Business Management

Ken Scott (Australia) - Why are Australian Organisations Primed to Take New Approaches to Learning?

I've come to know the Australian business market over the past couple of years, and find the similarities and differences with Europe quite striking. Traditionally, Australians liked the interactivity of classroom learning - delivered within the normal working day. So there has not been the same impetus to undertake e-learning anytime, anywhere. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Australian psyche. My Australian friends and colleagues are much more determined to hold on to a work/life balance in the face of 24/7 global markets.

That is not to say there is a lack of ambition or ability - quite the contrary. Australian consumers are tech-savvy, early adopters, who are very open to innovation. New entrants into the Australian corporate learning and software market - like ILX - are leveraging these factors to drive change. Over the past 18 months, this has led to an increase in the amount of blended learning solutions being used by Australian corporations.

In my experience, the pace of change in Australia has been so much quicker than the case in Europe and North America. Why? Well, Australia by-passed those early years when e-learning tended to over-promise and under-deliver - which only delayed widespread adoption. Now, solutions are much better designed, more user-friendly and effective. And Australians are very open about sharing their positive experiences, so there is a viral effect on interest and adoption.

What's more, Australians have taken a much more strategic approach to the adoption of learning solutions. For example, if they adopt best practice training, they make sure there is parallel organisational change to maximise the overall impact. So staff can see the point of the learning. And being pragmatic, they appreciate the time efficiencies innovative technology brings.

Looking forward, I can see two major areas of change over the coming years. First, skills and knowledge are powerful differentiators in local and global markets - so organisations want to ensure their effort and expenditure generates that difference. Australian organisations have started using external consultants for independent assessments of their learning needs in order to deliver the best return on investment - a service we have pioneered. Again, adoption is more rapid than in Europe, probably because Australians are less threatened by external scrutiny - what you see is what you get. In addition, Australian companies tend to have less baggage, so they can be more nimble in embracing change.

Secondly, the use of technology in learning - such as mobile learning, social learning, and just-in-time learning modules integrated into corporate systems - is set to explode. That love of technology and famous can-do attitude will help Australians leapfrog their more cautious European counterparts in terms of adoption and usage. This presents a massive opportunity to innovative providers who have a presence in the Australian market.

However, the core cultural dynamics will remain. For Australians, every form of technology will become part of the learning mix, but they will still prefer to conduct the majority of their learning within the course of the normal business day. I certainly don't expect to see Australians on the beach, undertaking learning sessions on their i-Pad or smartphone, anytime soon. They will have made sure to finish that before leaving the office. As the saying goes, sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ken Scott is Chief Executive Officer of the ILX Group plc. Ken won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year London & South region 2009 award. For more information on ILX, visit their website.



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