Fiona Barclay

Fostering talent within

The importance of continual learning for DevelopmentWA

5 minute read
Fiona Barclay

DevelopmentWA Chief Financial Officer Fiona Barclay

Supporting employees to further their skills and development is vital to forging a culture of continual learning in a workplace.

According to DevelopmentWA Chief Financial Officer Fiona Barclay, support for professional development is a non-negotiable in the current working climate.

“We’re operating in a hypercompetitive job market, with strong demand for skilled employees, so it makes sense for employers to nurture and develop talent from within,” she said.

“Support for professional development is the competitive advantage that sets growth and employer-of-choice organisations apart, and it is something every organisation should offer as part of their employee value proposition.

“Employees need to feel supported in their pursuit of studies, which often requires a significant personal time and cost commitment. Support provided by an employer for further studies demonstrates that the organisation is serious about investing in their people’s personal and professional development.

“People feel valued when organisations invest in them and studies have shown this leads to increased commitment and performance levels.”

My Learning Journey

Tailored to individuals’ learning preferences, DevelopmentWA has formed a program called My Learning Journey to continue their ongoing commitment to the development of their employees.

Ms Barclay said My Learning Journey formed part of DevelopmentWA’s broader learning and development strategy.

“The program aims to encourage our people to expand their expertise, promote individual growth, build on their skill set and create a culture of continual learning,” she said.

“It puts the individual in the driver’s seat to control their own development.”

There are eight pathways that the program is centred around, incorporating a mixture of on-the-job, social and formal training.

1. Foundation skills

The Foundation Skills pathway focuses on core skills that align with DevelopmentWA’s strategic objectives and values.

These skills can be learnt in a variety of ways while on the job, including shadowing another employee, job rotations, lessons learnt, leadership development, on-boarding and compliance, as well as skills expansion through day programs and more.

2. Mini mastery topics

These topics present short, sharp opportunities to expand expertise, therefore improving and encouraging development.

“Mini Mastery Topics are targeted content that expends and supports foundational skills,” Ms Barclay said.

“These are short sharp sessions for skill development.”

3. Technical learning

Technical Learning provides training opportunities that are role-specific and a development plan for technical skills.

Examples include Microsoft Excel training, financial forecasting and an international relations course.

4. Coaching and mentoring

DevelopmentWA has a specialist mentor and mentee program for their employees.

The coaching aspect includes specific interventions with specialised coaches in areas such as assertiveness and self-awareness.

“Employees can enable mentoring by providing a toolkit and autonomy of selection from internally sourced mentors or externally,” Ms Barclay said.

The essence of mentoring and coaching is that both mentors and mentees have the opportunity to gain valuable skills, knowledge and professional growth, which makes it a useful tool in personal and work development.

5. Tertiary personalised

DevelopmentWA offers its employees subsidised tertiary education, which includes any certified courses, as well as Master of Business Administration, diplomas and postgraduate studies.

“DevelopmentWA has a very generous study leave policy, providing a 50 per cent subsidy towards course costs for our people to undertake tertiary education, as well as providing flexible working arrangements for people to fit in their studies,” Ms Barclay said.

From an employer’s perspective, education programs can be influential in the company’s ability to achieve organisational goals.

6. Curated digital learning

As the world continues to evolve with technology and digital processes, the use of digital learning becomes increasingly popular.

DevelopmentWA offers a database of on-demand videos, articles and other resources in order to support learning.

“These are continuously added to the ELMO and InSite software, which is accessible to all of our staff,” Ms Barclay said.

7. Targeted self-development

This method is personally driven development through selected learning materials such as podcasts, articles and TED Talks.

By allowing employees to target their own self-development, there is a greater opportunity of engagement and focus.

Giving employees the choice as to the type of self-development they commit themselves to allows for personal growth with a greater focus on what is beneficial to their role, as they have a unique insight into what their job entails.

8. Social network

Another method of development through the My Learning Journey program is utilising social networking both internally and externally through networking events and other platforms to expand experiences and broaden perspective.

The outcome of My Learning Journey

Ms Barclay said DevelopmentWA saw the program as providing a wide range of benefits for their people and the organisation.

“We’ve embedded My Learning Journey in the performance management process to drive a learning culture,” she said.

“This formalises learning commitments and allows for tracking and measurement of progress for individuals and the organisation as a whole, which can help identify trends.

“The program helps us to cultivate a learning culture with high levels of learning engagement.

“My Learning Journey focuses on integrating the corporate training offering for employees with business objectives and performance management. It also provides consistent learning and transparency, and increases self‐driven learning.

“The program provides a framework that captures and shares knowledge, equipping employees with the skills they need now and for future job success.”

Ms Barclay said the most common courses as part of the tertiary pathway were project, property and business-related studies, as these were relevant to DevelopmentWA’s core business.

“We’re also seeing a noticeable trend in people wanting to develop soft skills, which include conflict resolution, communication and delegating effectively,” she said.

“Developing leadership skills has been a key focus area over the past six to 12 months, with tailored leadership development programs being offered to current and emerging leaders at DevelopmentWA.”

For DevelopmentWA, the My Learning Journey program not only helps with staff retention, it can also be used as a recruitment tool, with learning and development opportunities proven to be a key attractor of quality job candidates.

Applying continuous learning to your business

Ms Barclay said employers should endeavour to form written policies, however further learning should be embedded in the company’s culture.

“The best way for organisations to support tertiary learning is by directly supporting people via course fee subsidies and, just as importantly, providing flexibility for people to attend courses and to study,” she said.

“Employers should also ensure their written policies support formal education, however this must be underpinned by nurturing a learning culture, where people are encouraged to further their development.”