Learning in a changing landscape

Lynne Barry, Global Head of Learning and Development at Telstra, shares how HR professionals can learn and develop the skills needed in an era of change.

No matter which state of career we are in, I believe that being a life-long learner will ensure that you continue to invest in yourself and develop your skills.

That’s one of the things that has been important to me as I have grown in my own career. 

For me, this is borne from a genuine spirit of curiosity.  I want to know how things work, or why they don’t. I like to know the history of people and things, and also of the future. I am probably always thinking about the things I have to learn versus the things I already know.

Practice makes perfect

Learning is a practice – a continuous journey that we need to invest in. It is no doubt that we are facing a more competitive market now, with the rapidly-evolving technology and changing customer expectations.

Internally, there is also the challenge of managing and engaging colleagues of different backgrounds and mindsets, especially with the shifts in demographics of our workforces. The need of acquiring new skills and adopting new ways of working will never go away.

The organisation you work for plays an important part in your journey of learning and development. A lot of times, organisations have policies and initiatives to guide you through your journey.


Much more than education

At Telstra, learning is critical for us to enable our vision of being a world-class technology company.  We were guided by the Bersin model of continuous learning, and we see that learning is so much more than education or what many people call training.

Learning is also about the experiences that you have ‘’on the job’’, the exposure you have to different people and relationships, and the environment that you are in, such as the tools and systems that support you to do your job. 

We adopt a holistic approach to help our people build their skills and thrive in their career, and we have some exciting changes coming which will enable a greater line of sight for our people so they can better navigate their own development journey.

Onus is on oneself

While organisations can be supportive, it is up to you to drive your HR development and I have found the following approach helpful for me:

Start with a level of self awareness about your strengths. It is useful to identify feedback sources which can help you best understand the areas you want to amplify and some of the areas which might be holding you back from being the professional and colleague you want to be;

If you don’t feel you have a good idea of that, you should start to proactively ask for feedback from your colleagues. You can also look within your organisation to see if there are tools to help you get this insight.

It is also helpful to build a sense of the kind of work you want to be doing, and in what environment.  If you are, or aspire to be, a leader of people, you need to consider what ways you can develop your people leadership skills.

Then, take ownership of your development, and think carefully around how you can build your skills to get you closer to this goal. You are going to build these primarily through the work that you do, so you should take the initiative to look for opportunities to stretch, and to be part of projects where you have a lot to learn.

You should also communicate with your one-up manager on a regular basis. You should be clear with your manager on your goals and how they can support you, and keep seeking feedback across the year to help get you there.

Inclusion drives development

In addition to learning, I believe that being an inclusive leader brings great opportunity for learning and growth.  For me, there are two key dimensions.

Firstly, I try to surround myself with people that are different to me: different backgrounds, different career histories, different thought processes, and more. The diversity within my team constantly challenges me and keeps me fresh. We are more innovative and creative when we are diverse.

The second dimension is around inclusion and belonging. As a people leader, I want everyone around me to be able to bring their whole selves to work. They can’t do that if they feel that they have differences that are not being embraced in the team, or if they fear they will not be included. The commitment to inclusion and diversity that we have at Telstra, means that everyone belongs in Telstra.  This completely resonates with our vision of creating a brilliantly- connected future for everyone.

As a leader in Telstra, it’s my joy to embrace a diverse team, to value their differences and to gain strength from them.

As you become a great colleague and leader, think about how you personally value and embrace differences, and how you can learn from that diversity and contribute to everyone in your team’s sense of belonging and their ability to thrive and grow with you.

About the author

Lynne Barry is the Global Head of Learning and Development and Diversity and Inclusion for Telstra, where she oversees the learning for employees across 23 countries. This includes Telstra’s Leadership and High Potential programmes, and the full spectrum of its professional and technical learning and development. She has over 20 years’ experience in senior HR roles in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.


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