Humans learn differently at all stages of their lives. Contrary to what one might think, learning is a continuous process that lasts all of our lives and is not limited to our youngest years.
With new technologies making it a constant necessity to be up to date and to learn new skills, individuals today cannot rely solely on the skills they learned while studying. In the face of an uncertain future, adaptability has become one of the most sought-after skills.
To understand how companies can foster a positive learning culture and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of business, we called upon the expertise of Sara Scapinello, People & Organization Development Director at Lavazza, and Simon Mercado, Professor of Management and Executive Vice President and Dean for Executive Education, Corporate and External Relations at ESCP Business School.
People & Organization Development Director, Lavazza
ESCP Professor of Management
Shifting paradigms create the need for better learning cultures
The Covid-19 crisis along with constant innovations coming from the digital world have intensified the need for companies to adapt and gather skilled individuals. For Sara Scapinello, this fact justifies the current necessity for better learning cultures inside businesses:
“Companies are under great pressure due to the discontinuity and the uncertainty provoked by the digital transformation and the pandemic. Some technical skills are very hard to find in the marketplace; therefore, it’s essential to plan how to develop them internally. Creating a learning culture within teams is required for companies to ‘survive’.”
In that sense, a good learning culture is essential for companies to benefit from the right workforce and expertise over a lifetime.
A point of view that Simon Mercado shares too: “In this fast-paced environment, organisations need to invest in the learning development of their workforce to stay competitive. Skilling, reskilling and up-skilling are part of the process through which organisations develop and compete. Where learning is truly embedded in the organisation (both as value and practice) and where it is aligned with the organisational mission, we can begin to speak of a ‘learning culture’. Cultures, after all, are about belief systems, values and production. Organisations must build their learning cultures at an individual, team and organisational level.”
In this fast-paced environment, organisations need to invest in the learning development of their workforce to stay competitive. Skilling, reskilling and up-skilling are part of the process through which organisations develop and compete.Simon Mercado
Furthermore, implementing a learning culture means being able to adapt more rapidly to the new shifts in standards impacting society as a whole: “Multiple generations at work with different expectations and needs, a hybrid working model, diversity and inclusion, and cross-cultural and cross-functional working environments all participate in the need for paradigm shifts. Having a ‘learning culture’ is the ability to capture all the ‘signals’, understand their impact on the strategy and working model, and engage people across the whole organisation to face this change. The amount of data we have, the speed of change, and the level of uncertainty are so high that the only way to succeed is to develop a sense of personal ownership and ability to navigate complexity,” explains Sara Scapinello.
Having a ‘learning culture’ is the ability to capture all the ‘signals’, understand their impact on the strategy and working model, and engage people across the whole organisation to face this change.Sara Scapinello
Covid-19 and the digitalisation of learning and work
The health crisis has provoked a massive change in the way we work. Buildings were deserted, businesses had to close for a long period of time, and people became familiar with “working from home”.
To cope with these sudden changes, companies have had to adapt, and, sometimes, embrace radical digitalisation of their processes overnight.
At Lavazza, for example, training programmes had to be modified: “Learning happens in a different context today due to the pandemic: classroom programmes are being replaced with learning platforms offering bites of content accessible at any time of the day through any device. Last year, we had to change the way we deliver training: In 6 months, 76% of our learning offerings were moved from face-to-face to virtual. We had to operate the full redesign of the teaching content … and learning dynamics.”
But if the way people are trained had to be changed to cope with the restrictions, people’s ways of working evolved as well, reshaping our work model: “The hybrid working model is significantly changing the paradigm: for the last 18 months, people have experienced the challenge but also the opportunity to set new ways of working and to become more autonomous.Control, hierarchy, and face-to-face interactions have been replaced with mastery, autonomy and purpose as the ‘new mantra’. This can work only if individuals and teams are encouraged and supported to develop new behaviours and skills to work remotely,” argues Sara Scapinello.
And this shift has created a demand for new management skills in particular, says Simon Mercado.
Alongside other influences, [Covid] has changed people’s visions of how they might work or might wish to work in the future. As organisations configure and coordinate differently, managers and the workforce face new tests and require new skills and competencies.”
An emphasis on learning and up-skilling equates with the development of a positive culture for growth, where human resource is seen as human capital in which the organisation makes an ongoing investment.Simon Mercado
Fostering a learning culture for long-term success
But as a business leader, how can one foster a positive learning culture, in concrete terms?
For Sara Scapinello, enforcing a learning culture can be done through specific routines and constant feedback: “Managers must work every day on aligning expectations, giving feedback and having deep conversations around motivation and opportunities to seek new learning. At Lavazza, we are now reviewing management performances by integrating conversations around learning opportunities and including clearer data on our managers’ ability to make their teams develop new skills.”
For Simon Mercado, a learning culture goes beyond processes and performance-seeking and has to correspond with a company’s values and guidelines: “It is important to note that a culture of learning development is not just about ensuring a firm and its employees have the right capabilities to meet evolving challenges. It is also about the brand and values of the organisation. An emphasis on learning and up-skilling equates with the development of a positive culture for growth, where human resource is seen as human capital in which the organisation makes an ongoing investment.”