Personalised, life-long learning for employees, a first for SA

Andrew Darfoor, CEO of Alexander Forbes. (Picture Supplied).
Andrew Darfoor, CEO of Alexander Forbes. (Picture Supplied).

Johannesburg – Employees can now continue to build their skills base in an effort to “stay relevant” in a rapidly changing world using a new online learning platform that enables life-long learning.

Financial services provider Alexander Forbes, in partnership with US-based organisation Degreed, launched the online learning platform on Thursday.

“Financial wellbeing is not just a buzzword. It’s about helping employees achieve what matters most to them at each stage of their lives throughout their lifetime,” said Andrew Darfoor Alexander Forbes group chief executive. “The new learning solution is a first of its kind in South Africa.”

The partnership with Degreed will allow Alexander Forbes to integrate an organisation’s internal learning systems with the world’s largest ecosystem of open learning resources. This essentially creates a unique and personalised learning experience, according to Darfoor.

The platform will give employees and their employers opportunities to improve their skills sets through access to lifelong learning. Clients can learn at their own pace, anytime and anywhere, Darfoor explained.

“In partnering with Degreed, we are able to bring to our customers a rich content of courses, videos, articles, books, podcasts from multiple sources. As a result, organisations and their people can discover, curate, share and track all their learning and development on a single online portal.”

The Alexander Forbes’ Benefits Barometer 2017, a report which provides an annual assessment of the South African employee benefits system to determine how effective it is in addressing employees’ needs, identified education as a tool to change employees and entire organisations.

Different ways of learning

The Benefits Barometer further unpacked ways that lifelong learning can be changed to be more beneficial to employees. “As the world has changed, so has the learning landscape. We now learn from a diverse set of sources throughout our lives. Just about everyone in the world can now find out anything they want, from anywhere they are,” the report read.

The research showed that employees are overwhelmed, impatient and have shorter attention spans. “Employees are overwhelmed and have very little time or patience for the kind of inflexible learning offered by most traditional learning practices. If skills and career development are not provided, they will leave to find an employer that will empower them.”

The research revealed that the challenge to learning is not access to information, but rather to provide personalised information to employees when they need it and in “bite-sized” chunks.

Traditional means of learning such as instructor-led classes, e-learning courses, coaching and mentoring, and conferences, only cater for a small portion of people’s actual learning, according to the Benefits Barometer. The average person does over five times more learning through the self-directed learning channels such as web searches, peer or team interaction, articles and blogs, videos, books, webinars and podcasts, among others. Further, employees are prepared to give more time for learning if they get professional credit for it.

The Benefits Barometer also suggested that empowering learning also empowers the financial well-being of employees.

David Blake, CEO of Degreed, shared views that the that the learning experience should drive skills building and professional development with a special emphasis on financial well-being.

On the partnership he said: “Alexander Forbes’ vision to better the people and companies of Africa through learning perfectly aligns with the mission and purpose of Degreed. We’re excited to create the next generation of experts in Africa.”

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