Building a sustainable learning ecosystem means shifting the responsibility of learning on employees by triggering and allowing genuine interest to emerge from their end
Seventy percent organizations globally state “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, according to a Bersin study. With technology and innovation disrupting the businesses today, a cohesive learning ecosystem within organizations, which not only facilitates and makes learning available but also motivates individuals to learn constantly for the organization’s success is fast becoming indispensable.
According to a Pluralsight customer study, instructor-led modules are the most dominant form of training (68 percent) in India. However, today there is a transformation in the way learning at workplace is seen – learning in organizations is seen to be no longer just about training and development sessions anymore. The linear and prescribed forms of learning constructs no longer resonate with the millennial workforce generation and organizations are adopting a more pragmatic and flexible approach towards their learning needs to accommodate different learning styles.
However, in some businesses, many L&D professionals still struggle to infuse such a learning mechanism in their organizations as learning budgets are the first target of the company’s prudence measures. Companies still overwhelmingly make decisions about learning initiatives in isolation, often ignoring the employees’ perspectives. On the contrary, senior management needs to realize that developing an agile model of learning, which includes communicating with the employees about their learning aspirations and focusing on making learning options available in company’s DNA, is critical for long-term success of the business.
In order to build a sustainable learning ecosystem, the responsibility of learning should shift to the employees through triggering and allowing genuine interest to emerge from their end. Here are five approaches to keep in mind:
1. Voluntary learning
Top-down approach to learning is fast becoming obsolete. Training teams are no longer fit to drive learning, especially without the input of employees. A lack of attendance and interest in learning is also a common issue with employees in companies that still adopt linear training methods. Also, when employees are not consulted about what they need to learn and when, they are likely to find the trainings irrelevant. The way to address this is to enable them to come up with what they want to learn. Employees directly working with various projects have the best knowledge of what gaps need to be addressed through learning. Manish Sinha, HR Head, Motorola Mobility India, says that conventional trainings in the company have been completely disrupted in favor of open systems where individual employees can claim ownership for the development of products that the company wants to develop in the next six-month period. Once these responsibilities are claimed, people managers just set deadlines for when the product would go into test phase, leaving the necessary skill acquisition up to the employees. Their role then is to provide learning support as and when asked for. Mohan Sitharam, Chief People Officer, Subex Ltd., also explains how 70 percent of their L&D budget is driven by voluntary communities of learners who decide what they want to learn and how, while the leadership fine-tunes these decisions by allocating funding as per its priorities.
2. Mentoring one-another
Mentoring and Peer-to-Peer learning are effective ways of learning and facilitating healthy generational interaction. Raj Karunakaran, HR Director at Philips Healthcare feels that these social ways keep learning interactive and personal. This way, participants from previous batches are involved with new learning groups to share experiences and even participate in the teaching aspect. In the same spirit, senior employees with several years of work experience can provide mentoring and coaching support to the younger employees, and conversely learn new market insights through reverse mentoring from the recently-hired, young employees in informal, friendly spaces that companies can design for such interactions.
3. Incentive of recognition
Employees would want to learn more when their efforts are being noticed at some level. Recognition of individual learning efforts generate collective motivation in others too. Kunal Wali, Global Learning Solutions leader at IBM India, shares that at IBM, employees are encouraged by the company to clock-in and highlight their learning hours, whether it is in the form of reading a book, attending a seminar or going to external course websites for additional certifications over the weekends. While these hours are not mandated, clocking-in implies that management can take notice of who is learning what, even if these are 30-minute nuggets of information. These records are also picked up by an analytic-powered, centralized LMS which enables searching through profiles with relevant exposure, skills or education in case a new role needs to be filled.
4. Interdisciplinary skill development
Learning, questioning and problem solving are facilitated by genuine curiosity and interdisciplinary thinking, which take a back seat in the single-stream, theoretical mindset commonly propagated in the Indian education system. Anindya Maitra, GM at Mindtree Ltd., points out that due to a lack of coordination between academia and industries, a large number of campus hires join their respective industries without the interdisciplinary mindset required for handling customer projects and solving real-life problems. At the Bhubaneshwar-based residential Global Learning Center of Mindtree Kalinga, the graduate hires get together with a few experts and work on real time problems that are of direct concern to their fully sustainable campus. This immersive environment allows them to think real world solutions and connect isolated nuggets of knowledge from their experiences. In the process, they develop an engineering, business and social mindset to confidently take on client problems once they join the workplace.
5. Employee buy-in
People like being a part of something they love, which motivates them and makes them feel proud. It is therefore really important for an organization to have a strong vision that people can buy into and relate to. When there is a vision and a purpose, employees can get behind that cause. According to Jeff Petersen, VP of North American Sales at Pluralsight, if the employees can buy into the vision, they will find it easier to jump on the bandwagon in which everybody moves towards the goal. In other words, the key is to align individual and organizational goals in such a way that employees don’t need to be ‘pushed’ to learn but inherently desire to ‘pull’ themselves (and the organization) up through new knowledge and skill acquisition.
There isn’t any one right form of learning for a multi-generational workforce. Companies have to leverage different approaches to generate employee initiative in cross-skilling and make various learning platforms available while keeping the communication channels between the employees and management open. Companies should be bold and experiment with various approaches until they figure out their own dynamic recipe.
(This article is based on the learnings from the People Matters and Pluralsight Roundtable series)