At a policy or macro level, one of the key labour market challenges that needs to be solved is the skills-gap. Across the world regions are struggling with both unemployment and unfilled positions at the same time. Employers are also faced with dilemmas about skills and training, especially if they want to stay ahead of the curve. 

Changing learning landscape

Driven mainly by two key developments, individuals and organisations are now faced with the trends of an increasing opportunity for learning by demand (on platforms like youtube, coursera), as well as the ever-evolving technology accompanying these platforms, which are now predominantly accessed on mobile devices. 

This plethora of options poses the challenge of how not to go too wide in learning, how to focus on the most needed, as well as desired skills and knowledge, and how this learning will ultimately benefit the organisation. 

The main questions to ask here are:

  • what is the current context for the learning
  • how to balance personal interests with organisational needs - current and in the future

Between a hard place and a rock

Quite similar to HR, unfortunately Training departments are often seen as a cost centre, and when there is a tightening of the budget, they suffer cuts. But as Scott points out, it is especially during the difficult periods that employers need to invest more in training activities, in particular in fast-paced environments and markets: what skills do our employees need to solve customers' problems? 

Hence one of the main focus areas of Scott: evaluation of learning needs and training effectiveness. Often companies are asking the wrong questions and tackle the issue from the training offer angle: what is available?

It is much more effective to ask questions about the needs of learners, as to what do they want to learn, what parts of current training programmes they already know, and whether the training programme reduced the amount of resources that are needed for them to do a good job? 

Collecting a lot of data, which seems to be a trend in every area alone doesn't solve the conundrum of identifying learning needs. 

Structural or individual?

One of the questions I am particularly interested in, is how often training is used to trying to fix structural problems within the organisation? Unfortunately Scott confirms my hunch, that this is indeed a frequent issue: organisations sensing that something is off, and then reacting with unleashing trainings on employees, whereas the problems are coming from other cracks, either leadership, processes or not adapting to the changing environment. 

Scott R. Frasard, Ph.D., is currently the Head of Contact Center Training at Harte Hanks and has worked in government, academic, and corporate organizations, in local, national, and international settings.You can connect with Scott on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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This podcast was created through our media partnership with the Work 2.0 Africa conference organised in Johannesburg on 3-4 October 2017. For more information please visit the conference website.