Top 5 learning trends among African companies
21st March 2018
Lifelong learning, blended learning, just-in-time learning, just-for-you learning… Confused? Read on…
As we near the end of the first quarter, we’d like to share 5 insights around learning trends we’re seeing among our clients across Africa. This is based on data, experience and feedback from working with over 15,000 individuals and dozens of organisations across the continent. Then over the next few weeks, we’ll share a series of posts about future trends that we expect to emerge during 2018 and beyond. Watch this space…
1. Companies and individuals are getting comfortable with online & blended learning.
The past 12 months has marked a clear shift in how many African companies are thinking about technology and learning. AMI’s been offering online and blended learning for several years. But for the first few years, many companies were resistant. We had to work hard to explain to our clients why traditional training workshops alone just don’t work (read more about why in our report ‘Training Talent’). But recently, we’ve noticed a real difference. Companies like Nestle, KLM, SC Johnson and GroFin are tired of isolated training workshops and are seeking out a blended approach. They want programmes that include a web/mobile learning element, and support employees as they apply their new skills back on the job. Some companies, like Copia and Unga in Kenya, are even experimenting with online-only solutions for distributed workforces. We think online and blended is a great opportunity for a more practical approach to learning that’s embedded in real work, and are thrilled to see the tech-enabled learning that really makes a difference take off. Get in touch to explore how tech-enabled learning could work for you.
2. People trump everything – particularly in fast-growing companies
People are typically your biggest asset and your biggest challenge. That’s even more true for fast-growing companies. It’s no surprise that our most popular programme by far remains our Management Development Programme. MDP is a 4-6 month practical learning journey for middle managers, supervisors and team leaders that focuses on core people management skills. Our MDP is particularly popular with companies growing rapidly, like Qualihealth in South Africa, Pay-Go and Copia in Kenya. These companies often need to quickly promote within to support growth and have many first-time managers who quickly need to learn how to get the best out of their team. We expect this trend to continue into 2018, particularly as the Kenyan and South African economies start to pick up and companies look at ways to differentiate themselves through excellent teams. What these managers typically need most are soft skills – what we call personal habits. This reflects our survey of Kenya’s HR professionals in 2016, which showed that 21st-century work-readiness skills and management ability are more important than technical and functional skills. Many of our clients admit to previously prioritising technical and functional skills but have realised in recent years the need to shift their focus to the personal habits of their employees in order to unlock productivity within their teams.
3. Senior managers and leaders want to learn to manage change
Several of our recent programmes for senior managers and leaders have focused on change management or leading transformation. This has been driven by tough political and economic climates in some countries, rapidly evolving markets and the prevalence of high-growth companies in our client portfolio. Our ‘Action Learning Project’ approach allows managers on our Leadership Development Programme to work in teams on a problem or opportunity, that is often related to change within the organisation. Clients often cite the ALP as one of their most powerful learning experiences.
4. Setting Goals for Success
Our most popular single course in the last 12 months by people and programmes using it has been our ‘Setting goals for Success’ course. This course is designed to guide individuals through the goal-setting process and most importantly in creating effective plans to implement and achieve goals. We have seen that setting realistic training objectives may be the most critical, yet the most overlooked phase of the entire learning and development cycle. Most training programmes head straight to facilitating classes, causing a tendency to rush through formulating realistic learning goals and objectives. Our course provides participants with practical tools to help set and track their goals throughout the programme and their careers. By the end of the course, individuals are able to use a series of tools to help set and monitor goals for personal and professional life, or for their businesses.
5. Just-in-time learning
We started to sow the seeds of ‘just-in-time learning’ in 2017 and are seeing it take off this year. In line with global trends, the smartest companies are moving away from one-off training events to having learning on tap anytime, anywhere and allowing it to be driven by the individual employee. It’s bottom up, instead of top down. It’s flexible, adaptive, personalised. And most importantly, it allows employees to learn what they want, when they need it, instead of forcing everyone to take the same workshop at a time that suits the company, often at great expense and with little impact.
We’ve been watching this trend for a while, but like point one above, last year we really saw it take hold in our markets over the last year. Many of our clients completed one of our management programmes and then wanted more. Participants asked if they could continue to access our online content and coaching tools, many asked us to help them make learning part of the day-to-day culture, through skill-share sessions, group learning activities, or simply an online company learning academy. We’re thrilled to see this trend emerge because we think it’s where real impact will happen. It’s also much more efficient for companies that want to get the most out of limited training budget. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about introducing ‘just-in-time’ learning at your organisation. We’d love to explore with you.
Leaders see beyond what is to create what might be
I wonder what it’s like to work in the Post Office. What set me wondering was fetching a parcel on 12 May, posted in London on 1 November last year. On the one hand I was impressed that it reached me after six and a half months of travel. No one stole it. It wasn’t buried in a storeroom and eventually destroyed. It reached its intended destination. I didn’t realise this was still possible with the SA Post Office.
Customer service is the manager’s responsibility
I heard of a rural hospital that closed its doors to visitors on Freedom Day. A public holiday affords workers a rare opportunity to visit their loved ones during the week. In this case a man travelled overnight to see his father, only to be turned away: “It’s a public holiday; we’re closed.”
Viva the little people who create jobs and serve their communities
Dunvegan, a suburb east of Johannesburg, is bisected by a road with two large traffic circles. The circles feature attractive, well-designed and lovingly maintained gardens. That is both welcome and surprising, as the local government is not particularly known for its public gardens.