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AstraZeneca Webinar Roundup: Creating a Culture of Lifelong Learning

Natalie Benfell 

August 28, 2019

Technology has the power to shape every aspect of a business. Every new gadget or algorithm update has the power to derail an organization’s entire strategy. As a result, agility is key. If businesses hope to stand a chance of keeping up with their competitors, they need to be prepared to adjust their plans at a moment’s notice and deliver their products at break-neck speeds.

In an age when organizations need to “sense and respond” to change, all employees need to learn how to observe, analyze and react in high-pressure situations. 

The trouble is that many employees struggle to find the time to learn. Between busy workloads and even busier working environments, setting aside time to learn new skills can feel like a near-impossible task.

As a result, lifelong, self-motivated learning is now the most popular option among learners. Instead of viewing development and work separately, lifelong learning encourages employees to learn on-the-job. So it’s an organization’s responsibility to showcase the value of learning at work.

AstraZeneca is successfully changing the behaviors of its workforce by implementing practical, on-demand learning.  Mind Tools hosted a webinar with AstraZeneca’s Global Director of Leader & Enterprise Development, Spencer Holt to discuss how to create a culture of lifelong learning.

The Challenge at AstraZeneca 

AstraZeneca knew that they needed to adjust their learning strategy to the needs of the modern workforce. But first, they had to ask themselves what their end goal was, and why they wanted to achieve it.

One of AstraZeneca’s main concerns was the need for agility. Spencer said, “As we move forward, understanding that our leaders have to recognize our ability to pivot to sense and respond has to be greater. And, our ability to learn, whether that’s formal or informal, is at the heart of all of that.

We’re a big organization of over 65,000 people, so it takes a long time [to shift our strategy], but it’s a journey we’re definitely excited about.”

Leading Lifelong Learning From the Top Down 

There are many benefits to implementing a learning strategy, especially from a top-level perspective.

AstraZeneca wanted to be known as an organization that helps people to grow. Showcasing their commitment to learning has helped them to recruit, and retain top talent. By improving their employees’ ability to learn, AstraZeneca has equipped their people with the skills needed to approach challenges innovatively. This then has a huge impact on organizational growth and performance.

Moving From Push Learning to Pull Learning  

Employees are no longer waiting for the organization to push learning out; they’re taking it whenever they can. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they will search for it. 

AstraZeneca needed to invest in the right platform with the right resources. Spencer said “We want to make sure that the material is relevant and up-to-date, with a user experience that is personalized so it can really change user behavior. It also needs to be accessible on any device.” 

The Journey to Lifelong Learning

Nowadays, traditional, face-to-face learning is becoming less common. Not just because people prefer to learn at their own pace, but also because they simply don’t have the time.

AstraZeneca sought to provide learning opportunities that allowed people to learn in the flow of work. This helped people to feel supported to learn, while still being productive.

Creating this kind of learning strategy helps employees to think about their futures. Spencer asserted that “Nobody knows what future roles are going to look like. If we help people to understand the importance for them to continually learn, to identify the different skills and trends that are happening both inside and outside the organization and motivate them to be curious and to learn about those, that’s how we become successful and that’s how they start to have much more rewarding careers.” 

There were three key factors that helped AstraZeneca implement lifelong learning.

  1. Engage the leadership team: consider how you can use your leadership team to emphasize the importance of learning.
  2. Think marketing: drip-feeding constant reminders can help reinforce the importance of learning. 
  3. Define your value proposition: identify what role learning plays in your organization and look at the value it has. 

Not only did they create a culture of lifelong learning, but AstraZeneca’s new learning strategy also produced great outcomes. To see the full results, you can download a recording of the webinar here and download the accompanying slides here

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