From teaching to learning
“The Vlerick Learning Scan came just at the right time. Up until then, learning climate had been a rather fluffy concept,” says Steven op ‘t Roodt, Head of Learning & Development at Umicore. Over the past few decades, Umicore has evolved from a mining and smelting organisation into a leading materials technology group. Today it focuses on clean technologies, such as emission control catalysts, fuel cells, materials for rechargeable batteries and photovoltaics, and recycling. In 2010 Umicore agreed to try out the Learning Scan.
At Umicore, innovation takes centre stage. Steven op ‘t Roodt believes an effective learning environment fosters innovation. “If teaching is the transfer of knowledge, then learning is the development of new knowledge. We initiated the shift from teaching to learning a couple of years ago. Mapping the learning climate helps to facilitate this process.”
Umicore’s three largest Belgian sites participated in the Learning Scan. While there were subtle differences, the most important findings were the same for all three: “Although line managers recognise their responsibility for training and development, their staff feel unsupported. They believe management could do more to stimulate the formal and informal learning processes. Line management, in turn, feels they lack support and assistance from HR to take on this coaching role.”
Steven op ‘t Roodt admits that HR is still too much of a service provider rather than a learning consultant. “There’s little added value in making sure the right person gets the right training at the right time. Instead, we should identify learning needs and then propose the most appropriate approach to meet those needs. And this shift from service provider to learning consultant is one that we at Learning & Development are making right now.” Enthusiastically he adds: “Supporting the learning process, identifying someone’s needs, removing potential barriers to learning, assessing the effectiveness of different development initiatives is not a matter of procedures; it’s a craft, a métier.”
The Learning Scan also revealed that Umicore’s learning programmes need to be organised on a more professional basis. Together with an external partner, they are developing a Learning 2.0 platform to support formal as well as informal learning. “Actually, it’s a learning platform cum talent suite that will enable us to monitor career paths and support succession planning, competency management, performance and potential evaluation, etc.”
Would he recommend the Learning Scan? “I would recommend any organisation to analyse its learning climate. In future, the importance of learning support will only increase, as people will have to work longer; over time, flexible and multiple careers will become the norm rather than the exception. We have started progressing towards a different approach to learning and development. And the Learning Scan has confirmed that we are moving in the right direction.”
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