Concept of Learning

Learning occurs all the time. All complex behavior is learned. Understanding of how people learn is needed to predict behavior. Organizations need people with learning capacity to adapt to changing environmental forces and new technology. Learning influences individual behavior.

According to Stephen P. Robbins and others, “Learning is permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience.”

Learning is permanent change in behavior. It is acquired through practice, training and experience. Change in behavior indicates that learning has taken place. Learning occurs throughout one’s life. It results from a person’s interaction with the environment.

Significance of Learning

The significance of learning is, obviously, for people and organizations. For people, it changes the behavioural orientations such as knowledge, skills, values, personality and competency and so on that are essential for achieving organizational goals. In organizational settings, learning is significant for the following reasons:

To understand and predict behavior of the people at work- without learning experiences, it is difficult to manage people in the organization.

To manage and work in diversity- in today’s workplaces, people from diversified backgrounds, groups, cultures and countries work.

To adapt to the changing technology- learning is important to manage knowledge worker, computer programmer, telecommunicating and virtual teams.

Total quality management (TQM)- People concerned with quality management which requires learning in the organization.

To facilitate organizational change and development- external environment like globalization, technology and demographics for change in the organization. Such changes force managers and workers to learn to reconfigure organizations to adapt to such situations.

Factors Influencing Learning

Learning is relatively permanent change in behavior resulting from experience, training and practice. The factors that influence learning are;

  1. Motives: Motives are drives that prompt people to action. They energize behavior. They represent mental feelings of human beings. They determine the direction of individual behavior. Learning cannot occur without motives. An individual should be motivated to learn and should have interest and aptitude to learn.
  2. Stimuli:  They are objects in the environment in which a person lives. Environmental objects provide stimuli through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feelings. Stimuli increase the probability of getting a specific response from a person. It should be clearly understood by the learner.
  3. Response: Stimulus results in response. It is the act which the learner performs. It should be physically observable. It can be in terms of attitudes or perception.
  4. Reward: Learning should provide reward to the learner. It can be monetary or non-monetary. It provides incentives to learn. It satisfies motives of the learner. Promotion, personality development and opportunity to work in challenging jobs are rewards.
  5. Reinforcement: Reinforcement is anything that increases the strength of response. It includes repetition of learned behavior. It is fundamental conditioning of learning. Both positive and negative reinforcement result in learning. Favorable organizational climate positively reinforces learning.
  6. Retention: It is remembrance of learned behavior over time. It is learning not forgotten. It leads to relatively permanent change in behavior.
  7. Repetition: Practice through repetition increases learner’s performance. Opportunities to practice help learning.
  8. Feedback: Feedback about performance of the learner facilitates learning. Actual learning performance should be compare with standards of performance.