How do you build a continuous learning culture in an uncertainty ridden world? In an interesting Fireside Chat session at People Matters L&D Conference 2021, Simon Brown (Chief Learning Officer at Novartis) and Sriram Rajan (Head of Novartis Learning Institute in India) shared the challenges that industries and learning professionals face, and their bid to build a continuous learning culture even as the world grapples with uncertainty.
Learning and learner challenges in the uncertain world today
Learning skills have evolved over the years and with the current pandemic, there has been a new scope for it and virtual working. However, there have been some broad challenges that organisations have faced regarding learning.
Skills expiring or becoming irrelevant in a shorter time frame
Brown addressed the issue surrounding the rapid change in skills that organisations have to work around to stay on par with learner development. Almost a quarter of the skills that we rely on will be irrelevant in the next 3 years. For learning professionals it is then becoming imperative that they provide the right kind of environment for employees to access learning in and ensure that they continue to grow.
Organisational changes in the virtual environment
As present day learners' consume at a rapid rate, organisations have been pushed to consistently reinvent themselves. The roll out of new and engaging content is key in keeping learners engaged.
Learner's perspective - How is this relevant to my role/ job?
Rajan further conveyed how learners consume a lot of content with everything they read and engage themselves in, but fail to understand the relevance of it for their development. The creation of the balance where the skills acquired are relevant to the learners growth and the company itself.
Learning a professional's perspective - how do we continue to reinvent ourselves and champion the organization?
As skills become irrelevant and new skills come in, learner professionals need to be consciously engaged and continually evolve to bring engaging content for learners.
Learner engagement - how can one prevent burnout from learning
As this is the main area for improvement in regards to virtual training in 2021, the avoidance of burnout from learning in organisations is in incorporating curiosity, as a key part of culture. Brown spoke on the benefits it can bring, the effects it had at Novartis and how people reported less stress, less burnout and a higher inclination of adaptability to new routines.
Attention span and fatigue
The challenges some learners face arise from the fatigue of staring at a screen the entire day. Organisations will need to design more engaging learning content that does not wear learners out and easily captures their attention.
Learners are unable to pause, realise and go back to see whether much of what they are consuming is what they are really applying to their work. Due to the attention on consumption lately, especially when looking at the increasing certifications one holds, the organisation's challenges start there.
Rajan then went on to say how “A lot of the burnout happens today because we’re just too busy consuming. In our attempt to be relevant and stay relevant, stay updated, we’re just too busy consuming.”
One of the key tactics to address the challenge was to integrate learning into the daily rigmarole, such that there is no disjointed “learning” slot. Employees can be learning and working at their own pace and at the same time.
This idea is to:
- Go back and state the equal importance of learning new skills and applying them to the job.
- Move from consumption focus to implementation focus.
How does one create a learning culture?
Creating a learning culture in an organisation is an important and complex process. Brown stated the importance of data and how learning skills need to be invested in, because of the probability that skills in an organisation have a shelf life. By investing in them, the organisation secures its position by staying up to date in the market against other competitors. A learning culture can be achieved through:
- Flexible environment
- Safety of communication
- Guidance and recommendation from the company
Rajan further emphasised the lack of a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to learning, where organisations constantly have to figure out what the learners want and how to stay in tune with them. Through focusing on the learners agenda the more focus it creates for the business agenda, which allows them to gauge how much is needed to implement. On the other hand, Brown expressed his view on the feedback gained which is what Novartis has mainly used.
In conclusion, although there are several challenges in learning, addressing the relevant skills needed, the company’s goals and facilitating a learning culture will be advantageous to the organisation.