Academy Xi Blog

Why the traditional corporate training model is broken (and three powerful fixes)

By Academy Xi

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It is well documented that investing in quality corporate training solutions can offer numerous benefits to organisations. Many offerings promise to support closing the digital skills gap, increasing staff retention, and boosting innovation and overall productivity. Unfortunately, the reality of many corporate training models is that while the participants might be ‘achieving’ new skills, often these new learnings aren’t translating into solid outcomes back at headquarters.

What’s the reason behind this disconnect?

At Academy Xi, we believe that the value of corporate training exists in the practical application of skills within the learning environment. Often, corporate training events offer single-dimensional products which focus on skills achievement, as opposed to the application of them while learning. While achievement might look good on paper, hands-on based training is what will result in a true return on investment and deliver the real-life outcomes needed for individuals and consequently organisations to thrive.

How to ensure the learning is integrated into your workplace post training? We have established three powerful fixes.

#1 Measure what matters

When it comes to learning and development, it is commonplace that senior management want to understand the following metrics:
  • Training cost per employee
  • Completion rates
  • Return on investment (ROI)
CEO’s want to know that the training is in alignment with organisational needs and supports the overall business strategy. However, when it comes to ROI, research shows that a large portion of organisations don’t evaluate the true outcomes of corporate training programs and therefore don’t gain an accurate insight, if any at all. This is often due to the evaluation not being prioritised – it consumes more time and resources that are already scarce within the business, yet it can ultimately result in wasted time and training budget. If you want to drive meaningful impact in training your workforce, it’s essential to be measuring and evaluating continually, with hard business metrics such as quantitative business-performance indicators, to honestly understand what is needed to elevate organisational performance. Which workforce trends do you need to engage to drive your organisation’s competitive edge and therefore what style and content of training will support this? The more detail you can gain from evaluating training outcomes, the clearer you will be on what is helping to deliver organisational success, or not. At Academy Xi, we focus on metrics that matter. We help your organisation to identify skills gaps and then tailor and design engaging, practical, hands-on training that truly aligns with critical business priorities.

Traditional training metrics (like ease of access to content and course completion rates) were meant to remove hurdles for employees. These should now be seen as table stakes.

Linda Cai. Vice President of Talent Development, LinkedIn

#2 Never go full generic

Sourcing quality hands-on training for teams will empower your people to be proactively engaged, which increases the level of information being retained. Individuals who get to apply their learning as they go within a setting that is closely designed to their workplace scenarios, will walk away with more confidence in their ability to apply their new knowledge meaningfully when they return to the work environment. Recent research revealed that people going into tech roles who invested in ‘traditional’ training approaches were less productive than those who participated in hands-on training in internship roles. In-training skills application also provides opportunities for learners to get immediate support and feedback from the industry experts leading the learning – which further aids the anchoring of new concepts. Ensuring that the training you invest in is run by industry practitioners is important, so you can be assured that you’re receiving proven practices, frameworks, and toolkits. Experiential training is by far the most effective approach to learning and development. Whichever training provider you select, do your research to discover as much as possible about their training approach so you can reap the benefits of hands-on learning for your workforce. Actively investing in employees with relevant training that boosts their digital skills is also vital in the current recruitment climate. Ensuring teams receive practical learning experiences will assist with retention of your staff.

#3 Application over achievement

Off the shelf training courses are all about skills achievement. While this might initially seem to be what your workforce needs, think again. If a learning experience is presented within a real-world context, you are setting your people up for success.

What is a real-world context?

Ultimately, ‘real world context’ is when training is created so that learners can carry out tasks and activities in a way that represents problem solving in their real world. Students are encouraged and supported to connect new learning within a frame of reference that reflects their workplace.

If content is king, then context is god!

Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur and CEO of VaynerMedia

While this quote originated from a marketing angle, it also carries weight when viewed through the training lens. If learners are actively participating in a training context that is very similar to the environment they need to apply it to in the real world the outcome of their performance, or application of the new learning, will be exponentially better.

