Adopting a Culture of Learning

One point we will all agree on is that a shortage of skills is a very real problem, and no more so than in the realm of supply chain, manufacturing and operations management. This conversation is not only being heard in South Africa, but is also being spoken about around the world.

An article published on the World Economic Forum website www.weforum.org states “45% of workers surveyed by the OECD believe that they lack the appropriate skill sets to do their jobs effectively. And just three in 10 workers believe that they have the right skills to be able to cope with more demanding work.

In Europe, 40% of employers reported in 2013 that they had trouble finding people with the required skills. This shortage was most common in the manufacturing sector, the OECD report says.

With the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or fast-paced digital progress, technology is transforming the way we work – and workers’ skills will need to keep pace with these changes.”

This is the challenge facing all organisations, it is why decisions about skills development need to be elevated to the boardroom. Having a skilled workforce has become crucial to being competitive in our fast-paced world of supply chain management.

By adopting a culture of learning, learning becomes the norm and all employees are encouraged to learn all the time. The responsibility for learning does not rest entirely on the shoulders of HR and L&D, but becomes the focus of every team leader and supervisor. How can a culture of learning become a practical day-to-day initiative? Here are some guidelines.

What is a culture of learning?

Firstly, we need to define what we mean by a culture of learning. An organisation which has a culture of learning has incorporated learning into their values and practices. Such organisations encourage employees to continually strive for knowledge and competence and provide them with the tools to make this happen.
Learning takes place on the job through active mentoring and coaching, it takes place in the classroom through practical application and simulation, it takes place at home through on-line studies and certifications and it is measured regularly.

What practical steps can we take?

Implement Meaningful Measurements – To know what skills and competencies you are lacking, you need to have a sound measurement tool which can test keys skills. When implementing such measurements, one needs to ensure that this is not seen as a threat, but rather an opportunity for improvement. It is highly recommended that an organisation employs the skills of a Change Manager to launch such initiatives.

Mentoring and Coaching – This approach must be implemented to provide the business with better skills. Merely appointing mentors for the sake of it does not add value. Each mentor must be handpicked because of their passion for knowledge transfer and a desire to see the business prosper. Mentorship provides employees with the opportunity to learn from more seasoned hands on how the job should be done.

Formal Training – Building relationships with service providers who understand your industry is key. All training should be linked to a desired post-training outcome. If the training providers does not want to have a conversation about ROI, then they are not the right provider.

Create a Library – reading is a key skills for learning. Encourage your employees to read by providing them with a library of books, magazines and learning materials. Having a well-managed library with up to date books and information and a comfortable place for employees to read during their breaks will allow for self-learning to take place.