The Learning Coach: A desire to help

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Written by Jane Daly on 2 November 2020

Some people devote their life to others e.g. a nurse who leaves their native home to work in an unfamiliar and war-ravaged country, whilst others prefer to limit their support to immediate family.

Learning professionals are likely to be motivated to some degree by a desire to help others. This is good for the profile of a profession longing to be truly recognised for what it was actually designed for - to help people to successfully implement their organisational strategy.  

One of the challenges is that ‘successfully implementing the organisational strategy’ is becoming more and more complex and challenging and this trend is likely to continue as the world of work transforms. In this context, it is timely for professionals to rethink their purpose and how their ability to help is best optimised.

One thing to note is that helping people is a good thing to do: there is clear evidence that succeeding enhances wellbeing. It supports feeling more worthwhile and the act of it also releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes humans feel more connected, something learning professionals could do with much more of right now, particularly in this climate.

So, who is the profession's desire to help really helping?

To answer this question, it’s valuable to consider the art of self-care and the value of fitting your own mask before helping others. Strategic learning professionals regularly report feeling overwhelmed and under-equipped and therefore it is timely for the learning community to increase its ability to look after itself.

We need to create the conditions for human-powered energy to thrive.

Another consideration is to make sure that any help offered is grounded in the need to nudge but not to control. There is a fine line between saying what you think and telling someone what to think, or in fact what to learn.

Too much help can also foster dependency, getting the balance right will depend on the culture and level of conditioning that exists, as well as how ready people are to change. We need to create the conditions for human-powered energy to thrive.

Most professionals advocate the value of cultivating lifelong learning in corporate organisations, but a culture like this naturally encourages people to take ownership of their learning, provides them with a safe and trusted place to test/fail/succeed and also rewards personal growth.

These critical habits are present in high value organisations where investment in people is constantly tuned, making them more adaptable, flexible and innovative, but sadly most people do not regularly experience these types of work environments, in fact quite the opposite, and therefore people are being left behind because the right level of help has not supported them to become resilient, reskill and grow.

The CBI’s new report 'Learning for life: funding world class adult education', based on McKinsey & Company analysis, shows that nine out of ten employees will need to reskill by 2030 at an additional cost of £13bn a year.

With COVID-19 now accelerating changes to the world of work, the UK must use this momentum to drive a national reskilling effort. Learning for life also sets out how boosting business and Government investment in reskilling would improve job satisfaction and raise living standards.

The scale and complexity of the reskilling challenge is now huge and also highlights that it’s no wonder the learning profession is struggling to cope alone. The profession and professionals need to rethink how they step up and help in a completely different way.

This is the best opportunity the profession has had to shine because the need is there at scale and there is no real evidence that the level of help available today is working at the pace and scale required, so there’s not much to defend.

It’s really good to see the government recognising the need to drive a national reskilling effort, but real change at this scale only works when passionate people act together as a community. Don’t try and help all on your own, it’s time to ask for help!


About the author

Jane Daly is the founder of People Star and People Who Know.

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