The Future of Corporate Learning and Development

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed high pressure on members of the learning and development industry to adopt new, more effective modes and methods of training that fit the current business landscape. There has also been an increased need, from the corporate side, for individualized executive education that tackles the development of skills more practically.

This constitutes the key themes discussed throughout the second roundtable of the 2022 AUC Business Forum held on March 14, 2022, under the title “The Future of Corporate Learning and Development”. The roundtable was moderated by Ghada Howaidy, associate dean for Executive Education at the AUC School of Business. The roundtable featured five experts in the Human Resources field who are thought leaders in the area of learning and development.

The need for practice-oriented training

Executive education and on-the-job employee training must move away from the typical inapplicable, sometimes irrelevant, textbook knowledge and lean more towards building competencies applicable to the workplace.

Mohamed Kesseba, senior director of Executive Education Programs at AUC School of Business, spoke on this matter. “There is a consensus, between corporations, about the need for education that focuses on closing the theory-practice gap. All corporations across the board are concerned with executive education that includes practical applications relevant to specific industries of operation, local markets, and the needs of the organizations on an individual level,” emphasized Kesseba.

Human Resources Director at Hassan Allam Properties, Hanan Moselhy, also shared her insights on this matter.“A lot of training nowadays tackles topics such as leadership and agility but unfortunately in a very superficial, textbook-oriented way,”  she highlighted.

She later added: “In many human resource departments, learning and development is about training from a purely operational perspective which is quite disconnected from a business's actual needs.”

Moselhy additionally emphasized the importance of training needs assessment (TNA), a process by which corporations aim to identify current and specific training needs within their workforce in order to provide more practical and company-tailored pieces of training that address relevant competencies.

Furthermore, George Sedky, a chief human resource officer at Ghabbour Group, reinforced Moselhy’s remarks. Sedky stated: “Many training providers do not create practical tailored solutions for the corporations. They often use, ‘one-size fits all’ training that is highly theory-oriented.” He continued: “Instead they should provide training that is relevant, fits the specific needs of each corporation, and is up-to-date based on each industry’s newest trends.”

The importance of utilizing hybrid learning modes

The pandemic posited that many corporations had to conduct their executive training through online mediums, this presented both a challenge and an opportunity for companies worldwide. Emad Nasr, chair of the Human Resources Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt and human resource director at Lecico Egypt, stated that: “Due to pandemic-related concerns, companies had to reduce face-to-face training and replace them with virtual training. Executive trainers and Human Resource managers are all currently being guided towards the use of blended learning and hybrid training.”

He further added: “While I do not believe in solely virtual training, some level of utilizing virtual training has proved to be cost-efficient, practical and are convenient as you can attend them at any given place thus, we now must use blended learning to capture the benefits of both online and offline training.”

Tom Ryan, an independent consultant based in the United Kingdom, mentioned the benefits of the utilization of blended learning. “I am currently involved in delivering a self-directed [online] learning program and some of the assignments given to participants involve actionable steps, for example, towards departmental collaboration. I think with a blended self-directed program like this one, individuals are able to conduct their daily business practices without disruption, thus, allowing them to immediately apply what they have learned in a practical manner,” underscored Ryan.

He further elaborated on the weaknesses of utilizing online learning alone without practical application. “What makes training interesting for executives and employees is when they have gone through what they learned in a very practical way and have applied the concepts they learned to leverage their business practices, on the other hand, merely watching hours of online instructional videos in a passive manner is quite sub-optimal,” he stated.

In summary, it is crucial for corporations to provide practically applicable trainings and to deemphasize the fixation on theoretical approaches to learning and development. Furthermore, corporations must employ the use of both online and offline training methodologies in conjunction in order to leverage training capabilities and impact.

Click here to watch the full roundtable discussion.