If you want your workforce to do new things, give them an environment to learn and practice the new thing.

We worked closely with the Academy Xi team as our strategic design partner to co-design a customer-centric ‘Way Of Working’ framework, set of supporting capabilities and a guidebook containing tools and templates. Academy Xi contributed hugely to our program’s success

Carmelina Senese, Director of Customer Experience, EDConnect, Department of Education

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The bottom line

Skills application based training is the most effective learning and development approach organisations can invest in for genuine return on investment. By engaging with a training provider who focuses on metrics that matter to design learning experiences that reflect what your organisation truly needs to thrive, you will ensure your L&D budget does not go to waste.

Ready to transform your workforce from within?

Get in touch with the team at Academy Xi to discuss how we can support your workforce by designing bespoke training solutions that will meaningfully engage your people and impact your business bottom line. We can transform your workforce through the delivery of highly contextualised programs to suit individuals, teams, and organisational needs, all guided by world class experts.

Academy Xi – trusted to help solve critical organisational challenges

Academy Xi Blog

5 ways to make the most of your professional development budget

By Academy Xi

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It’s that time again where we are nearing the end of the financial year and for many organisations there is unused learning and development budget tucked away.

This isn’t simply a case of ‘use it or lose it’, but a golden opportunity to seriously consider where your workforce can truly benefit from upskilling and personal development training.

There’s also the reality that the ‘great resignation’ has hit Australian shores. Perceived to be spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of people quitting their jobs in the U.S hit a 20-year high at the end of 2021, with a lack of opportunities for advancement being stated as one of the main reasons for leaving roles. On local turf, recent findings from PwC Australia show that 38 percent of employees want to find a new job in the next year.

With all of this in mind, how can you meaningfully make the most of professional development budgets in the current climate? 

We’ve rounded up the following five ways to consider.

  1. Reflect on where you and your people want to go
  2. Select an in-demand skill
  3. Choose hands-on training
  4. Gain insights from mentors and managers
  5. Find training that serves professionally and personally

#1: Reflect on where you and your people want to go

For individuals, it’s important to consider which direction you see yourself moving in professionally. Take the time to clarify your short- and long-term goals in your current job, or the role you are aiming for in the future. Are there any skills that you need to learn to meet these goals, or at least work towards them? This process of reflection can help you to identify areas for further research.

For individuals and teams, digital skill gaps are always worth addressing and can help to future proof any role. There are upskilling courses for teams and individual employee development opportunities on the market, depending on the skills needed.

#2: Select an in-demand skill

Understanding the current skills that are in-demand in your industry can be a great way of identifying which areas you might like to focus on for your professional development training. Be open to the idea that a skillset worth gaining might not be something you have considered before. Digital skills, for instance, are in great demand across all industries and not only needed by I.T professionals. If you can harness the power of using company data effectively and learn how to visualise it, you will be an asset to any organisation. For those in learning and development management, empowering your people with data skills is one of the most strategic training decisions you can make right now.

#3: Choose hands-on training

Wherever possible, you want to invest your time and budget in training that gives you practical opportunities to practice your newfound skills as you are learning. This experiential approach will enable you to better retain new information and apply what you learn much more efficiently and effectively in your workplace environment. Better still, try to find training that supports you to use real life projects or scenarios from your current position as the basis for your learning.

Effective hands-on training doesn’t need to be face to face either. The last few years have seen a rapid increase in industry leading institutions migrating their offerings online. This enables flexibility for people to fit their training into their existing lifestyles and commitments. The key: search for best-in-class training where student success is prioritised.

#4: Gain insights from mentors and managers

Working with a mentor or manager can be a helpful approach to clarify any skills that could be beneficial for your career growth. Having an outside perspective from someone who is aware of the broader direction of the company or industry can give you insights into which direction to investigate, which can then influence learning and development opportunities.

