Shared from the 5/10/2021 Financial Review eEdition

Build resilience with a learning culture


Some organisations have handled the tumultuous challenges of the past year better than others but every organisation now faces an inevitable but unpredictable future of change. In such an environment how an organisation approaches learning and development for its employees has never been more critical.

When an organisation changes the way it operates, it requires new skills and capabilities to do so effectively. In a world of rapid and potentially seismic change, organisations that do not adjust their approach to learning and development will struggle.

The learning and development imperative is not new. Whether in the form of the office automation of the 1980s, the ‘re-engineering’ of businesses in the ’90s or the onset of the digital economy in the 2000s, evolving workplaces and business models have necessitated reskilling, training and professional development to reflect changing work practices.

According to US-based Training Industry, a company specialising in resources and education for learning and development professionals, the global corporate training market was valued at $US370.3 billion in 2019. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Training Industry estimates that the market contracted by 5 per cent in 2020, but it expects training activity to rebound this year.

A report by research firm Facts and Factors forecasts that the global e-learning (electronic learning) market – encompassing digital-based learning in the school, higher education and corporate training segments – will grow from $US144 billion in 2019 to $US374.3 billion by 2026.

“[R]apid transformation in technology and disruptive innovations has led to the tremendous demand for continuous skilling and upskilling,” the report states.

Researcher Imed Bouchrika, writing on research portal Guide2Research, says training has become an integral part of workforce development, employee performance and organisational competitiveness, noting that “intellectual capital is valued just as much as physical and financial assets”.

“Training and development is most effective when implemented strategically, which involves content development, method of delivery and integration of technology,” Bouchrika writes.

To remain competitive, continuous learning has become imperative in creating and maintaining a sustainable advantage.

Nick Petch, head of learning experience design and strategy at digital learning company imc information multimedia communication, says a “big shift” is needed in organisations’ approach to learning and development.

“For many organisations, the core skills and competencies that drive their organisations have shifted and changed almost overnight. Overcoming these challenges means radically changing the way learning and development occurs,” he says.

“The past year or so has shown that organisations that can readily change and adapt are the ones that succeed. This has always been the case, but with recent events organisations understand that the way they have been approaching learning needs to change from being a ‘nice to have’ to becoming an ongoing commitment and cultural necessity that spans well beyond just digital learning itself.

“Organisations that continue to view learning only from a perspective of compliance and reducing errors are missing out on the true purpose and benefits of learning and development.”

Part of the shift required in instilling a culture of learning and development for the post-COVID era is recognising that traditional approaches to training are no longer fit for purpose.

Petch urges organisations to place their focus on learning rather than training, which he defines as the reinforcement of existing rules and routines.

“While training leads to predictable and measurable performance outcomes, this is less relevant in an ever-changing world,” he cautions.

“The world’s knowledge is moving so fast that it cannot be codified and distilled into training or single courses. Organisations that focus on their capacity to learn are going to be the most successful at change.”

Strategy is an essential component of building that capacity.

“A learning strategy becomes the guiding light that empowers the organisation to evolve in more meaningful and targeted ways,” Petch says.

The adoption of a successful strategy starts by enabling organisations to shift their mindset and perspective towards learning.

“For many organisations, learning situates itself solely around the consumption of content, when in fact it’s how employees, managers and leaders come together to enact learning through specific behaviours, attitudes and experiences,” he says.

“It’s by doing this that smarter, more informed decisions are made about the innovation of infrastructure, tools, methods and practices towards the way employees work and learn.”

Learning, according to Petch, occurs not through a single intervention but through “a multitude of experiences” taking place over the entirety of the employee life cycle.

“Learning must become deeply embedded as a way of working. When the act of learning becomes a habit rather than an intervention, individuals and groups begin to adopt learning as a way of being within their role,” he says.

With international experience and expertise honed over more than 20 years, imc’s product and service portfolio includes learning management suites, bespoke campaigns, self-authored content solutions and learning strategy.

“We make learning better by redefining the way people learn,” Petch says.

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