Shaymaa Raafat

    • Group Head – Learning and Development

    • BMA International


    Shaymaa will be part of the expert speaker line-up at the ATD 2021 Middle East Conference and Exhibition taking place in June 2021 at the Address Dubai Marina and online, sharing her insights on Building a Learning Culture.

    It’s no secret that COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way businesses operate across the globe – Learning and Development practices are no exception. The newly embraced business environments operate on agility causing a huge demand for a digital approach of learning. On the long-term, digital learning will only continue to grow in the field of L&D changing the face of conventional training forever. That doesn’t necessarily mean replacement of face-to-face training, rather it means a blended approach will be the new normal of learning interventions. The use of technology will continue to expand in L&D practices leading to acceleration of utilising advanced technologies like Virtual Reality to be more commonly used in regular training programs.

    The role of L&TD professionals has grown wider post the pandemic, it goes beyond designing or facilitating a learning intervention. Engaging with talents has become an essential pillar not only to employees’ development but it has direct impact on employees’ productivity, contributions, and performance levels. The L&D world as we used to know it, relied on using engagement activities within training delivery or after training in the form of feedbacks and surveys. Now that L&TD professionals are heavily relying on digital learning, a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is no longer satisfying for leaners and doesn’t serve the purpose of organizations with regards to talent development. Adopting digital learning and tailoring it to specific group of employees is the current practice of L&D, which accentuates the need for higher engagement levels.

    It’s become a necessity to engage with learners through different communication channels and platforms more frequently.

    ‘’When there’s a will there’s a way”. COVID-19 has not drastically shifted L&D, yet it has accelerated innovations and means to develop. Online and digital learning has been there for over a decade prior to the pandemic, however there was no appetite to fully utilize it to its maximum potential by neither organizations nor L&D professionals. When faced with the need of online development interventions, L&D professionals started to embrace technology and connect with learners online. That required upskilling for most L&TD professionals to begin with, starting with designing programs that are made to be delivered virtually. Such programs need to encompass different type of engagement activities to keep the interest of the audience always present. Programs also need to be designed for shorter periods of time – what used to be delivered in a 2-day classroom training, now needs to shrink down to 6 hours of learning through online platforms. There are many more aspects where L&D professionals needed to upgrade themselves on during the pandemic like familiarity of with online platforms, deliver style and how to encourage learners to be more engaging and follow through in a virtual world.  Upskilling oneself at a fast pace to achieve goals and business objectives was a critical achievement seen in the L&D field during 2020.

    COVID-19 has left us with countless lessons on both professional and personal levels. HR leaders have led and witnessed the change in the workplace enforced by the pandemic. Working remotely, engaging with employees virtually, utilizing budgets more efficiently and many more lessons HR professionals are left with because of the pandemic. The future of workplaces highly depends on embracing the positive changes even further. For instance, surveys published on Forbes and HBR, employees from different sectors and at different organizational level prefer to work from home, a model that need to be properly considered. Developing talent has always been on any given HR agenda, yet digital literacy needs to move up the ladder and become a priority in HR development agendas. Hiring strategies will also evolve, starting with the recruitment tools used, to the assessments and finally the competencies; being a tech savvy might be a ‘nice to have’ skill now but it will soon turn into a ‘must be’. HR leaders’ role is now to steer organizations into the future of work and come up with strategies where full-time employees working from the office space is not the only common model applied.

    Building a healthy culture is not an easy job, be it for a remote workplace or for a central one. Effective ways of building a healthy work environment remain the same. Engagement and involvement, transparency and improved communication, and promotion of teamwork are key critical factors that help build a strong culture.  Firstly, engaging with employees and involving them in the decision-making process increases the sense of belonging and loyalty especially in time of ambiguity. Involving employees, asking for their ideas to fix or improve on a given situation and further applying of some these ideas has been proven successful as it enriches the feeling of being valued and appreciated. Secondly, communicating transparently with employees creates trust and helps build a shared responsibility between employees and the management. In tough time like during the pandemic, it’s important to be transparent with employees, share facts and keep them updated frequently to avoid assumptions and rumours which often leads to decrease of morale and disengagement. Communication frequency has to be more when working remotely is in place, it is easy for employees to lose connection with their teammates and their company without frequent communication. Thirdly, promoting teamwork helps strengthen ‘the fabric’ of a culture. Many employees tend to work independently when forced to work remotely which might negatively impact the goals of building a strong culture it was over practiced. Promoting teamwork encourages continuous communication between team members and strengthen the value of belonging to a work environment.

    About Shaymaa Raafat:

    Shaymaa Raafat is a talent and career development leader, with progressive experience in leading and devising a wide range of talent development strategies. Up to date knowledge with the state-of-the-art learning approaches, engagement tools and methodologies with a major focus on design, renovation, and digital/technological transformation. She has a proven track record of leading successful innovative change in organizations across the middle east and international regions. In her current role as Group Head – Learning & Development in BMA International, she focuses on adding a long-term value to the organization by building a learning culture that inspires employees to develop and engages executive leaders to drive their teams’ growth.