It is also worth noting any positions within the company that you are interested in and discovering if it is possible for you to be seconded to that department or if some form of mentorship could be established to support you in learning more about that business function.

#5: Find training that serves professionally and personally

Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to upskill in a way that can support business needs and at the same time benefit your own personal interests. Is there a freelance business you would like to establish in addition to your in-house role that could gain traction from a new skill?

The Wrap Up

The importance of upskilling employees is vital to increase retention, motivation, and innovation and to ultimately equip your people for the future needs of the organisation.

Don’t let your own personal professional development budget go to waste, nor the learning and development budget of your teams. The benefits of upskilling for employees are well documented, with digital upskilling courses increasing in importance and popularity as many businesses recognise the digital skills gap within their ranks.

Need support in how to upskill your employees?

At Academy Xi, we understand how complex digital transformation can be. We help people thrive by training and supporting teams with the skills they need to stay ahead with genuine confidence, instead of being left behind. Our learning designers are experienced industry professionals and create customised programs that offer real, long-lasting change for individuals and teams.

Our training is offered at every level of experience, from introductory through to advanced and we ensure that our outcomes are highly practical so your teams can apply their new knowledge as quickly as possible back at HQ.

Don’t let your unused training budget go to waste

We’d love to discuss your organisation strategy for supporting upskilling and professional development. Get in touch with our team today and discover how we can design and deliver training to keep you thriving.

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Academy Xi Blog

Learning curve: The growth of online courses

By Academy Xi

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The pandemic’s closure of the bricks-and-mortar facilities used by schools, universities, academies and other institutions providing vocational courses has led learning and skills development to migrate online.

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In the lockdown landscape, education and skills development moved into the endless expanses of the digital space and the feeling is that large parts of the industry will set-up shop there permanently. Forbes boldly claims “it’s a fact that online learning is the future and will undoubtedly replace land-based learning.”

The world of online courses and skills development is one of boundless potential, whereby anyone can do anything at any place and time. Characterised by a mindset of ‘yes I can’, it’s the polar opposite of what the rest of the covid life’s been about – frozen to the spot (possibly eating ice cream in your gym gear) and ultimately feeling a bit limited by restrictions.

The thaw of covid’s deepfreeze on our everyday potential is finally setting in and you, like the rest of us, want more from the future, starting with your career.

Luckily, everything you need to make that future a now thing is right at your fingertips – fully digitised, instantly accessible, wherever and whenever.

It’s an inspiring position to be in, but how did we reach it? And crucially, what kind of an experience does an online course offer?

This blog will chart the growth of online learning in Australia and also explain what a digital course offers. Read on – we’ll help you do your homework on the emergence of online learning, so you can decide if amping-up your CV by adding an innovative skill set online is a good fit for your career ambitions and all round lifestyle.

The Online Learning Curve 

The statistics for online learning and skills development show that the industry was already on a steep upward trajectory long before lockdown. Forecasting for online education in early 2020 predicted growth of 21% across five years, with the industry anticipated to be worth $350 billion by 2025.

You won’t be surprised to learn that these numbers have soared in the past year. Following a covid-induced uptake in digital courses, Australian online education is now: 

  • Valued at a colossal $8 billion.
  • Made-up of 1,856 online course providers. 

Many online learning companies have set-up their services in response to a widening digital skills gap. The recent surge in online lifestyles and digital industries means that the nation’s workforce suddenly needs to be tech-savvy. 

This means educators have had to radically rethink and redesign the courses they offer, with: 

Currently, there’s a wide range of digital roles that are underserved and waiting to be claimed by skilled professionals. These are the kinds of jobs Australia needs to fill and the good news is, these are the roles many of you have your hearts set on. 

For a more detailed look at the perks of plying your trade in Australia’s booming digital industries, read our blog article on remote roles and ‘The Great Resignation’ that’s still sweeping through the world’s workforce. 

