HR Indaba Conversations hear how leaders can drive a learning culture


HR professionals discuss what it takes to develop a learning culture in their organisations.

At an HR Indaba Conversations session on leaders and creating a learning culture sponsored by Mercer, Abey Kgotle, HR executive director at Mercedes-Benz SA, kicked off the discussion by stating that the Covid-19 pandemic has truly demonstrated how resilient we as humans can be.

“We had to quickly learn how to adapt and reinvent ourselves in order to demonstrate that we are capable of surviving beyond the pandemic,” he said. “We never imagined we’d get to this point with a hybrid working mode. Covid-19, on the other hand, has given us a beautiful gift, the gift of how we as leaders can learn and improve our leadership styles in the future.”

He added that managers have had to move from a space where they used to manage people from the office to managing them remotely. The silver lining is how leaders have unlearned how they managed businesses in the past, and to never waste a good crisis.

Mercedes-Benz, as an old brand, had to transform into a liberating organisation in its journey of learning, and to accomplish this, the team underwent a reverse learning experience, which received positive feedback.

“Participants expressed how rewarding, refreshing, and enriching it was to learn from other people. Learning from both experienced and inexperienced people is critical, and this is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. Digitalisation also improves the learning and employee experience, making it more appealing to millennials to learn,” Abey said.

He pointed out that life as we know it will never be the same again, and that we must simply adapt to a new reality. “There will never be a return to the status quo as we know it; hybrid work is a part of business today. It works, and people can still deliver in a hybrid model and even outperform. We need to keep the hybrid working mode going,” he explained.

Linda Roos, group head of human capital training at ooba, told participants that the first step toward learning is to make it a core value of your organisation, which sets the tone for the type of business you want to build. “If you have the luxury of changing values, do so and make sure they speak to learning,” she said.

According to Linda, one way for leaders to drive a learning culture is to encourage people to think for themselves and asking people to think critically is a smart and inexpensive way to do so. “Hire curious people with learning agility; in order to prepare for the future, we need to look for people who can learn and adapt,” she explained.

She says that even while we are learning, it is important to normalise and reward learning and that the learning experience doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise.

“Learning can be as simple as reading a book; people must be given a variety of learning options. The goal of learning is to encourage people to learn for the benefit of their personal and professional lives.”

According to Kim Usher, HR director at Illovo Sugar, HR leaders are too entrenched in their ways, and the most difficult challenge is changing the way they learn.

“Changing the way we learn is the most difficult challenge in HR, and leaders are at ease with this. Businesses create learning cultures when they understand their learning capabilities. Collaboration, individuals needing to understand what they need now, self-motivated/self-directed learning, and personal mastering skills are examples of learning culture characteristics,” she said.

“Co-creation also accelerates learning by obtaining executive leadership buy-in and making the learning process exciting,” she added.

Attendee, Zogan Opperman, HR director at Tsebo Solutions, said that as an HR leader, he has decided to incorporate learning into his overall business strategy. “Through my work in the hospitality industry, I have made the client the focal point of my learning strategy. “Putting the client first enables you to learn, understand, and improve on what you deliver,” he explained.

“The goal of learning is to become more enlightened after each meeting and gathering you attend, and platforms like the HR Indaba Conversation are excellent places to learn,” he added.

Seen in the chat
“A good way to assist the learning culture, is to understand your organisation’s learning agility. It makes you aware of the different areas that you can harness learning.” – Keshnee Reddy-Chetty, ICE TECH.

“100 percent Keshnee. We have managed to get a clear view of a least 50 percent of our people’s learning agility. Now I know where I need to focus on growing agility (it can be grown).” – Linda Roos, Ooba.


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