Caroline Bellanger Wood

Written by: Caroline Bellanger-Wood

Caroline Wood

Learning and Development Consultant

Business agility demands an institutional commitment to learning and development

  • May 2018
  • 3 minutes

89 per cent of respondents to the 2015 Mercer global talent trends study reported that they would make organisational changes in the next two years, but only 6 per cent acknowledge their organisation as 'change agile', i.e. able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways.

You can’t stop doing

The old idiom ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ goes against recent findings that the brain can alter itself to carry out new tasks and learn new information. Research has demonstrated that cerebral characteristics are not fixed and new brain cells are created in response to learning and development, providing the opportunity to build new neural pathways, thus changing how we do things. 

Consequently, we cannot simply stop doing the way we do things; we have to learn new ways of doing them and make them more prominent in our brain. Like with the rest of our body, repetition is the number one requirement to condition how we respond to situations and problems. This is a long-term game!

Organisational change needs personal change

Change has become a constant in business, whatever the organisation’s size or its ambitions. Adapting to change circumstances is about collectively unlearning and relearning, then unlearning and relearning again. People adapt to this in different ways, some seeing the requirement to change as difficult, that it is not needed and so rather forced. Others see change as a motivator for individual development, progression and wider benefits.

The latter undoubtedly can result in better employee engagement, improved retention levels and this can encourage individual performance. This is more easily achieved if the organisation embraces a growth mindset and facilitates a culture of learning and development. GoodPractice reports that 64 per cent of organisations see learning and development as a key driver to improving organisational execution and efficiency (Learning Trends Index 2015 ).

Establishing a development culture

Organisations can build a development culture by:

  • committing to a people strategy that reflects its operational needs, supports performance and nurtures development across the whole workforce - not just the top layers;
  • regularly consulting with employees to identify their needs and learning preferences, before offering formal training programmes;
  • supporting informal learning; including providing relevant content, supporting collaboration and knowledge-sharing across teams, tapping into the collective knowledge of on-line communities and freeing working time for research and experimentation; and
  • offering stretching opportunities which give people freedom to take (calculated) risks, including recognising failure as a valuable source of learning and development.

With more than 8 in 10 HR leaders and employees believing that their talent management could and should be improved (Mercer, 2016 ) it looks like many organisations have work to do to stay agile. 

If you would like to find out more about learning and development solutions, please contact Caroline Bellanger Wood or your usual RSM contact.

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