In a nutshell, lots of people have decided they want to work in remote roles and realised that qualifying for those roles remotely is the optimal way to prepare for industry demands and the everyday remit that awaits them.

With digital learning set only to expand and online skills development increasingly focused on designing and delivering improved student experiences, you’re probably wondering what advantages an online course offers.

The benefits of an online course

1. It’s flexible

Online learning often offers more compromise on coursework deadlines, meaning it’s easier to schedule your studies around the rest of your diary.

  • This means it’s possible to upskill for increased responsibility (or even a completely new career) while still carrying out your existing job. 
  • You can learn quickly or slowly, scaling the timeframe of your development according to your ambitions and personal circumstances.
  • Self-paced study requires good time management skills, which is always a useful professional attribute to develop. 
  • A flexible learning environment can also prompt you and your coursemates to accept new responsibilities and work with more autonomy. Again – these are qualities you’ll definitely need on the job.

If you’re looking to gain an in-demand digital skill set with maximum flexibility and study support, Academy Xi offers Self-Paced courses in: 

Built by industry experts, all of these courses also come with: 

→ 24/7 online access and no set deadlines

→ 1:1 sessions with your Course Expert 

→ A personal Study Coach who’ll help plan your progress and keep you motivated   

If you want to fast-track your next career move at times that work for you, this format might just do the trick.

2. It’s accessible

Online education enables you to study anywhere in the world. All that’s needed is a mobile device and a wifi connection and bam – you’ve got yourself a fully-connected virtual classroom!

  • There’s no need to commute from one place to another, or follow a rigid schedule of needing to be somewhere in particular. 
  • If you’re often mobile in your day-to-day life, online education means you can develop digital skills and still be ‘on the move’. 
  • If you’ve got the travel bug, there’s no reason to give up on studying while exploring new and exotic places (click submit on your final piece of coursework as you plant a flag on Everest’s summit, wifi strength pending).

3. It offers customised learning

The flexibility of online education and skills development not only enables you to set your own study pace, but is also adaptable for your individual requirements and level of ability.

  • Online classes tend to be smaller than conventional class sizes, allowing greater interactivity with your coursemates and teacher or mentor.
  • There’s often access to more diverse learning materials, such as videos, e-workbooks, eBooks, checkpoint tests, quizzes and infographics.
  • Online courses also integrate other forms of interaction, like forums, chat channels or discussion groups, maximising student engagement and development.
  • Online educators have a massive amount of user data which enables them to constantly improve platforms and course content based on feedback loops.

Plus, all this extra content is available at any moment, anywhere, which will offer you a more dynamic and tailor-made learning experience.

4. It’s cost-effective

Because online learning providers often have reduced overheads compared with traditional educators, course offerings can come at a reduced rate. Though the monetary investment is less, the results can be better than other options.

  • Unlike in-person education, online education tends to be more affordable. There’s normally a wider range of payment options that let you cover the cost in installments, allowing for better budget management.
  • You can also save money on commuting and learning materials (which most of the time are free, not to mention environmentally friendly!).

5. It offers a wide selection of up-to-date courses

In a space as vast and diverse as the internet, there’s an almost infinite array of skills to learn. The best online educators are innovative in their offerings, always updating a range of courses to better reflect the changing needs of industries that constantly evolve.

  • Traditional educators often follow long bureaucratic processes when updating or adding courses. Online educators tend to be more agile and responsive when it comes to delivering up-to-date skills that industries are actively searching for.
  • In considering online courses, you’ll widen your options and increase the chances of developing skills relevant to your career dreams and personal interests.

So, all this leads us to the inevitable million dollar question…

What online digital skills course should I study?

With so many digital skills courses available these days, narrowing down your options might seem like a bit of head-spinner. It’s also not a decision to take lightly.  

Udemy president Darren Shimkus says, “The biggest challenge for learners is to figure out what skills are emerging, what they can do to compete best in the global market. We’re in a world that’s changing so quickly that skills that were valued just three or four years ago are no longer relevant.” 

