Conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim recently opened a dedicated facility for its Leadership Institute at its regional headquarters in Dubai. The new space offers a range of development and training programmes for employees at all levels, from senior managers to new recruits, across its shopping mall, retail and leisure businesses. Darryl Speach, chief learning officer at Majid Al Futtaim, talks to People Management about how its employees are benefiting from the investment in L&D.

What was behind the decision to open a dedicated learning facility and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

Companies all over the world are struggling, not just with finding top talent but also growing it from the inside, so we wanted to create an incubator that would develop our talent and for it to form part of our succession strategy, supplying our future pipeline of leaders. We also wanted to make a measurable impact on our employees in terms of learning and development, and for the facility to act as a custodian of our mission and values.

Why do you believe it is important to invest so much time and money in learning and development?

For two reasons – first of all it’s a great way to attract top talent, because companies that invest in their employees are seen as employers of choice by candidates across the globe. The second reason is that we are well aware that a lot of the education employees received in school could potentially be obsolete by the time they graduate, so we are focused on the idea of knowledge becoming more and more about ‘just in time’ learning. The goal is to provide the learning and the knowledge to employees who need it, when they need it and most importantly in a manner that they can easily internalise and utilise.

What kinds of programmes are currently on offer at the facility?

We offer a variety of different programmes. We have our ‘Engage’ programme for fresh graduates. They get the chance to experience working in different businesses throughout our organisation in order to get a flavour of what we’re interested in and, importantly, what they are really good at. We then have our early career professionals’ programme, called ‘Emerge’, our ‘Grow’ programme for middle managers, and our ‘Lead’ programme for senior management. We also do frontline training through our ‘Embark’ programme, which is for all frontline personnel.

Will you be expanding the number of programmes you offer now that the new facility is in place?

We already have. In June, we launched the School of Analytics and Technology for obvious reasons. Every organisation on the planet should be thinking of ways to embrace technology and analytics. We have added several courses in these areas and they are ongoing as we speak. We are also in the midst of doing a soft opening of our School of Customer Experience. The rationale behind it was simply that, going forward, our two key organisational pillars are talent and customer experience.

As the organisation spans a number of different industries and locations, how do you ensure all employees share the same vision?

A key component to what we do is what we call cultural transformation and culture unfreezing. We have found that there are certain characteristics of our culture that transcend all areas of our business. There is a certain way that we, as employees, work together that make us unique, so we have crystallised the key components of our culture that everyone really values and appreciates and we have already had 8,000 employees go through ‘unfreezing our culture’ training.

We are hoping that in the next year and a half, all 39,000 employees will go through this. It’s an ongoing effort to make sure everybody is familiar with the cultural basics, so we are all on the same page and understand what it means to be part of the family.

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