From fostering generational intelligence to emphasising learning agility, industry leaders discussed the critical role of chief human resources officers (CHROs) and learning & development (L&D) leaders in driving impactful learning at the L&D India Conference 2023.
In the world of work dominated by digital transformation and a multi-generational workforce, navigating the future of learning leadership has become inevitable. Industry leaders highlighted the dynamic nature of learning leadership in response to the changing external environment and the need for organisations to continuously adapt and invest in learning and development to stay competitive.
Archana Chadha; Head of Human Resources; HSBC India, MVN Rao; Head - Corporate Learning & Development (CLO); Larsen & Toubro Limited, Aditya Sareen; Head-HR (Corp Functions & International), Engagement, Wellness & Cadre, Tata Power, and Ashish Kumar Jha; Co-Founder & CEO, Vani, discussed the importance of learning leadership in today's rapidly changing business landscape during the People Matters L&D India Conference 2023.
The panelists shared their insights on the evolving role of chief human resources officers (CHROs) and learning and development (L&D) leaders in driving impactful learning for their organisations. They discussed five key patterns of co-created L&D: prioritising long-term success, predicting technological shifts, redefining work, nurturing thriving workplaces, and building robust leadership pipelines.
Be responsive to disruptions
Archana emphasised the need for organisations to adapt to the ongoing disruptions in the external environment. These disruptions include digital transformation, data-driven decision-making, and changes in work dynamics brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also highlighted the challenge of managing a diverse five-generation workforce and the importance of developing generational intelligence.
“We need to change our gears and review how we train in view of all the disruption we're seeing in the world outside. The advancement of technology has led to huge disruptions for many organisations. Therefore, the pace at which they need to be upskilled has increased, and their people need transformation,” said Archana.
The COVID-19 pandemic is another disruptor of the ways we have been working. “The expectations from the organisation as well as the employer are changing, therefore all the job descriptions are being rewritten in terms of the skills required, so we need to respond to them,” said Archana who is seeing a phenomenon for the first time in her career of two decades.
According to her, Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Z's working in the organisation bring in diversity, but it also comes with challenges like low engagement, high attrition, and lack of connection with each other. To leverage a diverse workforce, Archana suggests developing generational intelligence.
Learning agility is a key
MVN Rao, responsible for a large and diverse organisation, discussed the importance of agility and learning agility in constant change. He emphasised the need for learning leaders to produce quality talent quickly and outlined the challenges in finding and upskilling talent, especially in specialised roles.
“All of us are learning leaders as organisations are continuously going through turbulent changes. In response to these changes, leaders need to take a call on what kind of lasting leadership learning they can leave behind and what kind of strategies they can adopt,’ said MVN Rao.
According to Rao, one important thing that he discovered is learning agility, which he believes is the most important. “Learning leaders are the line leaders who do not have that kind of patience and they are supposed to produce those kinds of quality people to meet the business requirements in a defeat. It IS going to be very, very challenging as I see it,” he added.
“As a conglomerate operating across diverse industries, our company has a unique perspective on the importance of focusing on our people. We are constantly evaluating how we can nurture a dynamic engine of growth. As a learning leader, the challenge lies in creating a lasting culture of learning. This journey is indeed perpetual, and it only becomes more demanding over time. I like to think of it as a quest for a distant reward, a carrot at the end of the road. However, it's essential to recognise that the path to that reward can be quite arduous,” said Rao.
Aditya stressed the need for a shift in perspective, where every member of the organisation, from managers to employees, becomes a learning evangelist. He highlighted the increasing pace of change in the business world, making continuous learning a necessity.
“In the present landscape, it's evident that the role of learning leadership has gained paramount importance. The business world is in a constant state of flux, with evolving business models, informed and data-driven customers, and employees seeking meaning in a rapidly changing environment. Skill requirements are evolving rapidly. In this scenario, the responsibility for learning and development falls on two key stakeholders: the experienced chief learning officer and the young, enthusiastic employee. Bridging this gap necessitates a shift in perspective,” said Aditya.
According to Aditya, every manager and employee needs to be empowered to become learning evangelists, fostering a culture of continuous learning. “The sectors like IT or Telecom are constantly evolving. To navigate these changes successfully, the emphasis should be on empowering learners to transition from traditional style of learning to electronic, digitally-driven learning methods,” added Aditya.
Challenges of chief learning officers
They also spoke on the evolving role of chief learning officers (CLOs) and the challenges they face in bridging the gap between education and industry needs. They mentioned the importance of learning infrastructure, investing in learning and creating learning opportunities for employees at all levels.
Data-focused training, incentives for learning, gamified training programs, and mentorship programs are some of the ways leaders suggested to encourage learning among employees, irrespective of their age.
They also emphasised the importance of allowing employees to learn at their own pace and enabling them to make decisions and learn from their mistakes.
In response to challenges related to inertia and resistance to change, the panelists advised promoting a culture of continuous learning, allowing employees to identify their learning needs, and providing flexible learning opportunities.
The discussion also touched on the importance of employee wellness and its inclusion in the list of top priorities for organisations in 2023. The panelists acknowledged the significance of employee well-being and discussed how their organisations are promoting various aspects of wellness, including physical, financial, social, and emotional well-being.