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As HR Leaders, you do not need to be told about the importance of people to an organization. They are your most precious resources, and provide you a competitive advantage through their knowledge, capability, talent and innovation. This is widely recognised, and so we hear a great deal about the “war for talent”, where organisations compete to attract and retain the best people.

Like any precious resource, if your workforce is well managed, they will deliver best value to the business. A well-tuned workforce adapts to innovation and adversity much faster, is more resilient, makes fewer mistakes, and corrects such mistakes much more quickly. Clearly a workforce like this is one that any HR professional would be very proud of.

Call to Action: Join our Q2 series of innovation, webinars and events on how you can climb to the peak and drive tangible benefits to strengthen your alliance with your CIO. Register here!

Over the next 3 months, we will be exploring these themes more closely, and would like to invite you to join us. We will be discussing how you can manage the following 6 key aspects, to ensure that you get the very best out of your people.

1. Multi-generational workforce and the relevance of the contingent worker

A reality of business today is that we need to cater for a multi-generational workforce, which implies a need to cater for different levels of expertise and to a certain extent, different priorities. Recent research shows that there are many myths about this topic, including millennials who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2020. Yes, millennials are different to Gen X and baby boomers, but the difference is actually smaller than many organisations think.*1 Regardless, there is a wide variety of people in your organization, and to ensure that they are able to work at their best, a variety of enablement options need to be deployed.

Today’s learners are spoilt for choice.  For example, “googling” for something new, looking things up in WIKIPEDIA, checking out a ‘You Tube’ video on how to assemble the latest home gadget – learning content must be easily accessible, in context, at the lowest cost possible and answering the learners’ needs. As we use multiple devices for online banking, online shopping, and so on, so learning must also allow for multi-modality these days.

According to a survey conducted by Oxford economics, the 2020 Workforce will be increasingly flexible.  83% of executives surveyed said they plan to increase use of contingent, intermittent, or consultant employees in the next 3 years forcing change on companies.*2 Look around in your organisation and identify your co-workers and you will find that these days freelancers, consultants, partners and contractors are filling hot-desks and are part of the day-to-day workforce delivering customer value. Workers who are part of this ecosystem – must have up-to-date skills, too, and so your approach to learning must cater for these people also.

2. Compliance

Let me draw upon the metaphor of a doctor using results from a blood test to diagnose an illness and then prescribe a remedy. Delays will occur if the doctor orders the wrong test, and serious consequences could result if the test’s results are untrustworthy. Using this metaphor, it is easy to understand the personnel and organizational risks that can stem from making decisions based on untrustworthy results.

If you in HR assess someone’s knowledge, skill or competence for health and safety or regulatory compliance purposes, you need to ensure that your assessment instrument is designed correctly and runs consistently.*3

3. Updating Skills Faster

Do you remember the last time you were introduced to a new person and immediately forgot the name of your new acquaintance?  Scientists revealed that while memories can be recalled several hours after learning them, they are inaccessible to us for a period. Whether on-the –job, formal or informal - learning should be a continuous exercise embedded in the culture of an organisation, to reap the biggest impact on keeping skills up to date. But, also in context. To remember the new acquaintance’s name, memories of where you met the new person and under which circumstances will increase chances of remembering their name. (Did I tell you that my name is Lejla?).

To be able to attract and retain the best workers, companies must rethink how they train and develop their workforce. They must make learning an essential tool in their competitive arsenal. And they must do so in an environment that is constantly in flux. Even the tools available to deliver training and development are changing so rapidly that it’s difficult for HR to adapt their services or measure their effectiveness. Yet they must do both.

Reshaping corporate training to meet today’s business challenges requires HR leaders to transform from service providers that deliver a product – training programs – into facilitators, helping business leaders, managers, and employees continuously acquire the knowledge, skills, and capabilities they need to achieve corporate goals and build successful careers. “Learning must become part of the ethos of your corporate culture,” says Dan Pontefract, chief envisioner with Canada’s TELUS Communications Co. “You should be thinking about how it can be reinforced every single day of the week.”

4. Supporting Self-directed Learning

Over the last 12 months I have been actively involved in the launch of one of our latest solutions “SAP Games for Learning”. With no background in gamification and frankly no huge interest in (computer) games, there was clearly a lot for me to learn. While I have not magically transformed into a gamer, I will be starting my latest MOOC ‘Gamification Design MOOC 2015’ by iversity in about 24 hours. I am excited!

