Business Education for the Self Made

Hunted headed to London’s Liverpool Street yesterday evening to join Jolt for the launch of their Business Education Steering Committee. An evening of networking and panel discussion on the future of L&D in business.

I went on a deep dive into what “industry leading L&D” actually means a few months back. And discovered it’s the worst kept secret to unlocking greater retention.

Because the longer you last in this game, the richer your reputation, the more competitors you’ll see fall by the wayside, the happier you’ll be, and the more you’ll earn.

The theme of the evening was “how to use education to promote competency and engagement at work”.

Jolt put on an immersive experience, with virtual and physical learning environments, and speakers from tech hubs around the world.

New York. Tel Aviv. Silicon Valley. London.

Their goal’s to provide “learning that’s as affordable, as available, and as addictive as coffee”.

Whistle whetted and canapés inhaled, the evening could crack on, with questions fielded by a diverse panel.

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How did your education prepare you for where you are today?

We’ve questioned the relevance of degrees in recruitment before. Alan Greenberg, former Director of Apple Education for EMEA and China, put it this way:

“A university degree’s a certificate that gets you a job interview. The day you get a job’s the day you start learning”

In most jobs, recruitment especially, the bulk of your learning doesn’t happen in a classroom environment.

It’s thinking on your feet in cold calls. Catching curve balls in meetings and lobbing them back. Or spending all day on a diabolical search before giving up at 8pm and spending the journey home thinking about all the ways you’ll do better tomorrow.

So what exactly do you learn in recruitment? And what do you need to?

How do you learn it? What’s memorable? What’s useful? And is there a difference?

“How can you expect a 3 year degree to prepare you for 60, 70 years in work?”

Of course, you can’t. And I was glad to hear Ryan Fagan, Account Director at employee engagement platform Peakon, echo my own sentiments. That my degree’s been about as useful as an ashtray on a jetski.

But learning things like stakeholder and account management would have been infinitely more useful to my career. And it’s skills like that which need to be brought in sooner rather than later.

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What can we change about business education?

L&D teams a few years ago were seen as somewhere between order takers and gatekeepers of knowledge.

Now, their role’s shifted and they more closely resemble educational facilitators. Using people and tech together to build new ways to learn.

Work rarely has a curriculum. And learning’s not linear. There’s no set beginning or end.

It works best when it’s something you’re personally passionate about, delivered in a compelling way.

And how effective it’ll be differs from person to person.

So for any L&D program to be effective in a modern workplace, agility and flexibility are vital.

Technology’s helping to unlock learning pathways that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. And allowing for a much more individual user journey along the way.

Changing business education – moving recruitment away from more traditional methods – requires a fundamental paradigm shift. And key to it is for staff to find their own individual purpose and go after it.

Until that happens, you can upskill as much as you like and still be miserable.

Most of us got into recruitment to make money. And to be fair, money does have a knack for making misery disappear. So while L&D does need to be more personal, it could also do with being incentivised.

If you put in X, you should get Y in return.

In this case, X is time or effort learning. And Y’s a tangible reward. Like money, promotion, or actual industry-recognised qualifications.

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What’s the role of L&D departments in embedding business education into the workforce?

Alan regales us with a story from his time in China. They ran an initiative to take kids working in factories and put them into university. They did this for hundreds of kids that otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to get that level of education.

Sure, the systems they put in place worked. But the reason the scheme was a success is because the kids had an appetite to learn.

No gadget or charismatic speaker will replace compelling educational content. But all of it’s useless unless you know what you want and you’re prepared to go after it.

Recruiters need to be in charge of their own development.

Are you after a more advanced understanding of your market? Greater responsibility in your role? The joy of learning a new, challenging skill?

Truth is, L&D teams can only do so much to cater for that. Ultimately, the responsibility sits with the individual Consultant being responsible for, and managing, their own learning.

So you’ll have to figure out for yourself what kind of learner you are. Are you visual or more verbal? Social or solitary?

Would you benefit from having a mentor?

What’s the best time of day to catch you in a learning mood? And how long does your attention span last?

Only you can really answer that.

And it’s down to you to want to do something about it.

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Tal Shmueli’s the Regional Exec Director and VP Jolters at Jolt. He closed the evening with a look back at his time as an Account Manager at LinkedIn.

On his first day, they told him the timer had already started counting down to his last.

Sounding powerfully ominous, when Tal asked why, he was told they knew he wasn’t going to be there for the rest of his career. But wherever he wanted to go, they’d do what they could to help him get there.

And in return, he gave them everything he had.

If it helps to think about your own career in similar terms, by all means fill yer boots. But be prepared to work with your L&D function. Be both receptive and proactive when you’re dealing with them.

Ask what you can do to build your knowledge base in areas you’re interested in. Or those that’ll have a say on your billings.

Or those that’ll make the next step in your career a positive one.

This event was the first in an ongoing conversation. If you feel like you’ve got answers to any of the questions I’ve been hurling around in this article, keep an eye on our LinkedIn updates for more Jolt events.

Topics like marketing, business development, and growth hacking will feature prominently at future Jolts.

For those of you with Twitter accounts, you can follow the latest by checking the #JoltBESC hashtag.

And if you’re curious as to what happened last time I chinned a load of wine at an event and then wrote about it, you can read that here.