L&D + HR Symposium 2022

An L&D conversation

Julie Catanach, Head of Leadership, Talent and Learning
Suncorp Group


Stacey Goater, Portfolio Director
Ashton Media

An L&D conversation

An L&D conversation with… series will feature video interviews with leaders in Learning & Development, sharing insights, trends and challenges from some of the region’s leading organisations.

Stacey: Hi, I’m Stacey Goater, Portfolio and Content Director Ashton Media, the organiser of the brand new event for senior leaders in the L&D community, the L&D Symposium, taking place on the 25th and 26th of November in the glorious Hunter Valley. If you aren’t already coming along, you should definitely check it out. Today it is my absolute pleasure to be joined by Julie Catanach, Head of Leadership, Talent and Learning at Suncorp Group, who will be joining us to speak at the L&D Symposium in November. She’ll be talking all about the importance of reskilling and upskilling to adapt and thrive in these changing times. Julie, thank you so much for joining us.

Julie: Thank you, Stacey. It’s great to be here.

S: To kick us off, it would be great to learn a little bit more about the work you’re leading at Suncorp. And what you and your team are focusing on at the minute?

J: I look after the learning leadership and talent space at Suncorp. So we do everything from executive recruitment through the job ready training, across our contact centres in insurance and banking and wealth. So at the moment, we are doing some really exciting projects. One with our executive leadership team, which is looking at giving them their experience virtually, that they would normally do in a study tour globally. So they are meeting virtually, with executives around the globe, on all of the latest in-depth developments across the industry and other industries that leads and may inform them of our strategy going forward. And it’s been a really wonderful thing to be involved in. We’ve been working with Maximus on that. And I think I’ve learned just as much as they have along the way, if not more.

S: What excites you most about your your role as an L&D professional?

J: It’s just a privilege to be an L&D professional, there’s nothing better than helping someone to continue to learn and grow. And I think that teachers know that when they’re teaching at secondary level and senior level, and that continues into the corporate world. And I think that really hit home once for me when one of the team went and achieved a CERT IV. And it was the very first qualification one of their family had ever achieved or the highest level of qualification. And I hadn’t thought about that, because I’ve been lucky enough to go to university, do my Masters, all sorts of things. But just see, the delight, the pride in somebody achieving something like that in the workplace, just made this role so much more worthwhile. And, and I love it, I love it every day.

S: Fostering a learning culture, that empowers the whole organisation to seek out and take advantage of those learning opportunities seems to be one of the biggest priorities for L&D leaders currently, how are you and your team as Suncorp working to foster a learning culture?

J: Incredibly hard, because as you know, as all the research says, it isn’t an easy thing to do. And you think that it would come naturally, because that’s at the core of every learning person, there is that love of learning. So we think it’s something that comes naturally, but it doesn’t come naturally to everybody. And we’re certainly working very hard on what we call a future ready programme. And that’s about reshaping people’s skills reskilling for those capabilities that will be required as a result of automation and digitalisation and what we call the future skills that are emerging from there. And people are getting quite excited about that. They are getting excited about learning something new. But a learning culture is much more than that. And that’s actually fostering it is a normal part of performance, actually getting people to really seek out and respond to feedback and to grow and develop within their roles. Something that they need to recognise always is that there is always an opportunity to learn whether they’re talking to a customer, or they are learning about a new product, or really, they’re just sitting within a meeting. There is something about learning cultures, where everybody sees that opportunity. And what we’re really focused on doing is helping people to see that opportunity and helping them to see the benefit of that opportunity.

S: So much has changed over the past 18 months with how we live and how we work. In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted the need to invest in L&D?

J: There is no doubt, absolutely no doubt. And I think also, it’s provided us with that opportunity to do things in new and different ways, and actually convert some of the many naysayers that “oh, we can’t do that by Zoom”, “No, we can’t do it virtually”. And now it’s about how about we do it virtually, can we get together virtually. I mean, that is our life. You and I are in lockdown right now. We don’t have a choice. But it provides a great deal of flexibility, which actually means we can deliver much more learning. We can deliver it in different formats. From an hour’s perspective, we can do still do the one in two day programmes – that is exhausting, though, across the internet ways. But I think though what is really nice is that short, sharp webinar, and we can come together we can do working groups across the platform, all of those things, I think it’s really shaped that.

What we also are seeing is that we have accelerated technological change. And there is no doubt that that will continue at the same pace, we have got used to it. And I think that will mean that we really need to reshape those skills, just as I said before. We are going to need new things, new ways of responding, and, and that will see us look at learning and types of learning, we do much more critically going forward. And we’re probably going to be studying in the workplace much more frequently than we ever had before, because things will change more frequently than they ever have before. So yeah, there’s, I think that it’s an exciting time to be in learning. And I just love that it’s become the focus of every consultant in town. And it’s really funny, we had one in recently that said, “Oh, you know, you need to get your learning programmes need to be at least 90%, digital”, and we all looked at each other and when we are 100% Digital. So I think it’s changed probably faster than they even thought it had.

S: Looking ahead over the next five years, how do you see the way we learn and deliver those learning initiatives changing?

J: I think that’s really hard to imagine right now. And I know that it’s going to change rapidly. I think, I’ve seen so many of the things that we are seeing out of very much the Nordic countries, things that we’re starting to see already in primary and secondary education, start to really influence what’s happening at a tertiary and corporate level. And in fact, what will be the laggards in that respect. And I think that will change as we start to see more on the job is sort of in the flow of work learning, and everyone’s talking about that at the moment, but I’m not sure they really know what that means. And I think it’s about shaping it, it’s about using AI to support learning to support what we’re doing within the workplace. And, that bite size just in time learning, I think will become something that’s much more than norm than it is, I guess the exception. And we are going to see much more of the YouTube type learning where people are setting that out themselves. For young people and those that are coming into the workforce. Now, that is a real norm for them. They are so quick at putting that together. I’ve often had my own children say “Oh Mum, I learned that on TikTok”, or “I learned that on YouTube” or, whatever, and they seek those things out that’s become a natural part of what they do. And and I think that will become a natural part of how we provide learning within the corporate world as well.

S: What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

J: That’s an easy piece, I think for me, but at the time, I didn’t recognise it. My grandmother used to have a saying that the day you die is the day you stop learning. And at the time, I really thought that that was really macabre. I actually thought that was a horrible thing to say. But as I’ve learned, and as I evolved as a learning professional, I’ve discovered that that is so true that actually you need to continue to learn. It’s a life long journey, and you need to reach out for that every one of those opportunities if you are going to continue to grow and develop. And I think that’s what she meant to say, I think she meant to put it in a much more exciting, fashion that you should seek, that you should take every opportunity as it arises. But, at the time when you’re only sort of seven or eight and they say they’re focused on the death part of that sentence. I didn’t see it for the wonderful piece of advice that it was.

S: Our last question, what are you most looking forward to about attending the L&D Symposium?

J: Getting out of this room, I think I – that I live in. I’m really looking forward to learning from others. I think we haven’t had that opportunity to connect with a lot of people and sort that out during the pandemic. But I think it’d be wonderful to hear about what other organisations are doing. There is always best practice out there. And what is can be converted to write practice for the organisations that we’re at, and I’m just looking forward to seeing people having in depth conversations about topics that I love and, leaning in and sharing and helping others as well. So, I’m very much looking forward to it.

The L&D Symposium, 25-26 November, will safely bring together 150+ enterprise L&D Leaders in the beautiful Hunter Valley.

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Tim Stuart-Harris
Tim Stuart-Harris

Commercial Director, Ashton Media

Ph: +61 (0)402 567 117