So what happened? Let me start with what didn’t happened: I didn’t have a manager who told me to look for a 3-day gamification course to become an SAP Gamification expert. I also didn’t get a phone call from our finance teams that we still had travel budget to burn and I could look for training outside of Australia. There was no push of information. I needed to learn about this topic, and I needed to drive that learning for myself. This is not new – many people find themselves in this sort of situation when for innovative companies. Something new came up, and I needed to get up-to-speed fast in order to ensure I could play a valuable part in it.

Sound familiar? In a fast-paced business environment, employees don’t always have time to attend traditional classroom training or e-learning programs. Many prefer options such as video on-demand, digital asset libraries, mobile and other forms of just-in-time learning. Commonly called “pull” or informal learning, these just-in-time solutions differ from traditional “push” types of learning by enabling users to access required knowledge at the point of need and find compressed nuggets of content that can help them with specific tasks or workflow.*4

In my example, the MOOC didn’t appear out of the blue, the day I got introduced to the latest task, but this gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the topic first, learn on the job, read blogs, watch a few videos and follow some gurus on twitter which allowed for on-demand learning and fostered the interest I now have to complete a structured 8 week program.

I am no special case. Like many others, I am a motivated employee in a large organisation who wants to create my own opportunities and never stop learning. That’s self-directed learning in practice. What can your organisation do to enable this approach amongst your own employees?

5. Foster Social Learning and providing Learning Maps

The internet and mobile/social technologies have created attention span of seconds, rather than minutes and hours. Search engines like google have created the “I know the answer’ or the ‘I must know the answer now’, at the same time we live already in a world of information overflow. Using learning as an answer to a problem is particularly powerful. Coupled with the Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve which emphasises the importance of delivery knowledge in context (knowledge not put into immediately is very soon lost), this highlights the importance to foster a continuous learning culture. This can be achieved via social learning and new social learning platforms. If employees are using social technologies to meet their peers, learn new content in context, receive answers to relevant questions, technology can enhance the collaboration and connection of learner and expert.

6. Employee Engagement, and Combating Knowledge Drain

Employee engagement is not just about keeping employees happy and loyal, thereby saving money on recruitment costs. Companies with high level of engagement are more likely to have better business performance, more satisfied and loyal customers, and a more productive and profitable business. There are a number of key factors which have an impact on engagement, for instance, compensation and working environment have an influence. However, these are hygiene factors. Poor environments, and poor compensation are likely to demotivate your staff, but good levels in both are not necessarily why people will be motivated and engaged. It is important to have a talent management strategy in place, and one of the most important aspects of any talent management strategy is learning. Investing in the skills and knowledge of your staff will create a willingness in your staff to invest time and effort in your business, driving employee engagement.

If you are already doing all the above, congratulations! You are truly embracing and are living the culture of a Learning Organisation. In reality, most of you might be on a journey adopting some of the above. And, it is a not the kind of ‘walk in the park journey’, but maybe more the ‘climbing a peak’ – laborious, challenging, unforgiving journey. According to the Oxford Economics Workforce survey: Firms struggle to develop a learning culture within their organization. Only roughly half of executives say their company is capable of retaining, updating, and sharing institutional knowledge, and 47% say their company has a culture of continuous learning. Also, only 41% of employees say their company offers them opportunities to expand their skill sets.

So, what is the outlook if you persist and embark on the journey? What is in it for you?

You as an HR leader are a respected member of the management team. Your Line of Business is a true partner to other lines of business and the impact your team has on employees has got impact.

Call to Action: Join our Q2 series of innovation, webinars and events on how you can climb to the peak and drive tangible benefits to strengthen your alliance with your CIO. Register here!

How SAP Education Can Help
I’m not suggesting here that the answer is to send your employees on SAP training courses; the answer is simultaneously more complex and more subtle. There is also not one single correct approach here. Any solution will need to be specific to your organisational culture, and your specific demographics. Our Education Learning Architects help customers to use enablement to enhance employee engagement and retention.

Here are some things to consider. 

  • Create a learning culture – and be visible about your commitment to investing in your peoples’ learning – to help maximise your employees’ affiliation motivation.  What are you doing to improve your employer brand value?
  • Capture informal learning and build on it: remember that the majority of learning is done outside the classroom – how are you going to manage, improve and exploit this?
  • Encourage, recognise and reward high achievement – keep your best with you, let them know it, and let them show their peers how it’s done
  • Train your managers – people join companies, but people leave managers
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure – collect employee feedback regularly, and respond to it