[Interview] Catherine Jura, Director Learning and Development, Edify Learning Forum Africa, Kenya
As organizations step up efforts to invest in their most valuable asset; the human resource, to gain a competitive advantage in a fast changing global landscape, they are courting different and bespoke organizational learning solutions that are not only boosting employees’ skills set but also impacting on organizations’ bottom line.
Training management firms like Edify Learning Forum Africa, ELFA, have been at the forefront of designing, managing and redefining organizational learning processes in Africa over the years.
Africa Business Communities spoke to Catherine Jura, the Director Learning and Development at ELFA, about the changing face of learning systems and technologies, the impact these systems are having on organizations and the role of the upcoming Annual Training Evaluation Compendium in Africa (ATECA) on employee development and businesses in Africa.
Tell us a bit about the Annual Training Evaluation Compendium in Africa (ATECA) Conference and the role of Edify Learning Forum Africa, ELFA, in the conference
The ATECA Conference series, is poised to be a premier collaborative leadership forum linking experts in human resource development (HRD), Capacity Development (CD) as well as practitioners, innovators and investors in the training, learning and development (L&D) industry in Africa. The main conference theme is Value and Accountability in Training Management and Human Resource Development Investments.
A key outcome of the ATECA Conference series is an open source compendium of insightful papers and presentations, innovative ideas and best practice as well as emerging trends and technologies in the training, learning and development field, focusing on the African continent.
Why does the conference matter now to organizations, governments and global organizations?
ATECA Conference speakers will share with delegates, how to leverage learning systems and technologies to transform their current business operations. Among the issues that will be addressed to the delegates include increasing investments in training, justifying training budgets, making informed investments decisions of which training approaches to choose at the work place, building accountability structures and systems on training expenditures and creating networking opportunities between investors, innovators and experts in the Training, learning and development industry.
Who will be participating in this conference?
All those in the Training, Learning and Development industry, this include, Training Managers and coordinators, Human Resource and Development practitioners, Capacity Development experts, Curriculum and skills development experts, innovators and investors in the learning industry.
Is this an isolated event or will there be another of this kind in the near future?
The plan is to generate learning resources within a particular theme for the compendium in a three year period across different regions in Africa. Subsequent ATECA conference series are scheduled for Zambia or Cape Town South Africa in 2020 and Lagos-Nigeria 2021.
As a key player, how would you rate the success of organizational learning processes in Africa?
Due to increased global competition, there is renewed interest in high performance practices across the board. Organisations in Africa appreciate the role of employee development in gaining a competitive advantage, facilitating technology adoption and nurturing innovation. Most organisations have invested heavily in training staff, this is seen in the number of online-courses, workshops and trainings that people attend internally and globally.
Where do you see organizational learning processes heading in years to come?
Africa is rich in human as well as physical resources, there is consensus that we are not short of technical skills, the limitations are on how we lead our economy and development processes. To claim our space globally on the economic map, there is need to develop a new breed of leaders at different management levels and across sectors. This calls for a unique set of capabilities comprising of a combination of knowledge, skill, grit, compassion and good judgment.
These are soft skills which are difficult to acquire through conventional learning approaches, learning happens as an ongoing, internal process. It may be structured, informal and happen spontaneously from events, experiences and circumstances.
Due to technological advancements and globalization, our working environment is constantly changing, there is a focus on “employee-driven” or “user centric” learning approaches. It is essential that we understand what this actually mean for us in Africa. Companies invest billions on learning management systems adopted globally that may or may not be suitable for circumstances that employees operate in.
What are the gaps in organizational learning and how is your organization addressing these gaps?
The cost-effectiveness of training, learning and development funding in Africa is currently under scrutiny. Employers must have significant buy-in to prioritize investments in developing human resources. Increasingly there is need for more and concrete evidence on how the knowledge and skills are used in the workplace within pre-determined time spans.
The nature of learning is such that it may take individuals years before they can successfully make use of capacities acquired, this may be attributed to various factors such as their work environment, management styles and systems, motivation and external factors related to employment policies. The approach to training, learning and development should therefore incorporate continuous improvement to keep it on point.
As a person at the helm of a training management firm that specializes in designing and managing organizational learning processes, how easy or hard is it to make institutions see business sense and invest in these services?
There is growing frustrations in measuring efficiency and effectiveness of training, learning and development. Training and development depends not only on learning but also on the employees’ ability to implement learning in the workplace. Practitioners therefore need to identify how to gather the appropriate data and information with the aim of reducing uncertainty and generating reasonable confidence that investments have been put to good use.
The second dilemma with traditional approaches arises from the attempts to measure the impact of training interventions at some agreed time after the training has been completed. There is need for developing guidance and quality criteria for the design and implementation of training evaluation processes.
Closely related to this, why should companies invest in these services?
Africa has a growing young population joining the workforce but at the same time subject matter experts leaving the workforce. There is need for merging old leaders with the new emerging leaders.
Given the complexity of developing soft skills, creating partnerships within the learning ecosystem that will facilitate corporate strategies is key to developing dynamic solutions for employee development.
At Edify Learning Forum Africa (ELFA) we emphasize and focus on creating virtual and/or physical learning spaces where learning occurs spontaneously.
What makes your services unique in a world that has experienced an influx of training management firms?
With our partners we specialize in quality by design, we focus on supporting learning communities to transform the learning infrastructure, creating coherence and synergy between individual, group, and organizational learning.
Our training audit support team provides an objective view of existing training activities and offers proposals for optimizing training budgets. We have a blend of consultants, strategists, and operations professionals who work with organisations to co-design training activities, content, methods and tools.
Through our collaborative leadership learning forums (the ATECA Conference Series) we support practitioners to improve their work and connect with one another. We also compile the Annual Training Evaluation Compendium in Africa (ATECA) which include white papers, guides, and training materials that support effective training strategy and evaluation. ELFA processes represent an innovative approach to achieve real, measurable behaviour change.
What are the plans going forward?
We are proud to announce that we have signed a new partnership agreement with PECB which is a global certification body for persons, management systems, and products on a wide range of international standards.
We have also developed certified continuous professional development programmes for practitioners in the Training, Learning and Development field in partnership with the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL). These are project based and assessments focus on agreed learning outcomes.