Date posted: 21/11/2017 8 min read

How to make knowledge stick

Veronica Beilby shares her insights about learning trends and what CAs can do to enhance their success through professional development

In brief

  • Selecting the right professional development requires self-reflection
  • A CA’s point of difference is ‘soft’ skills not purely technical skills
  • Online is becoming the learning choice of the future and blended learning plays an important role

Mindset shift required for lifelong learning

One of the principles of a CA is the commitment to lifelong learning, and as Veronica Beilby, National Finance Learning and Development Leader at Flight Centre Travel Group says, lifelong learning is being taken to the next level.

“Lifelong learning is going to become more important for the rest of your careers. But there needs to be a mindset shift to upskill and adapt to the changing business environment. It’s not enough to maintain your current levels of knowledge, and it’s no longer simply about your CPD.”

Beilby says technical knowledge is no longer the sole differentiator. If you’re a CA your technical competence is considered a given. Instead, there’s a push on business and commercial skills, otherwise known as soft skills. “Your point of difference could be as a transformational leader, emotional intelligence or presentation skills.”

Veronica Beilby CA

What kind of learning do CAs want?

Beilby says to stay ahead and maximise your time “you need to self-assess and reflect” to select the right learning options.

“It’s not enough to say you didn’t learn anything at that conference, you probably chose the wrong one to attend. It’s about knowing yourself enough to make informed choices.”

Cost is a considerable factor when selecting learning. Training budgets are increasingly cut and CAs are often required to fund their professional development. For this reason they’re more likely to attend a half day conference for the biggest value.

The challenge is developing and providing professional development to appeal to different generations’ needs. From personal research, Beilby found that many Gen Y learners like to follow a learning pathway. Learning in accessible chunks with levels to complete and sign off provides them with a sense of achievement and growth. Whereas many Gen X and baby boomers, Beilby says, prefer freedom of choice, as opposed to following a pathway.

Online programs are the future

Beilby agrees that online learning has come a long way. Online learning with an experiential element provides the best of both worlds.

She cites Workstar as an example, who partnered with McDonald’s to prepare young employees for work. Workstar developed an interactive online learning programme, involving real life scenarios, placing learners in the customer’s shoes, and challenging them to think about issues they’d face at work.

Beilby and her team write training content for over 400 finance staff. She says there’s currently a focus on online learning on demand. This kind of learning is otherwise known as micro learning, and it suits the time poor environment we live and work in.

“People want to access knowledge now, for five or ten minute windows to upskill and apply new knowledge.”

Blended learning plays an important role

While online learning gathers momentum and popularity, face-to-face discussion is something that many people still value.

Beilby says blended learning is popular as it provides “a balance of online and still having the collaboration that people crave. The value is of being in a classroom and then workshopping topics and sharing information that you’ve learned.”

The blended learning model outlines how learning occurs:

  • 70% of learning is informal/experiential - real life experiences from interactions e.g. on the job learning
  • 20% is social learning e.g. developing relationships, interacting with others; mentors and role models
  • 10% is formal learning e.g. in a classroom, setting the foundations of solid theory and structured interactions

The challenge of making knowledge stick

Thinking about different ways of learning, with or without technology, Beilby says “the biggest challenge is “how to make knowledge stick.”

Beilby understands the benefits of communicating verbally and references non-literate societies for cues. In indigenous cultures, knowledge was retained and shared verbally through stories, fables, songs and dance, and information was encoded in the landscape.

Beilby advises from her own personal experience of learning,

“I’m someone who learns best from having a discussion and least from reading. The biggest impact for me is hearing people’s opinions.”

“I would advise anyone seeking knowledge to talk to people and hear their challenges. Learning in a social setting and talking allows you to access others’ business ideas.”

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