24 May 2023 

Written by Dr Larysa Botha - Corporate Business Development Executive at Milpark Education article contributions by Dr Adrian Prangley, Learning and Development Manager at GEMS

The post-pandemic world of work is evolving at the speed of light. Businesses across the world are dealing with unprecedented challenges around remote and hybrid work formats and a more empowered, increasingly Gen Z-occupied workface that seeks greater harmony between life and work (not work and life) – all while navigating a complex operating environment. When you compound this with socio-cultural movements such as The Great Resignation and now The Great Breakup, it’s evident that business leaders must find new ways to do the same thing: that is, maintain competitiveness.  

For organisations looking to stay ahead, innovate and succeed in a sea of success-hungry competitors, a robust corporate learning and development programme is a key solution to winning – in the long term, especially. 

Learning and development aids future readiness 

According to the LinkedIn 2023 Workplace Learning Report: Building the Agile Future, 89% of more than 1 500 learning and development professionals interviewed in the study say that building employee skills is essential for navigating the future of work. Investment into staff development and training enables forward-thinking businesses to focus on what’s ahead (and what’s necessary to get there) with a workforce that’s well-prepared for the future.   

We’ve seen some prime examples of how learning and development unlocks organisational agility, enabling businesses to innovate and evolve as markets require. Consider the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS), an organisation with a member base of over 800 000 and roughly 2.1 million beneficiaries. In 2022, GEMS’ leadership decided that the business should obtain licensing to operate as a financial services provider so it could administer broker services and financial advice to complement its medical aid benefit option offering. Senior leadership envisaged financial counsel to prospective, new and existing members as an expansion of the scheme’s strategic future ambitions.  

To fulfil this requirement, GEMS first had to ensure its relevant staff were qualified, meeting the Class of Business (CoB) requirements stipulated by the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act. This marked the genesis of GEMS’ academic relationship with Milpark Education’s Corporate division. 

Dr Adrian Prangley, Learning and Development Manager at GEMS, comments: “From a corporate education provider’s prospective, Milpark Education came to the party and guided our business through all the admission requirements and how to get everyone onboarded and registered on the online portal. We had a hugely successful rollout of CoB, which was an important KPI for our department and key to the broader business’ forward trajectory.”  

The learning and development programme offered immediate return on investment: GEMS could commence fulfilment of its licensing ambitions and compliance obligations. “Having an existing learning and development strategy that had already helped foster a culture of continuous learning was key to the programme’s success, making the entire process less time-consuming and resource-taxing”, adds Dr Prangley.  

Learning and development improves staff retention 

Organisations with a high turnover rate cannot confidently face the future. Regular staff resignations represent lost institutional knowledge, decreased morale and operational lags as the recruitment process is fulfilled. When a team member leaves the business, it chips at the department’s resilience and efficiency. Compound this with multiple farewells across departments and the mass effect is a loss of agility – even ability.  

Curating an intellectually rewarding environment and a stimulating employment experience is essential to improving employee retention. Learning and development is foundational to these when you consider that “progress toward career goals” is the leading motivation for employee learning, according to LinkedIn’s report. In ‘The War For Talent In The “New Normal”’, Co-Founder and CEO at Talent500 Vikram Ahuja states that “Employees now expect a personalised employee experience that meets their needs at every stage of their careers. Employers must provide an exceptional employee experience across all touchpoints, from recruitment and onboarding to development and succession planning.” 

As in the example of GEMS, prioritising career development and the employee experience enables businesses to refine their employee value proposition and stand out as an employer of choice to the finest talent out there. “Our organisation is truly focusing on providing a broad range of opportunities in the development of relevant future skills. We have a very low attrition rate, and this is mostly due to prospects within the organisation for employees’ professional growth,” comments Dr Prangley. 

Learning and development stimulates innovation 

Innovation has evolved from being an industry buzz word to being an imperative for businesses wanting to evolve and maintain relevance and profitability. Deloitte’s 2023 Global Human Capital Trends Report: New fundamentals for a boundaryless world articulates this point well: “…organisations and workers should activate their curiosity, looking at each decision as an experiment that will expedite impact and generate new insights. Differentiation and winning will come not from always believing you must have the right answer at the start, but by being able to challenge orthodoxies, operate with humility and empathy and learn from new information so you can refine as quickly as possible.” 

At the core of innovation is an inquisitive organisational mindset: asking 'why’, interrogating ‘how’ and unpacking ‘when’, i.e., unearthing the researcher within each employee. Thinking like a researcher is not a skill that every employee has, but it can be nurtured and stimulated through learning and development programmes that forefront problem solving, design thinking and innovation itself in addition to industry- and sector-specific training. Exposure to and immersion in new technologies, methodologies and consumer realities fosters new skills and builds novel competencies that strengthen organisations seeking fresh opportunities on the horizon.  

A credible corporate education partner helps businesses navigate this new terrain by determining which learning and development techniques and methodologies are most effective in meeting a company’s strategic objectives. There’s always an opportunity to look at the same problems, or new ones, differently, but individuals need to be taught how to do so. Companies that can seize the chance to leverage their greatest asset – their employees – are going to flourish.