How to Achieve Learning Goals in a Post-Pandemic World? A Discussion with Pascal Gauthier of Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)

June 30, 20211:09 pm1452 views

Conversations around upskilling have come to the fore as more talents realise the need to build skills to stay relevant and competitive in the ever-changing environment of a post-pandemic world. However, during global lockdowns, many of us are suffering from digital fatigue due to the excessive use of technology for working and studying from home. In this case, how should the learning and development (L&D) team maximise employee development? What are the best upskilling & reskilling strategies to achieve learning goals in a post-pandemic? 

Pascal Gauthier, Chief Culture & Marketing Officer at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), shared his thoughts on the most crucial questions around learning post-pandemic with us below. 


Question: Mr Gauthier, learning is a lifelong process. So what was the lesson you have learned in the last few days and how does it impact your career or personal life?

Answer: While speaking to a colleague who joined us recently, I was reminded about the importance of having an open mind when it comes to lifelong learning. Managing employees is an art that requires a combination of skills that I am still learning even after more than three decades of experience working in the corporate sector. 

You might think that having flexibility is always the best solution but in this particular situation with my colleague, I realised that it would have been better if he were given more structure and a better understanding of our workflow process, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown with remote working arrangements. A more structured framework could have given him a better understanding of how to act in an unfamiliar working environment, helping him organise his time better.

From speaking to my colleague and listening to his concerns, I was reminded again that every employee comes with a diverse set of personalities and experiences. What may work for one person may not work for the other. I always do my best to help my staff but finding the right balance and appropriate response can sometimes be so challenging and so it is important to continue learning, showing understanding, empathy, and kindness to each and every member of staff. I decided to get to know my colleagues by arranging 30 minutes conversations with each one of them to better understand how they are dealing with the pandemic and how we can support them as a caring institution.

Question: There is a statement that says “More information, less understanding”. What do you think this statement implies about our learning journey?

Answer: In the current age of information, we are privileged to have access to so many resources and content at our disposal. However, being inundated with such an abundance of knowledge can be overwhelming and may not be helpful for the learner. As educators, we have a responsibility to prepare our students to become problem-solvers with the information that they acquire. Our role is to help our students filter through the barrage of content and put it into an appropriate context, which would make learning more meaningful. By helping them develop the ability to gather, interpret and apply new information to real-world situations, we are also developing lifelong and independent learners. Learning does not only depend on the information we receive but how actively we process them by relating new information to existing knowledge or novel situations.

Question: There are certainly some benefits and drawbacks of continuous learning. While we all know the benefits of learning, the drawback could be adverse such as information fatigue and analysis paralysis. What is your advice to prevent these drawbacks?

Answer: To manage information overload, we need to first take a step back and cut down on the information we receive. As humans, we are not able to remember everything we have learned; moreover, not everything is useful. On the contrary, having too much information will impede our decision-making ability.

As mentioned earlier, having more information does not make us successful learners. We need to sieve through the extensive content and evaluate and think critically about what is truly relevant to our needs and put aside unnecessary materials. What is more important than having an excessive amount of information is learning how to use the tools we have and applying the information we have learnt to solve real-world problems.

This is part of every student’s lifelong learning journey, which EHL encompasses. As they navigate life and the working world, each of them acquires new skills and competencies from the classrooms and their previous experiences which they can use to improve on the old way of working or find new and innovative means to contribute to businesses.

Question: How does technology impact our learning process, both in a positive and negative way?

Answer: Technology has had a tremendous impact on society including the educational sector. Students have access to and are familiar with a myriad of digital technology. They know how to use these tools to acquire, process and share information faster than ever before. As the way students consume information changes, it is essential that the education sector keeps pace. Investing in the digital education revolution is important for all education institutions, and the COVID-19 outbreak has opened new opportunities to accelerate the digital transformation.

During global lockdowns, when we are unable to meet in person, technology has been vital in keeping us connected remotely. However, more than a year into the pandemic, many of us are feeling the digital fatigue that comes with excessive use of technology.

Learning digitally can be a meaningful process if technology is used properly. Digital tools must be integrated with a purpose, based on pedagogical needs and learning outcomes, so that students do not end up learning for the sake of learning. The educational techniques that have worked for centuries should be complemented with high-tech capabilities, rather than be completely replaced. Digital learning requires educators to rethink their content and the way students interact with it. When used correctly from a student-centric perspective, digital learning can enhance engagement, motivation, broaden their perspective and equip them with new ways of gathering and processing information.

For instance, we have seen how much our students enjoy and are engaged in learning as we use gamification and virtual reality (VR) to motivate them in a digital setting. Our Housekeeping Virtual Reality course allows students to have a first-hand experience of the best and worst examples of hotel housekeeping, while group-based simulation games used in our finance courses helps them understand technical and abstract concepts in a more interactive manner.

