How companies deal with training: the learning and development landscape in Egypt

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In a post-COVID, fast-changing world, endless challenges have redefined the dynamics which shape the corporate sector. With the lingering economic uncertainty and inevitable recession, some companies opted for massive cut-offs in the last two years. But that does not resolve the issue of the mismatch between available jobs and available skills.

“We are not short in people. We need to be able to cater to the needs of the corporate world,” said Sherif Kamel, Dean of AUC School of Business, during an event that was hosted by AUC Business Executive Education to showcase the highlights of The Corporate Learning and Development Landscape in Egypt report, which analyzes the learning and development (L&D) landscape in Egypt. The report goes in line with the aim of AUC School of Business in shaping future leaders and fostering further knowledge, as Dean Kamel stressed.

According to Mohamed Kesseba, program director of the open enrollment unit at the AUC School of Business Executive Education program, “this report is the first in a series of further activities and discussions of what the market needs.” Entirely conducted by the AUC School of Business Executive Education team, the study spanned 30 companies from 12 sectors, equally selected between large/multinational corporates and Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Covering six main areas, or needs of businesses with respect to training, the report demonstrates how crucial L&D is not only to maximize the profitability of companies but also to reinforce their resistance amid economic fluctuations. But which kind of training would be needed? Standardized and, ultimately, applicable to all businesses, or rather a tailored training, based on the company’s needs? The answer to these questions could be only determined by how the collaboration between the training provider and the corporate would operate.

The most pressing yet unmet need globally

In an ideal learning environment, knowledge is more effective when the learning process is more interactive, and so is staff training. Yasmine Khalil, AUC School of Business Executive Education’s Program Manager, highlighted that 87 percent of the sampled corporates—the same percentage has been globally reported—expressed their aspiration for a consultant-partner relationship with training providers, defining it as “the most pressing yet unmet need globally.” This is because interactive training requires reciprocal engagement from both sides, the training providers with their expertise and corporates with their input. For Khalil, customer-centric solutions can be achieved when training providers become familiar with the corporate’s structure so that customized training would be designed for its needs.

Since time is money, most companies are unwilling to wait for the training provider to conduct rigorous analysis before designing a training program. As such, Khalil asserted that 81 percent of companies are looking for uplifting job skills by equipping their employees with a condensed problem-solving training that allows them to solve an issue as most efficiently as possible. “There is a rising need for experiential learning which blends theory with practical experience, application, as well as relatability,” said Khalil.

Identifying the need for training falls on HR shoulders

Depending on its size, there are two management approaches that determine training needs: top-bottom and bottom-up. For instance, 76 percent of large and multinational companies have their top management directing training needs, leaving the procedural steps for the HR, whereas in 67 percent of SMEs training needs are identified by executives and department heads, with some top management participation.

When it comes to what triggers training needs, 51 percent of the companies in the report held that the need for L&D is always identified by their HRs, compared to 22 percent department driven, 16 percent market driven, and 11 percent driven by strategic management vision.

HR plays a pivotal role in training provider assessment and decisions. 68 percent of companies participating in the survey reported that their HR determines training criteria, and 62 percent said their HR determines training budgets. In terms of decision making, 49 percent of companies stated that their HR determines training decisions, compared to 7 percent who reported it was their top management, and 44 percent indicated it was their finance departments.

Who trains their staff the most?

Depending on how crucial it is for work functions, corporates invest in training. The banking sector was found to have the highest investment rates in training, with EGP 18 to 40 million allocated annually, followed by the ICT, automotive and Food & Beverages sectors. The agribusiness sector had the least investment, with LE 250,000 to LE 1.5 million allocated for training purposes.

Physical, hybrid training, or both?

Since COVID, a large part of companies has involuntarily shifted their work online; however, when it comes to training, 46 percent of staff still prefer physical training sessions, whereas only 11 percent prefer the virtual option. There is an in-between, hybrid option which 43 percent of employees prefer. According to Ghada Howaidy, associate dean of executive education, in the near future there would not be one single working mode, insofar that the new normal requires high adaptability. She argued that the hybrid model is an optimal mode for both future work and training.

The return-on-investment dilemma

It is clear that companies invest in developing the skills of their staff to improve performance and ultimately increase their profits, but one could wonder if the fruits of training could be only measured by revenues. The problem is that it takes sometimes long-term evaluation for the effectiveness of training to be measured. The more input corporates would provide to trainers, the more considerate the latter would be as they customize their training. “We [as trainers] are the owners of the training and quality, you [corporates] are the owners of the content,” said Howaidy.

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