+254 741 852 054
January 04, 2021 - BY Admin

What Hinders Corporate Learning and Development in the African continent.

There is need to separate academic learning from skills learning.  Colleges and universities are good at providing academic learning; however, the transfer of skills required at the workplace-based   learning requires a different approach. The dynamics of academic learning are quite different compared to the needs of skills learning. The learning outcome of the two fields are also very different. With academic learning, the key need is to remember and reagitate the same in an exam at the end of a learning period. With corporate learning the outcome should be to improve how tasks are performed so as to become a more profitable employee to the organisation. Being only familiar with academic learning, we have transitioned academic learning to the workplace, clearly with no visible and tangible benefits ,only with costs to the organisations. However, a number of organisations like Kenya Commercial bank have transitioned from this and are adopting the Gold class in learning and have received global acclamation on this effort in 2020 by the Association of Talent Development

In academic learning, learners are expected to learn key concepts and theories, while in skills-based learning, the learner is expected to receive some level of know how to transfer.

The skill involved in both the two divers learning areas are very different. In Academic learning, lecturing works very well and, in the skills, based learning lecturing is the worst and least effective.

Academic learning has its place in national development goals, while the skills-based learning holds a place in workforce development.

The profession we have relegated corporate learning to unfortunately are not skilled at skills transfer based learning, which we mostly find at a corporate level. Knowing something or being an authority on a subject does equate to being able to explain to others how to do it, these subject matter experts are the worst placed to be transferring skills, they end up telling their skills and at the end of it the learners come out knowing much more but not able to do what the subject matter expert can do.

Many trainers have no formal trained in learning and they accidentally found themselves teaching others how to without knowledge of how learning occurs, the science behind adult learning, how to design and develop learning. The trainers are experts (self-taught mostly) on implementing learning. The problem lies with, however well you implement what does not work, it just wont work, no two ways about that.  Its time this situation was addressed at a time where employee skilling is critical and budgets need to be justified with the gain to the organisations in engaging in learning programs to reskill and upskill employees.

The other challenge is that organisations are clueless when it comes to learning, they do know what they need to happen however there is little knowledge of how it should be done. Many organisations have what I would call paper-pushing L&D departments, charged with deciding who to send for what training, which vendor to buy from, without the prerequisite knowledge to either assess the organisations learning needs or the vendors learning program design or development. This leads to waste of organisations resources of money and time with learning solutions that do not work, their effect on learners cannot be measured and no wonder in crisis times, when learning is much needed, the learning budget is the first to be cut, reason, the organisation sees no benefit in investing in learning based on other priority areas. The question becomes then, what else apart from learning would help the organization's employee perform in crisis time? The Pandemic has only helped organizations realise how unprepared they are on matters of skills transfer. They have been sending their employees for training for many years, however, it has been more of a ritual and KPI check box-ticking.

In many African countries, professional bodies, Associations or institutes do not exist to skill and develop Learning professionals and ensure that those engaged with this noble task of imparting and transferring skills to employees are qualified to do so, have attained a certain proficiency in matters Adult learning, learning science, learning design and skills transfer. Proficient in matters of Business needs analysis, designing and developing learning solutions that are measurable and most of all ensure skills transfer.

There is a correlation between the organisations strategy achievement and the learning the employees require. New strategies, which organisations come up with every 3-5 years imply upskilling of employees, if upskilling isn’t done as should be, then let the organisation not expect to achieve its strategy. It’s like traveling north and expecting to find your self south, yes you can if you go all the way round, and takes you two times the time and the effort and twice the cost, not to mention the time wastage.

Learning and development as an organisation function lies with human Resources professionals, unfortunately there isn’t much interest in the profession to gain skills and knowledge around learning and development. The Human Resource profession academic program design lacks on matters learning and development, not only in this country but Globally. In the USA, HR professionals further their interests and learning on learning and development from an Association of Talent development.  Many African countries except for Nigeria and South Africa have no professional bodies that develop and regulate learning professionals. Many of these countries relay on Human resource Professionals to drive organisation learning, there is an existing skills gap in HR when it comes to matters learning. This is evident in the competency framework of HR professionals (again, in the African countries that these competency frameworks exist and even at a global level the Gap still exists). A closer look at the learning and development professional’s competency frame work and as now call the capability framework, you will find a clear focus on learning and development capabilities that are required for professionals charged with role of learning and development both as internal employees and at learning consultancy level.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE needed a role to be in charge of learning in the organisation back in 1994. The title initially proposed was Chief Education Officer, however, Jack wouldn't have another CEO in GE and the title Chief Learning Officer was settled on. The Job description for that role has been evolving and currently involves Learning and development and  Organisation strategy alignment and execution. Organisations that have realised the importance of learning  and its relation to strategy execution  have decided to give full focus to it and established the senior role of Chief Learning  Officer, charged with the learning of the organisation and of leading the Learning and development department.

For African companies to fully realise the benefits of corporate learning, aimed at skilling their employees to better perform, they need to demand for more from both their learning and development departments and also from vendors. The first start would be upskilling their internal L&D teams on matters learning and ensure that those they engage to skill their teams are professionally qualified to design learning and delivering learning.


Martin Wanjohi

Chief Learning Office

iPerformance Africa