tiistai 15. marraskuuta 2011


Let´s start with something that is generally agreed upon: In this world of continuous change it is necessary that we develop our own knowledge relentlessly. Pure information and knowledge as such aren´t enough, it is important that we are active in using and applying new knowledge in our own field of operation. Does this sound familiar? And there ´s more where that came from: The ultimate goal in competence development is to enhance a person´s professional working capacity as a whole! 

The recipe for true learning includes the following ingredients:

  1. Knowledge and skills, naturally
  2. Experiences that you gain and that you reflect upon in order to learn and to change your behavior
  3. Attitudes that you are more or less aware of and which you can develop into some extent
  4. Contacts as your social capital that constitutes your own professional problem solving and learning network, exceeding your own organisation´s boundaries, extending even beyond your own field of industry
Do you still agree with us? If you do, now this is where it gets interesting. If the previously described big picture is valid, it is funny enough that when we talk about education we quite often concentrate on the first, let´s say 4 years spent on education, instead of competence development during the whole roughly 40 years of working life.

Getting a degree and graduating is one thing, and then working for decades is another. What´s up with that? Maybe developing yourself throughout your career should get some more emphasis. Perhaps a solid research could shed some light on this issue? 

Research evidence 

Finnish Association of Business School Graduates (Suomen Ekonomiiliitto SEFE) ordered a research from Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics focusing on competence development especially from employer perspective. The aim of the research was to:
  • Reflect the  attitudes of the employers regarding competence development 
  • Find out how competence development is really done in organizations
This was the largest research made in Finland concentrating to this issue with University level business school graduates. Almost one thousand questionnaire answers from working business professionals, 80 from employers and several interviews from the employer associations gave a multiple perspective view to the issue. The average age of the respondents was 41 years.

Some very interesting research findings in a nutshell:         

  • Generally the business school graduates are satisfied with the competence development their employer offers them. The employer attitudes regarding competence development are seen positive regardless of who you ask, the employer or the employee 
  • However, the attitudes and actions of the employers vary across different employee groups: The most significant difference between groups is that the situation of management is better than the other groups. It seems that not all organisations have yet seen the importance of the competence development of all other professionals as well 
  • Most employers say that the responsibility of competence development is divided between the employer and the employee. But is it really so? Not all the respondents were happy with the possibilities their employer offers so it seems the development is still originating mainly from the organisation´s needs 
  • When asked about the most beneficial way of competence development, the employers see learning at work as more important as the employees do, which is really interesting. 
  • Employers also state that the employees are not that interested in competence development, and the employees say the offering of development possibilities do not meet their needs. Could these aspects be related to one another? 
Two challenges for us all: Real effectiveness and how much is enough?

Interesting findings aren´t they? There are for example some differences about what are considered as the most effective methods of learning.  What is actually effectiveness in competence development? Probably it means that the starting point for example management development is both the student and his/her organisation. In order to be effective, the learning experience has to be closely connected to the students’ personal development needs, as well as those of their organisation. Effectiveness also means maximising the impact of learning. Learning has to lead to actions that have effects on the ways in which organisations and individuals work.

 We argue that the skill and act of applying the concepts learned should be seen as a systemic and continuous flow of actions that involves interaction with various stakeholders. Are we as effective as possible when it comes down to education and development?

Here´s another idea inspired by the research. Respondents are perhaps surprisingly happy about the development possibilities offered by their companies.  Based on the research everything seems to be quite well. If that wasn´t the case, they wouldn´t be answering like this now would they? However we would like to challenge you a little bit: Do we actually demand enough from ourselves and from our organisations? Do we take the effort to totally renew your thinking instead of just updating? Do we take competence development seriously enough?

So the next time you are thinking about the future of yourself and our organisation, you could ask:
  • How well have you been able to renew your paradigms and how deeply and actively have you applied the learned things in practice? 
  • What is your investment strategy for competence development, on organisational level, on a personal level? 

Any comments and ideas about his blog post, for or against, are more than welcome!

Pasi Aaltola                                                                        Anna Hartikainen
Director, MBA Education                                                   Researcher

Full research report (139 pages, in Finnish):
Ekonomien ammatillisen osaamisen kehittäminen -työnantajien asenteet ja panostukset

2 kommenttia:

  1. Thanks, Pasi and Anna, for sharing these interesting results with us!

    You are raising extremely important points in your posting. As you note, in business schools we still mostly seem to concentrate on sharing knowledge and skills, and competence development comprising the other three “ingredients of true learning” continues in working life. Could basic business education, however, integrate more of these ingredients as well? Could we have a stronger role in offering experiences, shaping attitudes, and creating contact networks with our students, thereby backing up the competence capital of our graduates as they enter the working life?

    I believe there would be room for renewing our paradigms in how we approach our “investment strategy for competence development” of business graduates. We are about to launch our work at JSBE in renewing the curriculum for 2013 and onwards, and the results of your study are one great source of new ideas for this work.

    Hanna-Leena Pesonen
    Professor in Corporate Environmental Management
    Vice Dean of JSBE responsible for education development

  2. Excellent! You expanded the scope of our thinking. Of course the big picture from business school´s perspective should cover all of our educational operations. I agree, the elements for learning presented in the blog are very much worthwhile to think also in undergraduate and MSc level education.

    But, with that being said, it is especially interesting to think about what is the role of the business school after graduation. How can for example JSBE add value to the graduate´s educational investment? MBA and other executive education programs are probably one piece of the puzzle, but there´s a lot of room for innovation and experiments here.

    Pasi Aaltola