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Personalised workplace learning: the It factors and the right mix



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According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, a lack of learning and development opportunities was voted as the third leading cause for Millennials and Gen Z to leave their current organisations; while a majority considered their employers should bear the greatest responsibility to future-proof their workforces.

In view of the strong growth momentum of personalised workplace learning, we speak to four companies in Hong Kong – Alva Hotel by Royal, Decathlon, Marriott International, and Pandora – on the essence of the trend.

The It factors
The origin of the term ‘personalised learning’ – a teaching style driven by the learning needs and specific interests of different learners – can be traced back to as early as the 19th century. Emerging in human resources only in recent years, the concept is nevertheless imperative.

Päivi Tynjälä, professor at Finland’s University of Jyväskylä, pointed out in her educational research review – Perspectives into Learning at the Workplace (2008) – that the workplace should not be assumed as a unified environment for all learners since they are coming from different age groups, cultural, educational and professional backgrounds, unlike learners from school systems.

In other words, a one-size-fits-all learning programme cannot be the right antidote for the entire workforce.

Sun Hung Kai Properties’ hospitality project, Alva Hotel by Royal, aims to recruit young professionals, especially fresh graduates, who recently acquired the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education to meet the strong front-line labour demand for its official debut in late 2019.

“If you ask Gen Z what they want to do in life, their typical response is: ‘I don’t know, but I want to try everything at once’. This is why we offer job rotation,” says Joeland Lo, talent development manager at Alva Hotel by Royal.

New hires are welcome to work in different departments. If they consider the position is not a good fit, they will be swapped to another role until they find their passion.

“It’s a win-win situation. Not only do they learn their strength and vocation through job rotation, they also gain a broader understanding of the overall business,” he says.

Sporting goods retailer Decathlon is also a firm believer in shifting the role of an employee from being a mere consumer of education to a co-producer of his or her learning pathway.

Decathlon Hong Kong has replaced the HR department with an HR committee where employees from various teams come together voluntarily to discuss any human resourcesrelated policies.

“Every team leader is an HR head because who better knows the best practices for their own team?” says Decathlon Hong Kong’s CFO Marc Antoine Lepley.

With hindsight that most people have short attention spans, Pandora, a jewellery manufacturer and retailer renowned for its customisable charm bracelets, injects video production into employees’ learning journeys on top of existing gamification practices.

Regarding the company’s effort to prepare staff for an upcoming brand relaunch, Simpson Wong, learning and development director at Pandora, said: “Our staff love Instagram so we produce five-minute videos in KOL (key opinion leader) style on our app, from hard and soft skills, product information, to office function, as an instant boost for front line staff and office staff.”

The perfect mix
Based on interviews with successful managers, researchers Morgan McCall, Michael Lombardo, and Robert Eichinger, proposed an ideal balance of corporate learning: the 70:20:10 model – 70% of learning from on-the- job experience, 20% from interaction with others, and 10% from formal educational events.

This year, Marriott International reduced its reliance on instructor-led trainings by 50% and debuted a digital learning platform, including training campaigns, on-the-job reinforcement guides, robust reporting and measurement capabilities.

“We shifted away from traditional e-learning and classroom training to architect programmes that blend self-paced lessons with opportunities for practice and reflection to support knowledge retention,” says Grace Chang, L&D vice-president at Marriott International.

Pandora’s Wong describes the model as “unbeatable” and “close to reality” as the application is yoked to the success of a learning experience.

“Yet, many managers in Hong Kong still consider the 10% as the most important. With the mentality of ‘now you train them, and after the session, they should come back as perfect’, these managers do not hesitate passing the teaching responsibility to trainers. However, reality doesn’t work like that because every employee is different.”

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