28 November 2022

The IITD National Learning Conference 2022


Congratulations and thanks to the L&DI for a most enjoyable, informative, and thought-provoking Learning & Development Conference in Croke Park.

Harvest was delighted to be one of the partners, for the 2022 Conference. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet so many from the Learning & Development community in person to catch-up and explore this year’s theme of Reimagining Learning in the New World of Work: Curiosity, Chaos & Connection.

Our Learning Specialists attended and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the theme through the various presentations, panel, and lunch discussions. Here are their insights from some of the sessions attended.

Session 1: Research presentation – Skills First: Why and How Skills should be Driving the L&D Agenda

Professor David Collings, Professor of HRM & Associate Dean for Research, DCU
Dr John McMackin, Assistant Professor; Work, Psychology & Strategy, DCU Business School

This session will consider how organisations can future proof their L&D programmes through a skill.

  • Towards an emerging skills-based approach to work
  • How organisations are experimenting with skills and work design
  • Exploring skills-first approaches to HR and L&D

David and John’s research to date presented some thought-provoking insights, that we are witnessing within our client relationships. Here are some of the highlights:

“98% of business execs plan on moving towards a skills-based organisation” Deloitte, but fewer than one in five are adopting this.

The themes of a skills-based organisation are:

  • Deconstruction of roles (critical task and outcomes)
  • Centred around talent strategy
  • Used alongside the traditional structure of jobs

Why the focus on skills:

  • The requirement for a skills shift: the rate of change is accelerating, and the lifetime of our skills is shortening
  • The supply challenged: we are almost at full employment
  • Organisational agility: the need for agility with growth agendas, the ability to redeploy and meeting the demand of changing customer needs
  • DEI: the focus on skills reduces bias
  • The sustainability agenda

Getting started and leading the agenda of a skills-based organisation:

  • Get a seat at the top table – get buy in to this as it is a strategic initiative
  • Use it as a business tool
  • Develop a framework, to include:
  • A skill taxonomy with common language
  • A skills audit approach
  • Include the approach to career management
  • Ensure L&D curriculums support the skills
  • Pilot in critical areas of the business
  • Constantly check and access
  • Be ready to correct

Harvest has developed a skills taxonomy framework and is partnering with a number of companies to identify skills within job families and job roles, to feed into career development paths, learning curriculums, employee value propositions and strategic succession plans. Contact us if you want to find out more.

Session 2: Panel Discussion – Reimagining Learning in the New World of Work

Brid Horan, Chancellor at DCU, Independent Chair and Non-Executive Director
Brian Murphy, Senior Director, Employee Skilling, Microsoft
Claire Doody, Founder and Principal Consultant, Work in Motion

Summary by Ailish Reid – Learning Specialist

This panel discussion centred around the big challenges and opportunities that face learners, organisations and learning professionals as we look forward to a challenging and exciting future. This discussion was highly engaging and informative, and we were fortunate to listen to speakers with a breadth of interesting experience. A number of key themes emerged through the discussion.

Comfort with Ambiguity

Brid Horan opened the discussion by describing how DCU’s future is preparing students to thrive in an ‘unscripted world’. They are supporting students to be empowered, enthused and not over-whelmed with all the uncertainty. Brid noted the importance of courage and curiosity and organisations creating an empowering culture where people have the time, space, and opportunities to learn. She also indicated the importance of the Senior Leadership being on board.

Learning in the Flow of Work

Claire Doody framed learning ‘as embedded in work’, not a ‘course or training’. She indicated that we learn by experimenting, failing, reflecting, and trying again. She asked us to consider where we are creating tolerance for failure? She challenged us to consider whether ‘we are stuck in a way of doing things?’ and to look more broadly at opportunities like internal mentoring, networking, and communities of practice. Brian outlined that it is less about what people learn and more about how they learn. He spoke about building a learning culture using the 3 E Model (Experience, Exposure and Education). Employees need to be equipped with daily habits to extract learning from daily experiences. Brian went on to explore the fundamental role of connection and claimed that professional L&D is best placed to play that role. He indicated that our job is to enable connections, not managing learning for people. Brid built on what Brian had noted by saying that ‘every time we meet others…learning happens’.

