embedded in the organisation’s structure, culture and the organisational behaviour. In the upcoming section the author intends to discuss Peter Senge’s five disciplines model to analyse the organisational learning and the concept of continuous improvement. B. Senge’s five disciplines The purpose of the model is to describe how to manage the success and development of a company where people frequently develop their competence to create the results they desire, where new and expansive models of judgment are cultivated, ambitions are set free, and continually learning how to learn together as an organisation (Arnold & Wade, 2015; Bui & Baruch, 2010; Senge, 2004; Örtenblad, 2007). Eventually, in order to achieve the above goals organisations should focus on the five components know as systems thinking, mental model, shared vision, personal mastery and team leaning (Senge, 2004). Next, the table 2 below will highlight Senge’s five disciplines components; The organisational Learning Cycle Widspead generation of informationIntegrate new/local inforation into organisational contextCollectively interpret informationAuthority to take responsible action on the interpreted meaning
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