Continuous Learning for Organizational Flexibility

RefugePoint staff engaging in self-paced online learning to enhance their skills and better serve urban refugee clients

A reflection on self-paced learning for RefugePoint’s Urban Refugees Protection Program staff.

By Mary Wangui, Training Manager

Although the pandemic created countless disruptions across work, travel, and nearly every aspect of life, it had its share of blessings in regard to learning. 

After conducting a training needs assessment for RefugePoint’s Nairobi-based staff, the next question became how to meet this training need in the midst of competing organizational priorities. As a training manager, I was committed to ensuring our staff had access to innovative and modern ways of learning, and I worked closely with management to see how we could still meet this goal.

Most virtual learning platforms that previously charged course registration and access fees, either reduced or completely waived those fees. In addition, various scholarship programs were available to help learners across the world access courses. The Commonwealth of Learning-Canada scholarship program was one such program—rolling out scholarships to thousands of learners globally, with Kenya being one of the beneficiary countries. We reached out to the liaison officer in Kenya to explore how RefugePoint staff could benefit from this and were happy to receive free access to Coursera.org and Udemy.com learning platforms. The Coursera.org platform allowed staff to access short courses offered by top universities worldwide, including Yale and Stanford. 

This approach allowed RefugePoint to respond to unique staff needs and address those needs beyond technical capacity within the job role. Staff improved their communication and presentation skills, along with excel and report writing skills, among others. To cope with the transition to working from home, we saw a rise in the uptake of courses relating to stress management, how to increase productivity, and better ways to work from home.

We worked closely with the HR department and linked needs identified in staff performance evaluations to courses offered under these platforms, giving the staff freedom to choose a course that would work best for their needs.

In addition, we identified and recommended courses suitable for the executive teams to help improve their supervisory skills.

Staff who engaged in self-paced learning have reported improved knowledge and skills in their line of work. These platforms have helped our staff add to their technical skills and serve our clients better. In the face of the pandemic, staff who interacted with clients regularly took the ‘Psychological First Aid’ course from John Hopkins University and gained basic counseling skills to help debrief clients as we continued to offer Refuge Point’s mainstream services.

In the words of Gregory Balestrero, “Employees cannot become more productive in every sense of the word unless they are provided with continuous on-the-job training.” RefugePoint remains committed to providing this support for our staff.