Yellow Seed webinar discusses accelerated learning: what works and what doesn’t

What fails in accelerated learning is the lack of active involvement and application.

In a webinar hosted by Yellow Seed Consulting experts discussed practical examples for how to accelerate learning for the new reality, how to create cultures of learning through addictive learning design, and how to identify learning needs proactively to cater for the predicted skills gap.

Learning scientist and author Professor Nick van Dam, Old Mutual group talent and learning executive Sanjana Joshua, Yellow Seed Consulting head of learning and development Ryno Zeelie and Yellow Seed Consulting head of people development professor Lome Koekemoer, shared how to achieve outcomes and give your people the skills and adaptability they need for the changing future of work.

Ryno said the burning question is, “Why do we need to accelerate learning? And a good way to illustrate that is the skills shortage – which is a reality in South Africa at the moment.”

He explained that South Africa’s GDP has declined by 43 percent in the last decade and the unemployment rate has increased by 32 percent, thanks to Covid-19.

“Studies have found that digitisation creates a great opportunity for growth and new jobs, but what we are seeing is that South Africa and many other countries are lagging behind with the types of skills required by these jobs.”

Ryno said that even though the studies are saying digitisation is creating more jobs, the narrative in people’s heads is that their unemployment is because there are not enough jobs. He added that the new world of work requires new ways of doing things from organisations, individuals and government.

What can organisations do to accelerate learning for their employees?
Nick said that learning is both formal and informal. Formal learning is organised by the L&D department, and depending on the organisation and country, it is about 20 to 40 hours a year.

“I would argue that even if you take it to 40 hours it is still not sufficient to keep most people relevant in their existing jobs,” he said.

Nick said one of the things organisations need to embrace is unlearning for all cultures, and to recognise that everyone on the payroll needs to be developed, no matter who they are.

“Employees spend a lot of hours at work. What if the L&D teams turn the workplace into a learning place? And what if people learn something new every day by doing their job? L&D teams need to design work in a way that people are learning and growing every day. The last thing would be how we can help people develop mindsets for lifelong learning.”

Sanjana shared that from an organisational perspective it all comes down to being embedded in the business strategy, and if people don’t get that right, the learning agenda will not take priority in any organisation.

“In our organisation we have found that our exco members and senior leaders endorse the learning agenda, and I think that is critical to ensure that when we are accelerating learning across an organisation as big as ours. One cannot do it through the L&D and human capital function alone, one needs to influence across the ecosystem. And it starts with the senior leadership endorsement.”

Sanjana added that the reskilling agenda should be top of mind for any CEO and if it is not, organisations have a challenge.

“At Old Mutual reskilling is really critical for our 2030 strategy and we have built in the reskilling imperative, put money and investments behind it, and got sponsorship. As human capital team members we need to influence that a lot harder.”

What works and what doesn’t in accelerated learning
Lome emphasised that having clear sponsorship throughout every single project design is very important.

“The next thing that is just as important is line manager involvement, whenever we run projects specifically on accelerated learning. As much as you work with the learner, you need to work with the line manager equally. If you are not working with the line manager it is going to be difficult for learners to apply what they are learning back at work.”

She explained that designing blended learning is important, and should incorporating theory and interaction that includes peer learning, mentoring and coaching.

“We have had tremendous success with learning integration sessions where there is no theory but just facilitated conversations where you share your struggles and find out how others are dealing with things,” she said.

Ryno concluded that what often fails in these accelerated learnings is the lack of active involvement and active application.

“Where it often falls flat is the transfer back to the business. It's pointless if we are upskilling and reskilling, but it’s not adding to the return on investments for the organisation,” he said.