Question: In line with the previous question, what can learners do to mitigate the negative effect of technology in learning?

Answer: To avoid being bombarded by an overwhelming amount of information and prevent digital fatigue, students should learn how to slow down and pace themselves.

Online learning offers them the opportunity to review the course materials as often as they like and when they like. They are not restricted to traditional class times and have greater flexibility to schedule learning at a time when they are most focused. This will help them to better retain and process the new materials. Students should also take a break when they need to and not stay seated at their desks continuously for long periods of time.

In an online environment, it is also easy to get distracted and stray beyond the relevant information for learning. As such, it is important for learners to stay focused and goal-oriented by asking themselves what their purpose of studying is, what they want to achieve from this and understand how it can be applied to their future job prospects.

Question: Moving on to the world of work. A survey disclosed that jobs evolve and 42 percent of core skills within roles are expected to change by 2022. What are likely the fastest-growing skills employees will need in a post-pandemic world?

Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic over the past year has brought forward many years of digital transformation across different industries. According to a study conducted by advisory, broking and solutions firm Willis Towers Watson, 90% of the HR roles will be impacted by technology to varying degrees in the next three to five years. Thus, reskilling has become even more important in order for companies to maintain business continuity, and employees to remain relevant in an ever-changing economic environment.

While new technologies and hard skills, which refer to technical skills that may be industry-specific like accounting, financial analysis and marketing, are essential for the future of work, soft skills are no less important. These skills, which relate more to emotional intelligence and help facilitate interpersonal relationships, might be even more essential for companies when it comes to recruiting and retaining valuable talent, as well as for employees by helping them stand out from the crowd. 

According to the global Society for Human Resource Management, 97% of employers surveyed said that soft skills were either as important or more important than hard skills. As new problems continually arise from the COVID-19 outbreak, skills such as critical thinking, multi-tasking and time management have become vital. Companies appreciate employees who are able to think on their feet and out-of-the-box to solve real business issues. They are also on the lookout for employees who are agile, willing to innovate and adapt to new situations. Knowing how to communicate effectively is also a key part of building professional relationships—be they with your teammates, supervisors or even clients.

Question: What can educational institutions do to help improve the future of employer-employee learning and development programs?  

Answer: There is a need for educational solutions that balance theoretical and practical learning. This is even more so today in a post-pandemic world that has been transformed by digitalisation.

One way education institutions can help improve students’ employability as well as prepare them for the working world is by including more experiential learning into their curriculum. This applied approach to learning will provide students with real work responsibilities, help them understand how to respond effectively to business needs as well as open new career opportunities for them.

This means that educational institutions need to be in constant communication with industry experts and employers to ensure that their programs and curriculum are relevant and meet the constantly changing needs of businesses. Programs must also be updated and adapted as new tools and business models emerge. Internships and industry-related business projects also allow students to have hands-on experiences in real-life scenarios that will better prepare them for their future workplaces.

Question: How does Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) implement its strategy to help employers-employees achieve their learning goals?

Answer: EHL is committed to upskilling and lifelong learning. This is an approach that encourages students to continually upgrade their skills in order to meet the ever-evolving needs of businesses. This shift in our approach to education, which began even before the COVID-19 pandemic, allows us to adapt to the future of education and prepares our students for tomorrow’s working environment.

As pioneers of education, we offer a suite of programs catered to lifelong learning by curating differentiated educational pathways for youths, young adults and seasoned professionals. These programs include apprenticeships, Bachelor’s Degrees and graduate studies that ensure that students receive a step-up in their careers and remain ahead of the curve. Our professional development programs such as online MBA, which was introduced in 2019 for distance learning, as well as specialised on-site short courses allow working professionals to develop new and relevant skills at any stage of their careers.

We also offer HyFlex, a hybrid and flexible learning system that encourages students to take charge of their learning, be independent and develop professional curiosity, flexibility and critical thinking – core assets of any business leader.

Embedded into all our programs is experiential learning which involve internships, student business projects and practical workshops or lessons with guest speakers that expose students to real-life experiences and enhance their employability.

About

Pascal Gauthier joined Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne in 2013 as Director of Human Resources. He has held the position of Chief Human Resources Officer for EHL Group since January 2016, and was named Chief Culture and Marketing Officer in May 2019. In this newest position Mr Gauthier plays a crucial role in driving EHL brand strategy for the group and its entities. Before joining EHL, Mr Gauthier held the position of Corporate Vice President of Learning and Development for Hyatt Hotels Corporation – International Operations until January 2013. He started his career with Hyatt in 1987 and was based at property level for 13 years, holding various training and human resources functions, including area roles, in countries such as Switzerland, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, French Polynesia and Spain. 

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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