Driving the skilling agenda is an important arena of HR in a digitally transformed world. Leaders are investing their time and energy to select the right L&D programs that align with the business goals of the company but challenges continue to come up. From learner engagement to measuring ROI, building a learning ecosystem requires consistent efforts and agility to adapt to the dynamic workspace. In a recent interview with People Matters, Chandrahas Shetty, President-Human Resources and Business Support, Alembic Pharmaceuticals offers critical insights on the parallel processes of learning and unlearning and the need for flexibility and accessibility in implementing L&D programs.
Chandrahas has worked across industries and has a rich experience of over 41 years in all the HR functions. He has completed his post-graduation in management from Bombay University and also holds a certificate in personnel management from Tata Institute of Social Science and a masters in personnel management from Pune University. The National Awards for Excellence in Healthcare 2021 recently named him "HR Professional of the Year 2021."
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Upskilling and reskilling programs have become priorities for HR leaders across the globe and a lot of this has to do with the changing skill demands. What are some of the skill sets that organisations look for these days?
For any organisation to be successful, it is important for the team members and team leaders to achieve success as well. When I think about learning, I go back to Vijay Govindarjan’s Three Box Strategy according to which: firstly, we identify what is working for the company and carry that forward; secondly, we identify what is outdated and innovate new strategies accordingly and finally, we look to the future by preemptively and proactively building competencies according to market needs and business goals.
Coming back to competencies, I believe there are two kinds: functional competencies and behavioural competencies. Three factors that are extremely critical when it comes to building competencies is technology, talent and excellency in implementation of such programs.
Given the shift to digitisation and automation, most of the L&D programs tend to target technical skills for greater business outcomes. How can organisations go about balancing such programs with those which encourage cognitive skills such as emotional intelligence and resilience?
The first thing we must recognise is that learning ability is itself intelligence. How quickly one understands, learns and implements their learnings is the key question. Technology is the driving force of organisations today. But technical skills have to be balanced with the learning ability of individuals which must be accelerated. Speed is the essence of today when it comes to upskilling.
What are some of the L&D programs that your organisation is carrying out and what was the criteria of deciding on these programs over others?
Learning at Alembic Pharmaceuticals is omnipresent but it also starts with leadership. Prior to even inviting consultants to carry out L&D initiatives at the company, the leaders must be aware of the skill gaps that must be addressed and take the lead in building a culture of learning within their own teams. This is what aids in customising learning programs to suit your business needs and accordingly implementing the right programs.
When I, as a Leader saw the online Executive programs being carried out by XLRI, I realised that we had started a similar initiative much earlier even before the pandemic starting off with the managers and then trickling it down to the new joinees. We’ve invested a lot in digital upskilling, enabling employees across all ages to take part in training programs and get accommodated to the digital tools. We start with leadership when it comes to these training programs in order to demonstrate success and accordingly encourage others to participate as well.
While others say that we must influence, I say that we must inspire by leading the upskilling agenda from the front and taking the employees along.
What are some of the challenges that your organisation faced in the delivery of learning solutions and employee training programs, especially in a virtual space? How did you overcome them?
The first part of the learning agenda involves getting the right, competent team to carry out these training programs. As such, training the trainers becomes the first challenge and leaders have to become part of this process and hold accountability.
The second challenge involves senior leadership and how to accommodate them to the changing times which demands them to be tech savvy. This latter challenge has been overcome by both training programs as well as using the innovative strategy of ‘Reverse Mentoring’ wherein the younger generation aids in the process of acquiring digital skills among senior leaders. Reverse learning is what has helped us in carrying out this digital upskilling at a deeper level. Reverse learning is what has helped us in carrying out this digital upskilling at a deeper level.
When it comes to building a learning ecosystem for your workers, how can leaders ensure learning engagement and gain results on the effectiveness of these programs?
Before implementing any learning program, the first thing we must do is set a target. Clarity on the learning objective and learning population is essential and it is this which impacts the measuring criteria. For example, through our LMS (Learning Management System) Software, one can track what are the skills that are being learned as well as the hours being invested in by employees. When the measuring criteria is set, for any learning program, periodic review of this data is key to judging the ROI of these programs because it points out towards the usage. Periodic review also involves assessment such as quizzes about product knowledge to check the implementation of the learnings. Measuring output involves comparing current productivity with earlier productivity to judge the utility of these programs.
Simultaneously, we also updated and upgraded our LMS software to make it more user friendly. Flexibility in usage such as recording important learning sessions must also be guaranteed to cover wider regions and overcome potential network issues in remote regions where employees may be living. We also moved ahead with a ‘mobile first approach’ to make our LMS more accessible so that employees at all levels can engage in these modules even from their smartphones.
Finally, if there is one lesson you can share with your fellow HR leaders about bridging the skills gap, what would it be?
Taking ownership of the learning process and demonstrating your active participation in it as well as how you take your team along for the journey are critical facets. Leaders must also have clarity on which skill gaps need to be filled to achieve business goals and accordingly customise the L&D programs. They have to be consistently involved in the process with a lot of empathy to enhance flexibility and accessibility of these programs and collaborate on them as well.
As important as learning is, we have to also get into unlearning to drive the skilling agenda and building capacities which meet current and future requirements. And finally, gain insights into the outcomes of these programs to see how much it aligns with business goals.