The business world is in need of a human capital revolution, if it is to conquer the challenges of a global skills shortage, maximise market opportunities and manage the profound shift brought about by the changing landscape of the workforce.

Speaking to an audience in Johannesburg recently, Jerry Nine, chief operating officer of the Skillsoft Corporation, a global pioneer in the field of e-learning, cautioned that organisations worldwide were failing to keep pace with the changing human resources environment.

He addressed the Café Africa 2013 Learning Transformation conference hosted by LRMG, a leading performance and skills development consultancy in partnership with Skillsoft Corporation throughout Africa.

Nine, based in the USA, says human capital has become one of the priority challenges for business of all types as a shortage of talent is felt around the world. Business is not investing sufficiently in up-skilling staff, affecting its ability to attract and retain the right people and secure future leaders.

US research reveals that only 58% of human capital professionals are developing strategies to ensure the agility of their companies and employees.

“The corporate world needs to make a big shift and embrace the new era of learner engagement,” he told delegates from nine African countries.

This involves making learning opportunities available to staff, as well as taking advantage of smart systems to radically change the manner in which learning occurs. An engaged workforce, he states, leads to higher operating margins, sales, net profits and customer satisfaction, the results of increased staff engagement and performance.

Nine promotes that the continuous learning model, in which learning is weaved into the daily fabric of the workplace, is located in formal spheres such as training events, job aids, e-learning courses and mentoring, as well as informal channels such as social networking and community chat rooms.

As a result of fast-moving technology, learning content can now be presented in an ever-expanding array of formats. Nine sketches a ‘big picture’ of techniques now in use by e-learning practitioners, such as mobile technology, desktop or IT videos, online books to support the workflow process, web-based leadership channels featuring the input of business leaders and gamification. In all of these, visualisation is a key element.

Nine further warns that the uncertainty around big data is growing alongside its exploding volumes. In order to manage and interpret it, the need for more highly skilled, engaged employees offering superior performance will become all the more pressing.

According to Kevin Young, Skillsoft’s General Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, there is often a “disconnect” between employees’ expectations regarding skills development and the employer’s training budget.

E-learning, however, can be structured to optimise budgets; the virtual classroom is less costly to run than a traditional one, and has significantly further reach even with limited learning and development resources.

Irwin van Stavel, senior partner at LRMG comments that learning practitioners in Africa need to adopt more innovative learning approaches if they wish to remain relevant to their organisations.

Current trends for engaging learners in “big picture” learning include visual learning media, on-demand e-learning resources, social collaboration tools, problem solving and allowing leaders to teach as part of blended learning strategies.

The LRMG/Skillsoft partnership provides cloud-based learning solutions for customers in South Africa and beyond, dealing with a number of sectors including corporate, government and education.

Customised, creative e-learning courseware is designed in consultation with clients to assist organisations in maximising their people talent. Both parties bring the gains of extensive, varied and global experience to the collaboration.