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Sep 30, 2011

Innovative learning methods needed as technology changes workplaces

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The notion of learning is changing in the workplace, owing to the changing world of technology and its impact on learning and teaching.

High expectations from businesses have created a need for change in the current learning methods in the workplace to ensure employees skills are constantly developing. This will ensure growth of the company and profitability, states Deloitte global head of learning Nick van Dam.

He notes business drivers for building employees’ capabilities are affected by the pace of change, intensifying complexities, globalisation and emerging technologies.

“We live in a world with significant changes, some of which are rapid, and several uncertainties that can affect the manner in which business is conducted,” says Van Dam.

He raised the issue at the Future Learning Trends seminar hosted in Woodmead, Johan- nesburg, last week. Van Dam said technology had been a significant contributor to the change in learning methods over the past 20 years.

Creativity was cited in the ‘IBM 2010 Global CEO Study’ as a significant leadership quality for the next five years, he said.

Van Dam noted that technology requires creativity, which involves people and their competitiveness. Competitiveness includes knowledge, skills and abilities. This combination leads to the innovation of new products, new ways of conducting business and learning.

“Innovation is about having faith in the unknown and foreseeing the success of either the product or the system in future,” he explained.

Further, Van Dam noted creativity, competitiveness and innovation contributed to a balanced learning system; however, talent was challenging to retain, according to Deloitte’s ‘Talent edge 2020: Blueprints for the new normal survey’, published in April.

The study concluded that employees moved from current employers as a result of uncertain career paths, limited leadership development, lack of trust in the current leadership and inadequate training programmes for the growth of employees.

Such issues could be dealt with through the implementation of the next learning framework, which is highlighted in Van Dam’s book, titled Next Learning Unwrapped.

“The learning framework consists of 10% formal learning trends, also known as planned learning, and 90% informal learning trends, or spontaneous and on-the-job learning”, he states.

The formal learning trends include physical classroom learning, virtual classroom and webinars, self-paced and Web-based training and online assessment.

Informal Learning

This method of learning is less structured and takes place on the job. It is about moving into different roles within an organisation and allows the employee to be able to fulfil interchangeable roles.

Informal learning in the workplace can be conducted through career moves or switches, assignments, special projects, feedback from managers or trainers, and coaching and mentoring platforms.

“It can be done through on-demand learning, for example, podcasts and ebooks, job aids, learning videos, ecourses and recorded webinars. This type of training will grow and develop employees,” said Van Dam.

He noted that, globally, three-billion learning videos are watched daily.

Social learning has been refined by the intro- duction of social media and networking. Learning can now be conducted through expert directories, microsharing and tweets, interactive video, innovation and crowd sourcing, gaming and simulations, online communities and feedback on blogs.

Van Dam said the focus area for businesses is to ask how they can accelerate leadership development and skills training. Career-driven learning is important for organisations.

Leadership Development

Leadership development of employees is supported by the ethics and values of an organisation. This includes the support of physical and mental health, intellectual understanding, and the emotional and social competence of employees, he said.

He believes a blended learning system, which incorporates social and traditional learning, should be adopted to encourage new learning trends.

Deloitte is currently developing a social learning platform to provide recommendations of learning methods based on the type of business an organisation is involved in.

Also speaking at the seminar was Deloitte South Africa human capital director Ursula Fear, who raised concerns about the quality of education that entry-level employees have. But, she noted that organisations should change their hiring methods and stop recruiting only first-class graduates.

“Average graduates should also be priori- tised and offered on-the-job training and learning support to grow into fully fledged employees,” she said.

In closing, the Department of Higher Education and Training chief director of university policy Mahlubi Mabizela said the development of the South African economy depended on a proper learning/education system to produce future professionals.

“Citizens complain that government always approves policies but never implements them; I agree that we are currently faced with this challenge, but the research effort that went into establishing the policies should be applauded,” he said.

Mabizela said the South African government had decided to move towards a knowledge- based economy, as opposed to a minerals-based economy, to ensure long-term sustainability of the country.

However, this was a challenging task to fulfil, considering that a significant number of the country’s youth were unemployed and the majority did not have higher education qualifications or the necessary skills to be employable.

Further, the lack of artisan skills and technical skills posed a threat to the growth of the economy. This was a historical issue for the country because of the manner in which university degrees were glamorised over further education and training college qualifications, he said.

“The challenge facing the education system is, after democracy, we were quick to change the education system to prove that we are making change. But the outcomes-based education system was politicised; hence, it has not been as effective as was anticipated,” said Mabizela.

He said the Department of Higher Learning was planning to build higher learning institutions in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga in the near future.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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