Why is Asia investing more in L&D innovation than the UK, do we need to find the balance?

It is estimated that 50% of the current global workforce are millennials and by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials. With the current estimated staff turnover of 300% in hospitality and 59% in retail, we simply cannot ignore their wants, needs and expectations, especially if we want to retain, develop and engage with them. Managing people has to take on a whole new perspective and so new thinking is needed. This is especially true when one reflects that 58% of Millennials change jobs simply to find new skills and learning opportunities when they feel that those in their current employment are unclear or blocked.

L&D is an area of HR which often comes under scrutiny and which sometimes is the first to be cut in times of austerity and budget considerations. It is also an area of the business which in some businesses, rightly or not does not seem to command much trust, inclusion or respect at board level and so has not received any or much innovation within the past decade. But it is becoming increasingly evident and important that change is necessary as there is a change in demand being placed on the workplace and world by the new emerging workforce – the Millennial and Generation Z.

Upskill People have established themselves for over 25 years as a consistent provider of quality, in depth and experiential scenario based online learning courses within the retail and hospitality industries. Their constant focus is on providing innovative learning to change behaviours, measure the impact thereof and ultimately enable businesses to make a valuable investment in their staff learning and development, thereby impacting positively on engagement, culture and retention.

Pete Fullard – the founder of Upskill People, has been researching this change for the past 4 years with the focus being on management development and the importance of developing managers in a different and meaningful ways. This research took him and his business to Asia where 70% of the management workforce are Millennials and Gen Z and many businesses growing at pace do not have long standing or well-established HR departments.

Pete reflects: “There is a definite difference in approach and thinking between some businesses in the UK and those in Asia. It is fair that while Asia is a booming market the UK in comparison is a mature market. While both have their challenges, some of those are different. In the UK one often finds that HR Directors are measured by the board in merely delivering management programmes to a specific number of people. The focus is on providing knowledge but not necessarily converting that knowledge into skills and competencies, ultimately to create a sustained change in behaviour. Therefore, the results are often uninspiring and so culture and staff turnover are adversely affected. Some are unwilling to change their learning outlook and offer, sometimes because trainers are employed by the company and for some, it is simply how it has always been done. Lack of trust can be a substantial barrier for many, but it is fair to say that often HR are not included in board discussions and company visions so the relationship between board and HR is often strained.

In Asia, with substantial business growth, the management workforce demographic being at 70% Millennial and Gen Z and with recruitment into hospitality and retail being difficult due to the undesirable reputation afforded to those industries, businesses have had to think differently. In Asia, L&D and innovation therein is embraced and used as a recruitment tool to promote the active investment in people and their professional development as a means to improve retention and engagement. They look to give staff skills they can use in their career and life, so this helps with recruitment and performance.”

So, is it all about uploading L&D lessons onto a digital platform? “Absolutely not,” continued Pete. “Millennials and Gen Z are used to having knowledge anytime, anywhere and with access to updates and interaction, just like they are used to on social media. For them learning at work needs to be constant and not a one day classroom cramming event. Realistic and challenging scenario based learning, including videos, is something they are also very comfortable with. They are looking for the long term skills which they can implement to perform better and deliver value quickly, and as we know, they will leave their current job in a heartbeat to go and find another which can give them clear career path and skill development.”

Leadership and good managers really do make the difference in business and culture, because as the saying goes, people don’t leave businesses, they leave managers.

Pete continues, “Both Asia and the UK are competing for people, now more than ever. Perhaps where we in the UK can learn from those in Asia is that companies growing at pace, as many are in Asia, do not have the time to establish traditional L&D structures or HR departments and so are forced to embrace technology and innovation. They often also don’t have the time or financial resources to expend on long onboarding or management development programmes, especially when staff turnover is high. They need quick, cost effective and innovative solutions which can provide their teams with the necessary skills and competencies they need to the highest quality but in the shortest time. We have been able to help many in Asia and the UK achieve exactly that.”

It is fair that the workforce landscape has changed, they demand more from the world and the world of work, and as such we have a choice to heed their needs and embrace their expectations or not. What we do know is that if we choose not to, they will simply find someone else who is prepared to.