Changing your view on learning and growth

Ucademy is an accredited learning institution, offering five qualifications and targeted skills programmes within the Business Process Management (BPM) field

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Courses ranging from NQF2 to NQF5 are available, this means that anyone is able to further their education, from the school-leaver to the chief executive officer. In fact, with the rapidity of change happening in the world today, many professionals will need to either be reskilled or upskilled at some point. In addition, with an on-site instructional design team, each course can be tailormade to suit the audience, which could be on-site corporate training in any sector.

BPM, as defined by Gartner, ”Is the discipline of managing processes (rather than tasks) as the means for improving business performance outcomes and operational agility. Processes span across organisational boundaries, linking people, information flows, systems and other assets to create and deliver value to customers and constituents.”

Judy Robison, the Executive Director of Ucademy, uses this premise in managing and leading Ucademy. Robison and her leadership team are constantly exploring innovative ways to better serve their learners and corporate clients. Robison believes that education doesn’t end in the classroom and that sending newly qualified graduates or learners into the corporate world without enough mentoring and coaching is short sighted and negates the value of true learning. In addition, taking the authentic intent to create meaningful growth, work and career opportunities is what sets Robison and her team apart from the rest. The Ucademy team are absolutely dedicated to improving the lives of all who come into contact with them and their supported work environments.

Ucademy was born out of a concept given to Robison when she was asked to build a unique learning and development vehicle, that would attract and retain talent. The quality of the talent has vastly improved because of the on-the-job training and integrated learning. The question, then, was: How do we create a corporate academy that provides the required skills to businesses, whilst empowering the employees? The answer was to drive the focus on the BPM sector, as it is considered a priority economic sector for South Africa. Furthermore, when the sector grows, the academy grows and sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained.

Learning in context

Being book studied is merely the start, yet learning in context is crucial to the successful development of learners and graduates. Learning in context means that Ucademy assists in finding internships and workplace learning opportunities, whilst providing mentoring and coaching . This ensures that new workplace entrants and graduates reach their full potential. This concept is based on ‘business-led learning’, meaning that the corporates into which the graduates are placed, provide the guidance and skills development based on their needs, whilst Ucademy supports and guides the application of skill.

Robison says, “Because of the growth in the BPM sector, Ucademy has a great percentage of absorption into full-time employment.” This success is a direct result of the learning in context concept, the excellent level of educators and facilitators, along with the support received from the Ucademy learning team. Ucademy finds the candidates, creates a pool of talent and provides access to learning and the route to embedded learning, with a very strong support system. In support of this, Robison emphasises that Ucademy does not just ‘tick boxes’, but rather creates opportunities in the reality of business.

Removing the ego leads to graduate success

Robison says she has learnt many lessons throughout her career, however, she has always possessed the ability to identify potential and nurture that potential into true skills. Robison talks about education and learning in a reverent, almost spiritual, way: When you are in a position to provide learning and it’s either not taken or not appreciated, it can be frustrating. Therefore, it is important to focus on the reflectiveness of self. Removing the ego from the teaching process allows you to see that the teaching is not about you. It’s about the potential recipient and their level of openness.

Teaching and mentoring is about helping people realise their true potential and acknowledge that they are worth so much more than they thought they could be, Robison says. The key is the access to learning—which, in South Africa, may seem to be an insurmountable issue. But listening to Robison, her passion is almost tangible and illustrates that everyone can be a teacher.

The learning leader

Robison began her career as a Facilitator and her passion for the field of learning was sparked when she witnessed students grasping concepts and completing tasks they previously thought they were unable to achieve. Ucademy operates on the principles of respect, fairness, appreciation and honesty.

Integrity is a crucial element in the field of learning, there needs to be a mutual trust between the student and teacher. Robison says that the way leadership and learning are being done now is not working, and that only by looking at how collaboration and interpersonal interaction can be improved will there be a change.

On a global level, we need to rethink, collaborate, and evaluate how leaders need to drive learning and ‘show up’ as role models to inspire change.

Leadership is a personal journey, which is led in public. The leader’s value system needs to be their driving force. Coming from a place of authenticity and positive intent is crucial when one grows another’s potential and sets up a platform for growth. Gratitude is another daily task required for a positive leader, says Robison. Looking at your gifts and opportunities and then paying them forward will create a chain of positivity and growth.

Two processes that cut across all businesses are:

1. The building of capacity

The learning leader understands that developing skills within their organisation is a critical investment for employees and the business. Ensuring employees feel valued contributes greatly to engagement and success. In the words of Richard Branson: Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.

2. Data

The most valuable asset in any business, second only to human capital, is the data and subsequent information available. In fact, Robison believes that leadership and data are intertwined. Utilising the insights available from the data in order to make critical and strategic decisions for growth will ensure the success of any organisation. The implementation of these insights is not necessarily for leadership only, rather, the learning leader will create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to be part of the implementation process.

Learning leaders must, in addition to constant learning, reflect on themselves, think across a range of domains, sectors and people, all the while connecting the dots to create opportunities for the stakeholders and their teams. They must be able to learn and adapt quicker than their competitors in order to stay relevant.

Another characteristic of a learning leader is to know when to say no. Boundaried and focused. “We only take on projects where we know we are giving quality to the learner and, in the case of workplace learning, proper value to the business,” Robison says.

The yin and yang

As a successful woman in business, Robison says she is blessed to have never experienced gender discrimination. One gender-related hurdle she has had to deal with is “Can the same hand that rocks the cradle, rock the boardroom?” An interesting debate, which was presented by Intelligence Squared and broadcasted from Hong Kong on BBC World.

Her answer is a resounding yes. It takes an open mind to know that, although it may appear some business practices favour specific genders, this is not always the case. For example, setting up a board meeting at 7am does not mean that this is gender-specific discrimination, but rather a lack of awareness of attendees’ responsibilities outside the workplace. For example; “The school run is not solely a mother’s domain; many single fathers have the same issue,” says Robison.

Whilst self-care may take a backseat in the grander scheme of life whilst juggling career and home, coupled with the feeling that at one point, one of your priorities is not receiving adequate attention, this is in no way a woman’s only issue. Men, too, have to balance life and work, yet this concept is oftentimes overlooked.

Diversity must be respected across all in business. Her advice to men and women in business is to embrace the reality of why you can and can’t do something. Communicate honestly and respectfully with your team, and amazing things will happen, you will feel heard and appreciated. And lastly, if you are still unhappy, either change or shift your environment—be honest with yourself. If the situation is largely due to you, then you need to amend your thinking and/or your ways. This is not easy but it is worthwhile. 

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