If you’re not sure what skills are in-demand and likely to stay that way – fear not, we’ve got your back again! 

To find out which skills are destined to be in high demand for the year ahead and way beyond, check out our blog article covering top digital skills needed to power-up your CV for 2022.  

Academy Xi courses are built and taught by industry experts, offering practical digital skills centred in three core fields of Design, Tech & Data and Business & Marketing, all of which are in rising demand with today’s recruiters. 

Our courses are bootcamp style, taught online and come in a range of flexible options, offering you the chance to build a professional profile for a career you’re passionate about at a time, place and pace that works well for you. 

Chat to one of our course advisors and we’ll help you find a course that’s a perfect fit for your ambitions, in a format that enables you to maintain that all-important study-life balance.  

After all, there’s more to life than just developing the latest digital skills (or at least that’s what everyone keeps telling us 😉 ). 

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Academy Xi Blog

Build, buy or partner? Asx 200 ceos think there’s only one way

By Academy Xi

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The pandemic has put the power of digital on full display. It’s estimated that digital transformation was advanced by up to seven years as a direct result of the pandemic. This digital future that we’ve been thrust into can be both empowering and exciting, but is also creating major challenges for businesses.

Talent development, particularly in digital and tech, has become a CEO-level priority. More than one third of CEOs recently said that their organisations were unprepared to address the skill gaps exacerbated by digitisation.

As a result, the processes of modelling, planning and analysis that sit behind a high-functioning workforce have all needed to be dramatically redefined.

Rapid digital transformation is now a permanent state. As a result, talent management approaches that have performed well in the past offer no guarantees for future success. Businesses need more dynamic ways to grow their digital and technological capabilities in order to handle the accelerating pace of digital transformation. Now and into the future, the most successful organisations will redefine the way they work so that capability building is inextricably linked with business value. Now and into the future, the most successful organisations will treat capability building as one of the surest ways to increase business value, realising that both are now permanently and inextricably bound. 

Build, Buy, Partner.

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci recently spoke of a mixed strategy of build, buy and partner for developing capability.

What does ‘build, buy and partner’ mean?

“Build” is workforce planning bedrock. Nearly every ASX 200 company is building up large in-house teams to carry out tasks such as digitising operations, developing new digital products and harnessing customer data.

“Buy” relates to contracting specialist consultants as either a temporary or ongoing solution to address specific skills gaps.

“Partner” refers to collaborating with other businesses, particularly in highly specialised technology services, to turbo-charge digital efforts.

Interestingly, leaders from several ASX 200 businesses such as Mirvac, Dexus, Boral, Seven Holdings Group, SEEK, Energy Australia are on the record as favouring building in-house expertise over buying external capability. With mixed dynamic resourcing strategies available to them, why is it that top business leaders still prioritise internal capability building?

Innovation lives in-house

Business leaders continue to ask themselves “How do we build a new set of capabilities to harness digital innovation to create competitive advantage?”. Ideally, the ability to innovate is something that lives inside an organisation, not something that needs to be plugged in.

Afterpay leaders Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar credit their innovative DNA to having the right digital and tech minds working inside the business. Instead of outsourcing, the pair have actively chosen to foster internal talent.

“We’ve built an incredibly experienced internal team for this [innovative] work, so that’s where we’d go first. We’re lucky to have such a wealth of talent at Afterpay with highly specialised skill sets.” Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar, CEOs, Afterpay

The creation of their Afterpay iQ product in less than eight months affirms the impact of internally-driven innovation. “We created Afterpay iQ entirely in-house, with our behavioural science team scoping the work and key insights they wanted to bring to life for merchants, and then working with our engineering team to bring it to life”,  Eisen and Molnar report.

Innovation should ideally come from within, from the people who already know the business best. If this is to become a business priority, it will naturally require investment in the form of actively plugging existing skills gaps either through recruitment, upskilling or reskilling.

