The pandemic has accelerated the future of learning, HR leaders heard.
In a webinar titled “Post-pandemic L&D”, made possible by Oracle, Dr Roze Phillips, director: value creation and African futurist at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Rob Bothma, strategic business solutions engineer at Oracle, and Colvin Breda, learning design partner at the UCT Graduate School of Business discussed the skills organisations need to focus on to build an agile and resilient workforce.
Colvin’s opening comment was that it is important that organisations don’t only consider what skills people need for the future, but how these skills are taught in our organisations, and ultimately, how these skills are being acquired.
“The pandemic has accelerated the future of learning and a lot of it has moved to the online world where we are challenging the well-known tested ways of learning. So the future of L&D will require us to think about how we learn digitally – both asynchronous as well as synchronous and in bite sized pieces, or micro pieces or nano learning – and how we get delegates and learners actively involved in the learning process and create self-urgency and self motivation in employees.”
Colvin shared some of the skills needed in the post-pandemic future and made reference to a McKinsey report where they identify the skills under five themes:
- Cognitive skills: critical thinking, communication, mental flexibility
- Interpersonal skills: leadership, teamwork and effectiveness
- Self leadership: self awareness and self management skills,
- Entrepreneurship: ownership and decisiveness
- Digital skills: digital fluency, digital literacy (the ability to interpret, analyse, but also the ability to use data to inform decision making)
Lessons from the pandemic
Roze said for the people who were digitally accelerated, and had, for example, access to Teams, Zoom and had all the digital skills, it was much easier to transition to working from home and have autonomous teams, because people knew what they needed to do and did not wait for instructions from their managers.
“But that in itself wasn’t enough, because you could still have people sitting there waiting for the manager to tell them what to do. So, the real change happens when you flatten the organisation, and you create entrepreneurial environments, so that people are autonomous, can think for themselves, and then can very quickly pivot to the new world of work.”
Approaching the L&D strategy
Rob said one of the challenges in organisations is understanding what skills they’ve got. “And the reason I say that is because a lot of employees have skills that aren’t used in their jobs, and organisations focus on the skills for the job. The fact that somebody is doing a short course in graphic design, for instance – all those sorts of skills are often left off, to the detriment of the employee.”
What Rob finds debatable in this whole thing about planning for the skills of the future is that, “Two years ago, none of us knew that we would be hit by a pandemic and all the skills that will be required. So, I advise organisations to not get hellbent on ‘This is our five-year plan and it’s concrete,’ – it’s something that’s moving all the time and nobody could have predicted it.”
He highlighted that what they noticed at Oracle when they looked at designing their system, was a fundamental flaw in HR solutions.
“And the reason is that they are built for HR and that in itself is a fundamental flaw, as strange as it sounds. We say the system needs to be a system of engagement. It’s a system built for the employees, with HR as primary users, but the system has got to centre around employees.”
Rob said that in this whole culture change, employees are going to start saying, “This is my career in this organisation, but I need to take control of my career. But the organisation needs to enable me to do that and that's where technology comes in. Has the organisation got a library? Can the organisation allow me to look at a career plan? Will the system recommend to me learning against the career plan? Will it identify mentors for me as part of that?
“Employees also need to quickly recognise when their managers are not offering training, upskilling and reskilling courses and say, ‘Okay, I'm going to train myself, I can enrol for any course.’ We need a culture that is going to take ownership for things to move,” said Rob.
Roze said you can have the technology but if you don’t have the philosophy that says that you have a learning culture, you will not go far. “And this is where HR plays a massive role in changing the fundamental mindset from an organisation that is focused on just results and an organisation’s responsibility to each shareholder, to actually becoming a place where people develop.
“The development of an employee is just as important as the results that they are able to contribute. But that development requires you to take ownership yourself, but also for managers to think about their roles as mentors, and not necessarily just as managers of people.”
Colvin added that at the heart of culture and behaviour change is the acknowledging that when you are teaching adults and engaging in learning, ultimately, there needs to be transformation.
“In terms of culture, HR, peers and colleagues, what’s important is that we develop a new language of skills but the challenge for us is to go and convince the leaders within our organisations,” he said.
Ending the webinar, he added “So, I think, the encouragement in your organisation is to come up with a new language of skills that makes it easier for us to lobby and advocate for learning and the future of learning within our organisations. The other one is to be proactive and to borrow some kind of intent.”