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Training Talent in Africa

guy_pfeffermann_webIn 2012 GBSN partnered with the Association of African Business Schools and two foundations in launching an exciting organization, the African Management Initiative. Its ambitious aim: to help train African managers on a significant scale.

In June AMI asked 136 Kenyan Human Resources professionals : “If you could help grow the staff in your company in a few key areas of personal competence, what would they be?” Their responses are at the heart of a fascinating report: Training Talent Ð Best Practice in Workplace Learning and Management, which also draws on previous research. The report focuses particularly on management and entrepreneurship. To me, one of its main merits is that it helps understand why traditional training courses have had little measurable impact on company performance.

Here are the eight principal “takeaways”:

1.) Effective managers and entrepreneurs hold the key to Africa’s prosperity.
2.) Demand for training is greatest for job entrants, entrepreneurs and junior to middle managers. The need is often in small companies that do not have the resources to send their managers to expensive business schools – 99.6% of firms in Nigeria employ fewer than ten workers and in Kenya alone it is estimated that there are 750 000 small and medium sized companies.
3.) What managers and entrepreneurs need most are soft skills.
Twenty-first century work-readiness skills and management ability are more important than technical and functional skills, but much of learning and development spending is focused on technical and functional skills.
4.) Embedding effective management practices into the routine of the company has more impact than focusing on individual competencies.
The implication for learning and development practitioners is that they need to focus less on teaching knowledge to individuals and more on transforming what organizations actually do, or “company habits”. Survey respondents cited change management as the highest priority outcome from their learning programs.
5.) In order to change behavior we need learning methodologies that incorporate experience, practice, feedback and accountability, not just content and theory.
This calls for approaches such as the flipped classroom, action learning and blended learning. These draw on the 70:20:10 principle: we learn most from experience on the job, then from interaction with peers, and least from content in lectures and texts
6.) Rapid developments in technology support these methods through virtual communities, engaging content, and data to individualize learning.
They allow for company feedback, accessibility on mobile phones, and simple ways for users to create and share their own content. Users can now access learning and business toolkits when they need them, anywhere, any time and at minimal cost.
7.) The preferred solution is blended learning in which the economy, scale and convenience of online learning is managed through the intensity, practice and shared insight of face-to-face interactions.
This works best in customized company programs with peer learning and accountability processes that integrate learning and performance at work.
8.) AMI data show that performance can indeed be transformed.
Of those who participated in AMI blended learning programs, 97% state that they apply what they learn at work and 86% report improved effectiveness. Among entrepreneurs/business owners, 85% report improvement in operating efficiency since engaging with AMI. A large majority report that the AMI blended method was more helpful than others they had experienced.

I congratulate Jonathan Cook and Rebecca Harrison, who invented and started AMI.

One of GBSN’s most impactful roles is being “midwife” to other initiatives such as the Association of African Business Schools, which share its vision: improving access to quality, locally relevant education for managers and entrepreneurs for the developing world.

Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network