The Challenges facing Line Managers

Claire discussed the current challenges faced by Line Managers and indicated ‘it has never been harder to be a manager’. She noted recent Gartner research that over 70% of Managers are overwhelmed*. She observed that a lot has been asked of Managers and they are experiencing uncertainty and challenges around hybrid/remote working. Claire asked us to consider what we are expecting of Managers and provided the example from McKinsey where they are exploring the Helix organisation** where people leadership tasks are separated from day-to-day business-leadership roles.

Brian agreed that Managers are overwhelmed and discussed the current approach being taken in Microsoft. He indicated that Managers need clarity around what is expected of them, and they use the Model/Coach/Care framework. The framework helps Managers go back to basics and make sure they can take care of themselves too. Brid added a touch of wisdom indicating that ‘we need to get kinder in organisations and between organisations’. She is constantly impressed by the complexity of challenges facing organisations and the commitment from people to meet those challenges.

Brian noted that it is now less about ‘Leaders as experts, and more about ‘leaders as coaches’. It is about helping people have a bigger impact. It is about valuing expertise but also valuing different perspectives and building a culture of inclusion.

The importance of a clear organisational purpose

The panel agreed that employees need a clear sense of purpose and organisations need to be in touch with their purpose and values. This also provides a framework employees can use to make decisions in uncertainty. Brian gave an example from his time in AstraZeneca where they were in the ‘business of saving lives’. The values of curiosity, collaboration and bravery were lived, and L&D was fundamentally connected with these. Brid asserted that often we learn about these through time with our colleagues, and remote and hybrid work can be a challenge in this regard.

Articles referenced:

* https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/are-managers-moot#:~:text=According%20to%20our%20research%2C%2070,traditionally%20sought%20from%20a%20manager


Session 3: Panel discussion – How is the Talent Agenda Influencing Investors’ Decisions?

  • Stuart Woollard, Co-Founder, The Maturity Institute
  • Ian Curtin, Consulting Principal, Ogilvy Consulting
  • Georgina Murphy, Deputy Director, Head of Portfolio Management, Ireland Strategic Investment Fund

We are consistently told that our people are our most valuable assets, and that people are central to delivering the organisation’s strategy. But does this really matter to investors? When making decisions about investing in an organisation, to what extent do investors assess the strength of an organisation’s leadership team and their ability to deliver?

Summary by Eamonn Eaton – Learning Specialist, Executive Coach & Harvest Director

This was a panel discussion exploring the importance of the link between the talent agenda and factors that investors take into account when making investment decisions. It was a great opportunity to be exposed to the thinking of 3 experts in this area from outside the L&D or HR function. These were:

  • Stuart Woolard, The Maturity Institute
  • Ian Curtin. Ogilvy Consulting
  • Georgina Murphy, Irish Strategic investment Fund

Stuart started the discussion with a presentation that established the link between value created from human capital and how an organisation generates value and profit. He sees people as a system in an organisation whose activities should be aligned to value creation. Training and development of people supports this. He asked some challenging questions of the L&D community present:

  • Are we all doing this in our jobs?
  • What do we do to make sure learning generates value?
  • Do we drive continuous learning in our organisation?
  • Do we drive diversity thinking?

Investors are asking these questions when they look at organisations as they are lead indicators of future success and value creation. AS L&D professionals Stuart suggests that we follow the same thought process as the financial analysts – we need to measure and report and talk about the value of human capital.

In the discussion that followed the panel picked up on this theme. They highlighted the need for HR and L&D to become data driven and develop the ability to stories supported with data and information. A key capability we all need to develop is the ability to manage up in our organisations and data, facts and information are key foundations to successfully underpin this. Developing a common set of measures, a common reporting convention like the accounting and finance functions and a shared language around these would support HR and Learning in achieving this.

When discussing the likelihood of someone with a HR background reaching the top CEO position in an organisation some early emerging examples were discussed. Breaking through this barrier is a first step to changing the culture at the top to really position HR & Learning as equal partners in the C suite. Opportunities exist in the future as the CEO should lead on culture and this is rooted in the HR domain.

The Covid Pandemic was an opportunity for HR and Learning to shine so the time is right to build on the achievements successfully delivered during this period.

In summary this very enlightening and though provoking discussion clearly outlined the challenges and opportunities open to HR & Learning to prove their value from an investor viewpoint. Taking responsibility for the current and future quality of the human capital of the organisation and treating it in the same way a financial business leader views an asset is key to satisfying the curiosity of investment managers when making investment decisions.