The importance of learning journeys

12 August

If our current COVID-riddled world has amplified anything, it is the importance of learning. Now more than ever, businesses and employees are learning to respond to increased digitalisation, changing markets and evolving customer needs. Our ability to learn and adapt to change has become the biggest source of competitive advantage.

In 2019, the International Labour Organisation’s Global Commission on the Future of Work stated, “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.” The commission urged investment in education and training, with ‘lifelong learning systems’ needed to address the challenge.

Whilst we all acknowledge the importance of learning, all too often its deprioritised.  LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report for 2020 states that 49% of Learning and Development Professionals believe that getting managers to make learning a priority for their team is a challenge.

At SoftEd we have long been proponents of learning journeys. This is one of the reasons we offer the largest range of ICAgile accredited programs globally – ICAgile’s learning roadmap supports professionals in both technology and business domains on their quest to become agile. SoftEd recognise that this is a journey and that agility will not happen after just one course.

Successful learning journeys take the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ components of learning and adds the all-important ‘how’ element.  This makes learning ‘sticky’. It changes behaviours and operationalises the change. At a foundational level we learn about what agile is and the key principles then move on to using some of the tools and practices with that foundation in place. The aim is to keep learning, gaining experience and building mastery in the agile mindset.

The martial arts phrase ‘Shu-ha-ri’ is often used in the agile community to describe the process of learning. When we begin learning, we start at the ‘Shu’ stage where we gain an awareness and understanding of the principles. At the ‘Ha’ stage, we can explore further using the foundation principles as a base. At ‘Ri’, we learn from our experiences and can experiment and adapt as we see fit.

Done well, a learning journey connects individual professional development with business imperatives. A study on the State of Frontline Leadership Research from and Development Dimensions International showcased that only 9 percent of HR professionals rate their organisation’s development program as very high when they offered open course enrolments. In contrast, when a journey-based approach was used, 91 percent approval rate was given. Benefits included alignment with business strategies, establishing a common and shared language, and the creation of a culture of continuous learning.

When planning a learning journey, here are three areas to consider:

  1. Identify business priorities and imperatives
  • What are the key objectives for the company and how will they impact on the required team and individual performance?
  • How can you build a culture of continuous improvement and learning in your team?

2. Identify team deliverables

  • What project/product releases are planned? What learning or additional skills are required for them?
  • How can we measure performance and the impact of learning?
  • How can we integrate formal and informal training? Training, communities of practice, mentoring etc.
  • How will we reinforce learning?

3. Identify team capacity/capabilities

  • What succession planning, career advancement is needed?
  • How can we grow our team capabilities?
  • What stretch goals are needed?
  • What skills will we need to acquire to be competitive and adaptive?

Learning is an ongoing process which results in improved capabilities, not just for the individual, but the organisation. We believe that an investment in learning is an investment in developing talent, developing change resilience and readiness, and in developing businesses that are future-fit – particularly in this challenging time.