Irwin van Stavel
In last month’s edition of the LRMG Express, Managing Director of LRMG, Irwin van Stavel, analysed Africa’s leadership crisis, looked at providing long-term solutions, and specifically at the role of performance in responding to the call for leadership transformation.


He argued that “The buck stops with leaders as far as transformation is concerned. Learning and Development (L&D) functions are most often the scapegoats for poor performance, and are often asked to train and develop people more to improve performance. This is a lost cause because L&D and Human Resources do not own performance. They own the responsibility of getting people ready to perform.” Following on from that analysis, van Stavel focuses on the role of L&D in getting people ready to perform in order to transform business cultures into high-performance organisations.

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2015 Report, for organisations to achieve high performance through their people (human capital), leadership needs to transform.

This transformation needs to happen within the context of three key challenges facing leaders today in Africa and in the World:

  1. Establishing an environment or culture for engagement and collaboration.
  2. Developing the leadership capability in an organisation such that there is bench strength and individuals that can grow into leadership roles.
  3. The ability for organisations to transform through accelerating the L&D capability in the organisation. “Only through this acceleration can organisations be competitive, agile and adaptive to the speed of global change cycles,” argues van Stavel.

The challenge for L&D functions, in getting people ready to perform, is that they are faced with the ‘distracted employee’, who today has only 45 minutes available to give energy towards being upskilled, trained and developed on a specific skill or competence, who wants nothing more than to be left alone to do things on their own, collaborate with their peers and feel empowered, van Stavel points out.

“In the last five years, the advent of the principle of 70:20:10 has given L&D practitioners a blueprint based on hundreds of years of research that illustrates the ways people best learn and perform. The budgets for training and development have been focused, to a large extent, on impacting the 10 percent in the 70:20:10 equation, which is the formal, structured learning programmes.”

“Part of L&D’s change agenda, therefore, has to be: How do we realign our budget to impact the full spectrum of 70:20:10, where less time is spent in the classroom and more emphasis is placed on performance and learning in the workplace with the support of good managers and leaders in an environment underpinned by coaching and mentoring?”

The recipe is very simple; the execution, however, very daunting – because what needs to happen is the changing of hundreds of years of indoctrinated formal learning styles and practices. The compounding issue for L&D functions is the relevance of what they are doing in the context of the generations at play in today’s workforce. Today’s generation can consume in one hour the same amount of information a Baby Boomer was exposed to and consumed in a whole year 50 years ago. “From an access to information and knowledge, and access to thought leadership point of view, the requirement for traditional training methods is no longer relevant or meaningful,” argues van Stavel.

In support of the transformation journey, L&D functions need to quickly assess why they do what they are doing, need to revisit these long curricula and catalogues of programmes that develop only generic competencies and they need to find pure and clear alignment between the things they are developing people in and the reason why they are doing it, and frame it around the strategic business outcomes and performance requirements. They then have to design learning around the way people learn best, with the proper emphasis over the 70 percent and 20 percent within the 70:20:10 framework, says van Stavel.

The way people learn best is highlighted in the latest Towards Maturity Benchmark Survey 2015*. In the survey, the Voice of the Learner statistics indicate that learners’ preferred style of engagement is (from highest to lowest preference):

  1. Team collaboration
  2. Manager support
  3. Web searches
  4. Conversations/meetings
  5. Support from mentor/coach/buddy
  6. Formal education courses
  7. Internal company documents
  8. Internal networks/communities
  9. Mobile
  10. Live online learning/self-paced learning

“A culture of performance is, therefore, underpinned by challenging people to engage, share, discover and find answers to their performance pain,” argues van Stavel.

Most web and mobile applications today are designed to satisfy five human needs that drive behaviour:

  1. Solving problems
  2. The desire to know more
  3. Making a social contribution
  4. Being competitive
  5. Being recognised for success

These needs are fulfilled today through the most used global applications like YouTube, TripAdvisor, Uber, AirBnB, etc.

“Therefore, what an organisation will require for a culture of learning to exist is an environment that provides their employees with access to the right tools and resources to encourage and enable them to find answers, to solve problems, to collaborate, to perform better, and to recognise and reward them for these behaviours. It will also demand of L&D to establish a culture where people are ready to live and work in a world that demands “ChangeAgility” as a core capability. This will ensure that people and organisations remain competitive in this VUCA** (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and deliver value at the right time and when it is needed most,” concludes van Stavel.

For more information about the Towards Maturity Benchmark Survey Report, read Founder and CEO of Towards Maturity, Laura Overton’s, analysis of what the top-performing L&D teams have to teach us.


Towards Maturity 2015–16 Industry Benchmark Report