Value-added Learning for Our Technical Talent
Substitute the word value with importance, worth or usefulness and it’s a good reminder that perceptions of value can vary greatly depending on organisational context and individual perspective. Like the old saying goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’!
Creating Value and impact
In a dynamic changing environment encouraging and supporting peoples’ desire to grow and adapt is an asset to any organisation. This is especially true when considering science and engineering talent. As depicted in the diagram below, value for all is created when…
- learning and business objectives are aligned
- learning and development (L&D) professionals take a holistic approach and translate business and individual needs into authentic learning
- organisations recognise people as lifelong learners whose development results in far-reaching advantages
Our underpinning learning philosophy influences our learning culture; it affects peoples’ beliefs and behaviours and the importance they place on learning and development (L&D).
A vibrant learning culture means everyone, regardless of role, cares about learning. It encourages people to develop and grow bringing resilience, loyalty and a winning edge.
Lifelong Learners: Though we don’t always acknowledge it, we constantly evolve through our experiences and interactions, aside from any formalised development activities. We are all lifelong learners. This is especially true for scientists and engineers. Nurturing and investing in this desire to learn helps us create advantages for everyone; personally, professionally and commercially.
Learning Champions: Increasing the value of learning and development is not the sole responsibility of HR and L&D professionals. Their role is to be learning champions; maintaining momentum, acting as advisor and strategic learning lead as well as curating, creating and implementing learning solutions. Being business-savvy and connected to the outside world brings an appreciation of internal drivers and external possibilities. The results: learning and development which is aligned to organisational needs, is authentic and adds value.
Learning and development can achieve this ‘value’ mix by…
- Being supportive
- Being strategic
- Encouraging excellence
Dive into the hot topics and buzz words of learning and development (L&D) and you could be excused for feeling slightly overwhelmed. Add that to the list of talent development ‘shoulds’ and ‘should not’s’, lying down in a dark room feels like a welcome remedy. Well it often works for me anyway!
From gamification to mobile learning; engaging Gen Y and Millennials to productivity and wellbeing. We can all find ourselves moving from interesting insights and inspiration to the occasional feeling of information overload.
Regardless of copious options, research, technology, content and diverse organisational challenges, my two ultimate points of references are…
- What are the strategic aims of talent development activities and programmes? In other words, why are we bothering? How will people and the organisation benefit?
- Are we creating talent development activities and programmes which add value and have positive impact at human and commercial levels? In other words, does it meet our strategic aims and how will we know?
This is particularly important for organisations whose success relies upon the quality of their science and engineering talent. Ill-thought out, illogical initiatives can jar with technical professionals; reducing trust or credibility.
Adopting a strategic approach to learning enables L&D to be…
- Recognised as an organisation-wide imperative rather than a subset of HR or a silo of activities
- An integral part of the organisation operationally and strategically; at the heart not on the sidelines
- NOT a static same-old-same-old activity or a race to collect the newest shiniest fads and fancies.
According to recent commentary (mine included) organisations are now operating in dynamic often complex environments where industrial-age predictability is a thing of the past; uncertainty and constant change are the new norm. Really? For me the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
From a business perspective, repeatability, predictability and basing the future decisions solely on past results don’t work today. Constant adaptation, evolution and innovation at all levels are a fact of life. And for certain disciplines this can be challenging and uncomfortable.
From the perspective of scientists and engineers, the response to this dynamic environment is… welcome to our world!
At the core of their ability to evolve in the face of complexity and uncertainty is the desire and willingness to learn. To nurture this desire and capitalise on the value of learning it is important for L&D to…
- Adopt a broader-ranging, open, creative approach to investing in science and engineering talent
- Look beyond the confines of the ‘home’ organisation and explore
- Listen to, understand and support the special challenges that can face scientists and engineers
Whether they recognise it or not, scientists and engineers regularly adopt a leadership mindset; provider of specialist knowledge; fixer; project lead; heading an industry forum; line managing a team. This exposure to varying situations, cultures and scenarios means they are in the position to positively influence performance far and wide.
Yet, often they are not perceived in this way by organisations, peers or themselves. The pursuit of technical excellence is valued and understood; other skills may not receive the same attention or priority.
At individual, team and organisational levels, high performance is achieved and sustained by those who are curious and ready to listen and learn; who recognise the value of others and respect differences; who want to add value and help others succeed. L&D supports and encourages excellence by…
- Championing leadership as a mindset; expanding the horizons of those who don’t see themselves as ‘leaders’
- Enabling development beyond and within technical disciplines
- Promoting and demonstrating the value and merit of non-technical skills and experience
Learning and development adds value if we learn how to use it to create advantage, align it to our business goals and produce authentic talent development initiatives. For scientist and engineers complexity and change is a way of life where learning is the key to evolving and adapting. Learning and development adds value by being strategic, supportive and encouraging excellence.