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  L&D is the Life Blood Amid Today's Technology Era Mr
Member of Regional Advisory Panel, North Asia Association of International Certifued Professional Accountants

While technologies were once regarded as the enablers and tools in the past, now new technologies like arti cial intelligence (AI), machine learning and others are more like interactive partners for many businesses. Furthermore, in the past, many successful products like Kodak  lm and Sony Walkman could have a 40- or 50-year life span in the market, but now business cycles are too short, with all kinds of ups and downs occurring in less than a decade. "That's why learning and development are the life blood elements of an organisation, if it wishes to move forward," says CF Wong, FCMA, CGMA, Member of Regional Advisory Panel, North Asia, Association of International Certi ed Professional Accountants. (the Association).

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants, combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power opportunity, trust and prosperity for people, businesses and economies worldwide. It represents 657,000 members and students in public and management accounting and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigor and resources, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMA designation holders and accounting and  nance professionals globally.

Currently the head of finance for a group of companies listed in HK and Singapore, C.F. Wong held senior positions at multinational, listed companies and has worked in 'Big 4' international auditing  rms. With over 20 years of extensive experience covering strategic planning, mergers & acquisition, treasury management, and tax strategy, he is highly skilled in setting up and winding down operations as well as using technology to implement automation.

"As accountants we don't measure human value on our balance sheets, yet there is always a premium between book values and share prices of any listed companies," says Wong. "It's all about people who drives and create a company's intrinsic value. For this reason, learning and development ("L&D") have become a critical staff retention strategy for companies to maintain their competitiveness in today's fast-changing economy." In view of this, he urged businesses to continue investing into learning and development to make this a strategic differentiating factor and operate at the cutting edge of their respective industry.

Google's Way To Build a Learning Culture

Right: Mr CF Wong, Regional Advisory Panel, North Asia, The Association of International Certi ed Professional Accountants, Mr Paulus Chau, Associate Director, Hong Kong and Emerging Markets, The Association of International Certi ed Professional Accountants.

Given this scenario, companies have to cultivate a 'learning culture' which encourages management and staff to value the knowledge and skills acquired and applied in the workplace. Furthermore, companies should preferably prioritise on-going learning and development for employees while motivating them to seek out self-directed learning opportunities. These initiatives would support an organisation's desire to improve, adapt and remain relevant in today's fast-paced, skills-based world. According to Wong - "We have discovered many learning models in the market, but the one that impresses me most de nitely is Google's five-point approach for building a strong learning culture."

Facilitating Two-way Conversation
Google emphasizes the notion that supervisors should offer constant feedback to their subordinates, and vice versa. "Other than employees evaluations conducted by supervisors, staff can also use other approaches like online anonymous surveys to forward their opinions to their supervisors. Ultimately both sides will benefit through this kind of mutual communications in the promotion of better leadership."

Learning is not necessarily top down. On the contrary, the younger generation born during the digital era can sometimes teach their supervisors and teams certain skills about technologies as well. "Twoway and peer-to-peer learning are prevalent in business now," says Wong. "Most millennial staff might call conventional top-down leadership style old fashioned."

Sharing is Caring...and Learning
Nurturing a sharing workplace is essential. This is especially true in a work environment where collective knowledge of the organisation could drive strategic value creation when knowledge is actively shared and encouraged to be shared. "A strong learning culture is achieved mainly by making sure employees feel safe enough to ask questions and talk about their ideas without feeling as if they might be called ignorant," explains Wong.

While making sure that differing opinions are valued and encouraged, it's important to recognise that opposition can sometimes create superior ideas through compromise, especially when disagreements are handled respectfully. "Leaders have to make their decisions based on various ideas but we have to understand that no decision is perfect in view of the many uncertainties involved. Keeping employees up to date on what and why we're doing something is important and shows that we care for them."

Learning from Celebrated Failures
We all know that failure can fuel a losing reputation, result in poor credentials, or even cause one to lose their job. However, Google encourages their staff to 'learn from celebrated failures' and use that failure as a stepping-stone to achieve far better things next time. In fact, Wong think that falling is the  rst step in learning how to pick yourself up. "Leaders should encourage their staff to try new things, take calculated risks and step out of their comfort zones," says C.F. "If employees honestly think this is their best decision and they implement it but experience failure eventually, management should treat it positively by doing a post mortem to find out what's wrong and how to do it differently the next time. Don't witch hunt, learn from the event. For any organization to continue maintain competitive advantages, it has to continuously create Customer Value and Shareholders Value by taking calculated risks. Some initiatives would experience success while some would experience failure, it is all part of the value creation process any organization takes"

Formalising the Informal Learning
Wong points out that, according to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review last year, about 60% of employees learned their jobs through informal means, like peer coaching, talking or observing their peers. Informal study and continuous learning are now not just ordinary practices, but rather they comprise a major part of an employee's growth. Organization has to recognize this and organized into the system as much as formal learning is.

A successful company doesn't merely provide formal training, but rather it cultivates a system that creates continuous opportunities for learning. "For example, one of my team members is particularly good at using Excel and many other colleagues have asked for his assistance. Leaders should be aware of situations like this and formalise this type of informal learning by documenting specific knowledge and getting this excel-savy staff to conduct formal training. Eventually this Excel-savvy colleague is likely going to be more engaged and feel greater job satisfaction." Other examples of formalised informal learning include: coaching, support tools, and training program that can be reproduced at any time in bite size.

Focusing on the Journey
Overall, the idea of learning on the job has to change from forced and mandatory to encouraged and self-directed. "Recently I read Robert Greene's 'The Laws of Human Nature' and was impressed by the quote - 'Humans are one of the very few species that recognise their own mortality'," says Wong. "Knowing this, it's important for employees to focus their learning as a life long journey, feel relaxed, learn as much as possible, and it is also about enjoying life journey per se"

Nurturing a Growth Mindset
Moving forward as the rate of implementing recent technologies become more rapid and prevalent in the business world, Wong mentioned the fact that employees should possess a 'growth mindset'. "This means having the mindset: I have the desire and confidence to learn anything, like programming, Blockchain or something else," he adds. "If we are not tech savy, we would have issues knowing how to execute these technologies. We are now at a juncture whereby the rate of change in technology is generally faster than human adaptation. Hence, we can't get by with the same skills we learnt from school and hoped to use it for the duration of our entire career. Employee has to take education in their own hand and Employer also has to continuously train your people". "Take the CGMA designation I have for example, CIMA updated the Professional Qualifi cation in 2019 based on extensive research to ensure what the students learning today will meet the challenges tomorrow. The updated qualification will equip the students with the knowledge, knowhow and relevant digital skills to lead the digital transformation such as gaining an understanding of the power of Blockchain, AI, data analytics and other technologies and discover how to guard the business from cybercrime. The students could also develop the core finance, technical, business, people and leadership skills that continue to set employees apart from the competition."

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