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Creating a Learning Culture, Where Individuals Can Perform Their Best
January 14, 2020
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Why is it important we keep learning?  Whether we like it or not, we are learning every day:  it might be a new way of buying a product or using a phone that has updated technology. All this change and innovation means we need to embrace learning. BY Kirstin Furber

The world we are living in is complex, competitive, fast and busy. In such an environment, it’s critical organisations focus on learning and constantly develop their capability. Many organisations have adapted their learning model from one of traditional classroom teaching to a blended learning approach including face to face presentations, coaching and learning whilst doing. 

These methods embed learning quickly and fit better in busy workdays. There are also some skills we can’t go on a course to learn, especially in digital space, as the work has not been done before and therefore the learning is very much on the job, through trial and error.

With the ability to learn its critical for organisations to remain competitive, adapt and stay ahead of the competition, how do we create a learning environment that supports individuals being their best? With the five characters of human culture as a foundation, I believe companies need to focus on the following five areas:

1. Purpose: Purpose provides organisations with a direction, a mission to get behind, and the opportunity to communicate how each employee’s role contributes to that purpose.  A clear purpose also provides ‘guard rails’ and focus.  When everyone is learning, creating new ideas, and developing as individuals and as a group, it’s easy to get off track. Having a clear purpose that everyone understands and buys into means that ideas can flourish ‘on strategy’ and be translated into action

2. Authentic Leaders: We know leaders are important role models, in everything they do and I have blogged before about the importance of authentic leadership.  Leaders have an opportunity to create an environment of learning through ‘bringing the external in’ and by ensuring the organisation does not get too internalised. Reading and sharing, participating at conferences, bringing speakers in to contribute new ideas and perspective, and by creating an environment of curiosity where it is safe to ask questions, is the perfect environment for learning to take place.  Remembering that they should always be open to learning also enables leaders to learn from their teams. After all, one of the best ways to learn is to have your thinking challenged. It’s important to be open to doing things differently and to update your perspective as the world changes. Authentic and vulnerable leaders who admit they don’t know everything, keep learning. 

3. Telling your story: Learning is about sharing and translating lessons learned into every day operational best practice.  Organisations that provide ways for individuals to share their learning with others both informally, e.g. at team meetings, and formally (through films, podcasts, or via company intranets) allow this translation of learning into the organisation to happen in the most organic way possible. This helps learning embed in the organisation.

4. Diversity: We all learn differently, and its critical organisations taken this into account. Some of us like to read about a subject in-depth, form views and then debate, others like a planned learning approach with many different forms of content: video, discussions, face to face sessions. The reflectors among us can get annoyed with a discussion group full of extroverts’ whist the extroverts are feeling very much in their comfort zone. Companies should enable time for reflection and processing as part of learning as well.  Cultures, physical and mental health, and learnings styles all need to be considered alongside how best to use technology to customise learning so it lands well-enabling people to engage with it for maximum impact.

5. Workplace: Finally, where do you learn best?  Traditional learning used to always be offsite, but with budget cuts and because of people’s productivity suffering if they’re out of the office for long periods of time, this has changed. Training has moved to ‘bite-sized’ learning with different views on timing, ideally no more than 90-minute learning sessions, for individuals to learn best, as outlined in this article.  Some of us like to learn at home, in the cafe, with others, in the office.  With learning being produced, delivered and customised through a variety of learning platforms, opportunities for where and when employees can learn are expanding. Some of us are better at learning in the morning, others in the evening, we should factor that into our learning approach. What is the best period of time to learn? To brainstorm? To make a decision?  To create an environment where employees can learn, all of these factors need to be considered when developing a curriculum.

A learning environment does a number of things: it builds capability to drive performance and helps attract the best because of an attractive development offering. It also helps retain the best because they grow and develop by utilising new found skills in a number of ways, especially when promotions or pay rises aren’t an option.

Creating an environment where it is easy to learn goes a long way to creating an environment where people can be their best selves at work because an environment where everyone can learn is one where everyone can flourish.

Kirstin Furber – Chief People Director of ClearScore

Unison Survey Results: Skills for the Future
January 14, 2020
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UNISON has released a comprehensive report on its research into public service workers’ experiences, hopes and fears around learning, training, and the future of work.

UNISON Learning & Organising

The Skills For The Future survey was undertaken by the University of Exeter’s Marchmont Observatory on behalf of UNISON. With over 38,000 responses, the survey was the biggest of its kind, beating UNISON’s own record of 27,000 responses in its 2011 Skills For Life survey.

Survey respondents were overwhelmingly keen to learn, with half stating that training had improved the way that they did their job, and over four fifths saying that they were ready to learn new skills.

Respondents fear that they are not being provided with the training they need to keep up with advances in technology and other changes in the workplace. They are also worried about the risk of redundancy, with over a third believing that it was ‘very likely’ that their position would be made redundant within the next three years, and three fifths believing that automation is putting public sector jobs at risk.

More than one in every ten survey respondents said that a lack of skills or confidence in literacy or numeracy had stopped them applying for a promotion, taking on extra responsibilities at work, or asking to attend training.

But the research also suggested that the main problem was one of under-utilisation and that most workers had skills greater than those needed for their job, but were prevented from progressing in their careers by a lack of in-work training.

Two thirds of respondents thought that their computer and digital skills needed improving, and nearly half identified a need for training in managerial or supervisory skills.

The report has been released in the same week as the Labour Party’s commitment to paid time off for employees to access education and training, and its promise to improve careers advice for adults.

Teresa Donegan, head of learning and organising services, said, ‘The most precious asset that any employer possesses is its staff, and that’s an asset that should be invested in. We often hear what industries and employers want from the workforce. What makes this research unique is the fact that this is the voice of the workers. Staff have told us what they need. Now it’s up to the government and to employers to listen.

‘UNISON is justifiably proud of the learning we offer our members, and we support thousands of people every year through free learning opportunities. But we shouldn’t be filling the gaps left by employers shirking their responsibilities.’

Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary, said, ‘Cuts to further education and adult education have meant that too many people are barred from progression at work and in everyday life. This research shows that it’s causing real damage.’

Skills for the Future: Executive Summary

Skills for the Future: Full Report

Skills for the Future: Presentation