Fostering a culture of curiosity to build business capability

Armin Hopp uncovers a more holistic approach to the provision of learning.

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HR and learning and development professionals have been on a learning journey of their own over the past decade. Traditional classroom-based learning has increasingly been replaced by what was initially called eLearning.

Digital learning brought benefits of cost- and time-savings, but it has also brought challenges around how to motivate self-directed learners and make learning stick.

As we head into the next decade, organisations are taking a far broader approach to building the human skills they need to succeed in a global marketplace.

HR analyst Josh Bersin points out that after surveying more than 4,500 senior executives in 50 countries, IBM told us something new. “The real problems [businesses] now face are not just technical skills, but actually broad social and behavioural skills – things we consider far more complex, soft, and experiential.”

HR and learning and development departments are already switching gears to address these concerns. Big corporations are going beyond providing a library of resources for self-directed growth and development.

A more holistic approach to the provision of learning – incorporating soft skills from negotiation to foreign language skills – is key to driving a workforce culture of curiosity and a desire to learn.

Emerging technologies are playing an important role in making learning experiences more engaging

International businesses are seeing the benefit of promoting their learning culture to the external world. That includes customers, suppliers and especially potential candidates in a global recruitment market.

Virtual reality supported learning

At the recent Speexx Exchange 2019 event in Berlin, more than 150 HR and L&D experts worked collectively to prepare for the ways in which learning transformation is changing HR and L&D.

Emerging technologies are increasingly playing an important role in making learning experiences more engaging. Here, learning professionals experimented with virtual reality technology for learning – allowing them to experience first-hand how technology is shaping learning transformation in L&D.

However, technology is contributing much more than simply transforming learning delivery. It also contributes to the culture of the company, by supporting corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

These increasingly focus on sustainability and environmental concerns. Employees and, importantly, potential employees are checking out organisations’ green credentials.

As a result, HR and L&D professionals have an interest in helping the organisation as a whole to address its impact on climate change.

Virtual reality and other digital learning technologies make it possible for learners to avoid travelling to training sessions or mentor meetings.

Blended learning has long been shown to be the most effective learning approach, blending classroom or digital learning with coaching and mentoring and on the job learning.



Human contact is important to this process but technology such as web conferencing and other video conferencing platforms mean that learners and coaches no longer need to be in the same room.

In fact, with the support of technology, learners can access support from peers, trainers and managers more easily than ever before, whenever they need it.

Looking to the future of work

Self-directed learning has become much more than simply leaving employees to get on with an eLearning programme. It is about taking actions that foster a culture of curiosity and enable ongoing learning within the company. These might include:

1 Support the integration of artificial and human intelligence

Machine learning and artificial intelligence software are able to do more of the routine tasks that humans used to carry out. This does not mean replacing jobs and it is important to reassure employees about that.

In fact, it is more about workers no longer having to do the boring bits of their jobs, freeing them up to use their human attributes like language and communication skills.

2 Consider what HR and L&D can do to address climate change

In global companies, language and communication skills are key to operating across the world, but too often this has meant flying employees with those skills to the locations requiring them.

Effective digital learning means employees no longer need to leave their desk to learn the best possible language and communication skills. This enables every territory to develop the skills it needs without flying in staff.

In this way, L&D can demonstrate a positive impact on climate change by reducing the company’s travel footprint.

3 Get subject matter experts out of their silos

HR analyst Bersin recommends setting up Capability Academies as places where individuals go beyond technical and functional skills, and focus on the business capabilities and curiosity a company needs to thrive.

Bersin points out that the right type of Capability Academies will bring companies together, taking subject matter experts out of their offices to share and invent, giving employees inspiration and knowledge.

He adds: “This is not an L&D programme, it’s a corporate investment – and it needs ownership and governance by business leaders.”

As artificial intelligence begins to take on many of the routine tasks of employees, maximising human attributes becomes more important than ever. L&D has a vital role in supporting companies in mapping out the future of the business and its workforce – and helping prepare for that by reskilling and upskilling in key behavioural skills.

Driving human soft skills development is fast becoming the core capability of HR and learning and development professionals.

Organisations wanting to keep ahead will be most successful in the context of a learning-curious organisational culture.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the founder and president of Speexx




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