No need for cultural and technical ‘bridging’

By integrating specialised digital and tech talent into your organisation, you reduce the ongoing need for other members of your team to ‘bridge’ with suppliers or partners. Relaying instructions and context to external contributors is not efficient. It often requires your best people to articulate technical requirements across various business units and actively manage integration efforts.

One McKinsey study concluded that companies who implement internal capability-building programs as part of their transformations are 4.1 times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. By building internal capability, time and effort across the organisation as a whole can be streamlined and put toward other high-value business activities. 

Added to this, if you integrate the right talent into your business permanently, you’ll give them the time to fully absorb your company’s technical and cultural norms, which will give you practical long-term skills solutions.

SEEK CEO Ian Narev observes that integrating specialised digital and tech talent into his organisation has been has been a a sustainable long-term long-term solution. This is because in building the right talent pipelines, the business sees longer-term ROI. 

“Overall, we would rather spend the money building sustainable internal capability” Ian Narev, CEO, SEEK

Faster “speed to market”

Maintaining a strong digital talent pipeline also means that businesses can get priority projects off the ground quickly. 85 percent of companies have picked up the pace of their digitisation efforts in direct response to the pandemic. In today’s hyper-competitive market, where staying one step ahead of the competition is imperative, those businesses best set up to rapidly respond to new technologies and trends have a distinct advantage.

Organising for speed has become a critical component of good business practice. Businesses are now viewing their internal capability planning as a key tactic in their ‘speed to market’ performance.

With the right capability in place, businesses can launch new initiatives efficiently to gain competitive advantage.

The Afterpay iQ platform example illustrates this point perfectly. In less than eight months, their in-house teams analysed 12 months of purchasing behaviour and over 150 million transactions in order to align the product with merchant needs before getting it to market. 

It is hard to imagine an alternative solution involving external parties which achieved the same result in a comparable timeframe. This kind of speed and turnaround time is enviable for many companies who are working within the confines of external partnerships and supplier arrangements.

Protecting IP

Securing intellectual property (IP) is an ongoing consideration for organisations driving innovative agendas. “Security concerns” represent the most common digital transformation barrier for more than a third of executives in the financial services industry.

When speaking of the importance of digital capabilities, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci says their approach is to “deploy the best capabilities at all times, while also enabling us to own strategically important capabilities and IP.”

Woolworths reportedly hire and develop data science skills in-house rather than seeking external solutions. Having people with the right skills to lead machine learning and AI systems projects means that much of Woolworths digital marketing and personalisation activity is performed in-house.

There is no way of securing IP completely when it comes to what knowledge people possess of your business, products, processes and technology. That said, many business leaders see keeping that knowledge in-house as a risk mitigation mechanism and further reason to build strong digital and tech teams internally.


The pandemic brought major disruption for many organisations, revealing vulnerabilities that business leaders had never before acknowledged. In many cases, pivoting to digital services and online operations played a critical role in their resilience.

The pandemic also brought a kind of executive-level consensus concerning digital capabilities. Few leaders now debate the role of digital in helping them to achieve business success. 

This realisation has subsequently required investment – and when it comes to people and capability, this investment typically is being funnelled in-house to build strong tech and digital functions.

It can be argued that talent and workforce planning have never been more integral to business performance. One recent study showed that organisations that can reallocate talent in step with their strategic plans are more than twice as likely to outperform their peers. 

Onboarding the right digital talent won’t necessarily be easy for businesses, particularly given the currently compacted labour market. Securing the right digital capabilities likely will involve a number of starts and stops. Nevertheless, it is the most sustainable solution for those enterprises determined to move with the times, develop a lasting talent supply and thrive in an age of ceaseless digital disruption.

“Companies will need to be digital to play — but they will need the right strategy to win.” Deloitte Insights

Learn how we can help with your talent development strategy and assist you to address the digital skills gap. 

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