Stellar Labs’s Chief Learning Officer Stella Collins talks to Learning and Development Coordinator at Sea Salt Women’s Clothing Georgia Blundell about how to build a learning culture, specialization vs. generalization in modern business culture, the role of women in L&D and why apprenticeships are so important.
How to build a learning culture at your company
Georgia was selected as a 30 under 30 at the 2020 Learning Technologies conference in London, an impressive accolade for someone who has been in the industry for a mere six months. She credits her mentors for helping her increase her L&D knowledge and skills, contributing to her success and rise. She is currently engaged in creating a learning culture for the retailer Sea Salt, which has 70 stores throughout the UK and Ireland and has just opened in the US. Georgia comments, “we want to be able to provide the same amount of learning to people in head office to our stores, our distribution center, customer services throughout the whole company. Because we’d like to be able to create a learning culture throughout the organization where everyone is self directed and is motivated to learn. So it’s just finding that way of achieving that. And with your course, hopefully we’ll be able to develop and understand how people learn and the best ways to approach it with them to keep them engaged and approach it that way.”
To reach these goals, Georgia has engaged in some training sessions with Stellar Labs in order to create a shift in the company’s learning culture. Chief Learning Officer at Stellar Labs Stella Collins comments: “They’ve had a couple of sessions with us, we followed up and we’re making sure that what we’re trying to do is change the culture and to change it from…something that’s imposed upon you. Something that you go and seek something you’re looking for, something you’re excited about. So it’s that kind of culture shift we’re looking for. So it’s perhaps not just the the L&D team we will work with, but it’s actually getting the learners to really feel passionate about wanting to learn and increase their own self development…”
Specialists vs. generalists and why it matters in modern business
Georgia mentions a key trend in modern business: the move from specialization to generalization. Georgia comments on her observations of this movement: “I see learning as a never-ending process and that you’re always able to develop your skills and knowledge and kind of enhance your knowledge in certain areas or you can expand it to lots of different areas. I think we’re moving into a world where there’s less specialists and kind of more generalists and that there’s a lot of people that know a lot about a lot of things rather than a lot about a certain specific areas. So I think that’s a really exciting time to be a learning development and I’m really excited about the future.”
This theme of specialization vs. generalization has gained a lot of traction recently with journalist David Epstein spearheading the discussion in his recently published bestseller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Epstein argues, “you need someone who’s zoomed out, looking at the larger outcomes you actually care about, not just the reductionist pieces of the puzzle in isolation…You want to foster those broader skills. Then, when the time comes to pick up more things, you have an ability to do that and your knowledge is more flexible. You can apply it to things you haven’t seen before.”
On being a woman in the learning industry
Georgia commented on her experience as a woman in the learning industry: “Sea Salt specifically is very women orientated, in the sense that we’re aimed at women as our customer. But there’s also a lot of women within the business as employees. And I’ve really felt that I’ve had a great start to my learning and development career as a woman. And it’s great that places like learning technologies conferences are able to embrace that and really kind of advertise that women and men are the same cause I don’t necessarily think it’s about women having more opportunities than men. It’s just making them equal. And I’m trying to encourage that equality.” She added, “I think it’s interesting to have conversations with men though and see what they reflect on within learning and whether there’s a difference of opinion with women as well. So it’s an ongoing phase of just making sure that people see men and women as equal.”
Why apprenticeships are important
Georgia also feels passionate about promoting apprenticeships in learning culture, “I think there’s a lot of negative connotations with apprenticeships and I’m really working hard at the moment to attract talent down to Cornwall through our graduate scheme and our apprenticeship scheme. And I think the stigma of apprenticeships really needs to change. I know there’s T levels coming in which are slightly different, but it’s having just been in national apprenticeship last week, I think there’s a lot more that apprenticeships can offer businesses now than they used to. And with the new standards, I think that’s really showing through. So I’m interested and really looking forward to promoting apprenticeships as a key asset to a business. I think leadership is massive for the future and enabling leaders of organizations to be able to use their skills effectively to inspire lower skilled employees to reach their level and ensure that there’s trainings throughout the business for all levels.”
How the concept of personalization has evolved
Personalization can stimulate learning and catering to an employees personal learning interests can be beneficial to business overall. Georgia comments “…personalization, which has been a big topic for Learning & Technologies.. It’s what they want to learn about and how they would like to develop their own skills and knowledge and really finding how we can help them to do that.” Stella comments that personalization has evolved since its initial stages when there was an “anything goes” attitude to it, “When I first went into L& D it was very much, “yes, you can just learn anything you like”, and then companies began to get people out learning flower arranging or basketball when actually what we need them to learn is some kind of technical skills. And I think there’s that tussle between personalization but making sure that it’s actually valuable for business.”
Georgia agrees that the apprenticeships need to be aligned with business goals and it’s important to assess “whether they’re really going to ultimately drive sales and improve customer satisfaction.”
If you’re interested in building a better learning culture at your company, email Stellar Labs at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +32 78 48 13 45.