• Friday, May 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why your crash ‘talent development’ programme is failing: The driving truth behind effective upskilling

How Jobberman is leveraging AI to bridge unemployment gap

Let me tell you about the time I was a driving instructor for my friend and colleague, Nana. Having recently acquired a car, Nana was eager to master driving. Though she understood the basics, navigating the bustling streets and heavy traffic of Lagos—from Maryland to Victoria Island—required more than just knowledge; it needed hands-on experience. For those unfamiliar, imagine driving in the busiest city you know, then amplify that by a factor of a hundred, complete with three-hour traffic jams. Yet, this story isn’t about the traffic in Lagos.

Nana’s goal was to become confident behind the wheel. After demonstrating techniques and routes for a few weeks, I transitioned to a coaching role, guiding her through each journey until she was capable enough to drive alone. We reached a point where she no longer needed my presence in the passenger seat.

This experience is a vivid illustration of how most of us learn to drive: by doing, by engaging directly with the task at hand.

Ironically, this hands-on learning approach is often overlooked when it comes to upskilling employees. There’s a prevailing notion that quick, pre-packaged, and somewhat impersonal courses—the “microwave” shortcuts—can effectively enhance skills and impart knowledge, promising near-instant competence. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Much like how watching videos falls short of preparing someone to handle real-life driving, these rapid courses seldom equip employees with the essential skills required for their roles. This discrepancy leads us to question: If adults learn predominantly by doing, why do we persist with these insufficient methods?

Part of the reason lies in the allure of immediacy and the convenience these training programmes offer. Organisations face relentless pressure to adapt swiftly to keep pace with market demands, often at the expense of deep, meaningful engagement with training material. However, this approach proves to be counterproductive in the long run. Effective training isn’t merely about content delivery; it involves integrating learning into daily work, shifting from passive consumption of information to its active application.

Everyone is talking about professional development these days; however, what I find is just a cut and paste of half-baked content that cannot be applied to everyday work. We need a fundamental shift in our approach to professional development. Upskilling programmes should be immersive, hands-on, and closely aligned with employees’ work. Envision a programme where, instead of enduring hours of abstract lectures, employees actively solve real-world problems, innovate solutions, and apply new techniques directly to their tasks. This approach not only fosters deeper learning but also delivers immediate benefits by enhancing performance and productivity.

Josh Bersin, a leading analyst in corporate HR, talent, and learning, explains, “Organisations are moving away from the ‘training programme’ approach and towards ‘learning in the flow of work’. This approach yields five times the productivity benefit compared to traditional training methods.

This method is supported by adult learning theories, which argue that adults learn most effectively when they recognise the immediate relevance and can apply new knowledge in real-life contexts. By designing training programmes that replicate the specific challenges employees face in their roles, organisations can significantly improve engagement and information retention.

Adopting a practical, experiential learning model does demand more effort initially in terms of setup and might require more personalised coaching and mentoring. However, the investment is profoundly worthwhile. As evidenced by Nana’s journey to becoming a confident driver, when learners are empowered to take the helm with proper guidance and appropriate tools, their transition from learning to mastery is not only expedited but also more enduring.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. If we say we really want to invest in our people, then it’s time to abandon the illusion that quick fixes can substitute for deep, practical learning. The future of effective upskilling lies in targeted, interactive training programmes that prepare employees for the challenges ahead, propelling them towards career success and organisational growth.

Let’s redefine learning. Let’s invest the time to create comprehensive learning experiences that are as dynamic and competent as the employees we aim to develop. After all, if we want our workforce to successfully navigate the complexities of their roles, adopt winning behaviours, and achieve business goals, we must be prepared to teach and then pass them the wheel while guiding them at every turn.

Sheila Ojei is a Business Strategist specialising in business development, stakeholder management, impact communications and partnerships. She is currently the Country Manager, Nigeria for the African Management Institute.