Looking to the future: the move towards lifelong learning

What skills are organisations looking for in the talent they employ, and how can Business Schools instil these?

Business and the labour market changes continually, as do individual career paths. In a volatile world, even MBAs are challenged to keep abreast of the trends and issues, and ensure they are nurturing and enhancing the skills they need to succeed in their career trajectories. 

There are many opportunities for Business School professionals and students to further their knowledge and develop the skills they need in their chosen professions and throughout life. And with countless learning and development (L&D) opportunities available in a saturated market, students need to embrace learning from other facets of life that can be integral to their growth. 

Knowledge can be acquired, and skillsets developed, anywhere in everyday life. Lifelong learning requires a positive attitude towards both personal and professional L&D. 

Lifelong learners are motivated to develop because they want to better themselves continuously, and this mindset needs to be acknowledged by education providers. So how do Business School leaders provide lifelong learning to their students and community?

Learning to manage knowledge

In a session of the AMBA & BGA Business School Summit 2022, four business experts – all passionate lifelong learners themselves – came together to share their expertise in ongoing learning, and how this impacts their search for talent. 

Session chair Robin Gibson, Marketing Director at Kortext, started by pointing out that having four different countries represented on the panel (with many more watching) ‘attested to the change we have seen in the past couple of years alone. It really re-enforces the question of ‘why lifelong learning is so important in the current climate’ he said.

Tim Ackermann, Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Oda, addressed this important question by noting the speed at which knowledge moves. ‘If you look at the engineering and technical degrees, up to half of your knowledge is already outdated when you end your degree,’ he pointed out.

‘Not only do you need to upgrade your knowledge and skills, specifically, in higher education,  I also think it’s important to understand how to manage knowledge, and how to manage teams. You need to find a passion for moving into different areas of knowledge. Even in today’s climate, it’s valuable if you have switched disciplines because everything’s becoming more interlinked.’

Gibson turned to Heini Utunen, Head of the Learning & Capacity Development Unit of the Health Emergencies Programme at the World Health Organization (WHO), to ask how her organisation copes with the speed at which knowledge evolves, and whether people inside her organisation have a genuine thirst for knowledge.

Utunen responded that, for the most part, they do, explaining: ‘It’s both personal learning, but also that broader learning in the professional areas, and in the community. 

‘But I think, for us in the sector of health, science is changing. My team provides the support function for that learning intervention and health, so we also need to be abreast of the technologies and how consumers of information change, and this is a constant cycle. This is a constant way in which we must be open-minded and able to come with a solutions-orientated mindset.

‘Many of the professionals today are just problem solvers,’ she added. ‘When this problem-solving, curious mindset is there, the professional background is actually much less important.’

Gibson then turned to Elisabetta Galli, Global Human Resources Business Partner and Learning & Development CoE Lead at Lightsource bp, to ask how candidates’ approach to lifelong learning impacts the search for talent. 

Galli replied that she fully agrees that continued learning is one of the most important issues of the moment: ‘It must be part of the natural attitude of the talent we are looking for in the marketplace, much more than their technical skills’ – adding that ‘the culture of the company, the values, and this new organisational empathy require different attitudes’.

‘The talent we are looking for need to have strong human values, strong abilities to manage people and to stay close to people, to create and to develop strong relationships with employees. They really need to be able to understand what external customers want and what motivates them.’ 

Galli rounded up the conversation by adding: ‘I think, especially now, what we are looking for in the external talent marketplace is the cultural behavioural fit, on top of technical skills.’

Robin Gibson, Marketing Director, Kortext

Tim Ackermann, Director, Global Talent Acquisition, Oda
Elisabetta Galli, Global Human Resources Business Partner and Learning & Development CoE Lead, Lightsource bp
Heini Utunen, Head of Unit AI, Learning & Capacity Development Unit, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO)

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

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