Businesses ‘must develop strategies to encourage lifelong learning’

18 Jan 2018 By Miriam Kenner

MERIT L&D summit hears how technology, self-directed learning tools and experiences all have a role to play

A culture of lifelong learning is essential to encourage employees to develop their skills as they work longer and deal with rapidly changing technological landscapes. But exactly which strategies will help L&D departments get more employees more engaged with learning in the future is very much open to discussion.

At the MERIT Always-On Learning Summit in Portugal this week, learning experts and other L&D professionals pondered a variety of ways businesses could use technology and a better understanding of neuroscience to improve the learning experience in the long term.

The ideas being aired were highly varied. For example, Dr Robert Dobay – business thinker and co-founder of ManageMentor – said encouraging employees to be self-motivated in their learning and introducing self-learning tools would be essential. Meanwhile, Jim van Hulst, EMEA director of learning and development at Johnson Controls, felt encouraging people to learn from each other (an extension of the idea of ‘social learning’) would create self-sustaining networks of learners.

Dasha Kraft, IBM’s lead for learning and development Europe, said that development was increasingly crucial for employee brand: “The expectation is set when you’re hiring people.”

She said that “personalisation, adaptation and customisation” through L&D technology could help businesses develop stronger employee value propositions. AI offered a particular opportunity to emphasise the human aspects of learning, she added.

IBM, said Kraft, undertook extensive benchmarking of its L&D offerings to ensure they remained attractive. And demonstrating to business leaders where the company’s learning technology might be falling behind was an excellent way to stimulate investment.

A radically different vision for the future of learning was offered by JB Kurish, senior associate dean at Goizueta Business School, and rower Jason Caldwell. They advocated the idea of “powerful experiential activities” that elevate knowledge, resulting in “lasting and applicable” outcomes for businesses.

Caldwell, captain of the four-person rowing team that holds the transatlantic world record for the fastest crossing, told delegates how a storm had left him and his colleagues facing a life-or-death situation. But it had also taught them essential leadership skills, and coming through an experience together had a transformational effect on their development.

Leadership programmes that raise managers’ performances require an understanding of the neuroscience of leadership, as well as the theory and practice of cutting-edge leadership models, the pair said.

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