Mohan Singh, Group Head – Human Resources at Sterling and Wilson Pvt. Ltd shares the learning paradigm that COVI-19 has brought into the picture. In this interaction, he also highlights why creating employee self-awareness towards mental, emotional, and physical well-being is another important learning paradigm that emerged as the Covid struck.
What are the new workplace learning paradigms that COVID-19 has pushed into the spotlight?
Extensive use of on-line digital platforms like Microsoft Teams for learning has been the biggest new workplace learning paradigm that came to the forefront strongly since March 2020 (when Covid 19 struck and inevitable work from home commenced). It became important for everyone, from participants and facilitators, to get a good hold on the platform and use it effectively. It is remarkable that in S&W, we have used on-line platforms not only for behavioral, functional, and technical training but equally for top of the shelf leadership development initiatives, including workshops, webinars, as well as leadership and communication development coaching sessions.
Creating employee self-awareness towards mental, emotional and physical well-being is another important learning paradigm that emerged as the Covid struck. There was a vital need to train the employees with the awareness and skills to effectively manage their all-round well-being, while providing them with simple yet powerful tools for daily practice in these spheres.
How has the pandemic highlighted the need to invest in L&D?
We believe that when the going gets tough, it is not just the practical business decisions that are the need of the hour but it is the healing touch in the form of learning and personal growth opportunities for all levels of employees that takes paramount importance. And, yes, there is a heightened need to invest in L&D for all organizations, especially those who consider learning as a ‘good to do and a lower priority’ rather than a business and cultural enabler.
At S&W, we always consider Learning and Development (L&D) as a strategic investment and, especially so, when the general employee morale is impacted by a global pandemic. Consequently, the focus on L&D has been very significant in the last 6-7 months, with about 32 diverse training and development initiatives running simultaneously, covering the entire gamut - from CXO levels to mid and junior levels. These include leadership development journey initiatives, business sustainability and organizational development initiatives, Business Unit focused programs, communication development certification program, a bouquet of behavioural and functional workshops as part of monthly and quarterly calendar. And, a specific focus on technical training sessions, which took a huge leap in the last two quarters.
How will the way we learn and deliver learning initiatives in an organizational context change?
More than any other period in the past, it is now time for the business leaders and managers at all levels to realize that they are equal partners in the learning journey and growth trajectory of their teams. The time has definitely come to forge an agile thought partnership between HR, L&D and their business and project managers within all the organizations, irrespective of the sector, to move together to ensure that development turns into a practical tool for identifying and grooming high potentials as well as succession planning. It is time for line managers across Industries to shed their often held feeling that project management is their job, while employee learning and growth responsibility belongs to HR/L&D. Business and lines managers need to become lead partners in driving this change.
Employees will need to take ownership of their own all-round self-development and stay curious as to “what’s in it for me”? How will learning on a topic will serve me as a person and as a professional? What is my vision, my goals for my self-growth and what support do I need to seek to fulfil them?
Organizational cultural change starts from the top, and in S&W, our leadership takes the ownership to collectively herald the culture that will serve to not only ride the current tide of business challenges but to build business sustainability for the future! The same principle is applicable across Industries for leadership – Walk the Talk! As, role modeling takes on significant dimensions towards motivating and inspiring people.
Focus on up-skilling, re-skilling and cross-skilling become extremely relevant now to leverage our human resources as well as identifying and focusing upon specific areas of role-based skills building.
Have you revamped your L&D strategy? Or are you looking to? What are the key learning priorities for your organization as you prepare to bounce back from the crisis?
Our L&D strategy has been based on certain principles such as:
- Customization to context: Close alignment of design and approach with organizational, business as well as individual contexts
- The agility of internal L&D monitoring and control processes and systems
- Strategic influencing and a strong alignment with internal customers
- Constant cultural sensing and being part of culture moulding
- Holding learning accountability with empathy
- Building a strong pull factor for learning
- Building deeper self- awareness, and ownership in the system as well as higher all-round capabilities
As a highly flexible, agile approach to L&D, this has served us well and helps us to sense the need of the hour and timely design and offer initiatives that support divergent needs.
Our key learning priorities today are ensuring to uphold a culture of close-connect with our people, keep a figure on the pulse of what will build sustainability and talent retention. Towards the same, various on-going organizational development initiatives serve objectives cross-business synergy, BU focused sustainability that focuses upon individual leadership, synergy and cohesiveness, cultural narratives change and building leaders as mentors – a culture where mentoring becomes part of the organizational DNA, an integral part of a manager’s role in team empowerment. We are in the process of building an expert pool of cross functional mentors in the organization. Enabling all-round leadership accountability and commitment to personal growth as a leader, showing up as a role model for the teams below are focus areas in a top-down approach to build a deeper learning-focused momentum.
How is the role of L&D professionals changing?
L&D professionals can no longer afford to exist in an exclusive cocoon of their own, as has been sometimes observed. A deeper and sustained connection with the business and cultural reality of the organization as well as connect of L&D initiatives with the vision and goals of the organization are imperative for L&D to remain relevant and add real-time value to the company. ‘Training for the sake of it or as a tick in the box for meeting training man-days target’ is a thing of the past and needs to be buried once and for all!
L&D professionals need to forge a strong partnership with their internal customers, ‘be on the same side of the table’, so to say, and create nimble processes within L&D that easily adapt to varied needs. There has to be a greater emphasis on L&D professionals to walk the talk as the conscious keepers of the system, invest in constant enhancement in their own self-growth and upskilling, create a good balance in internal design and delivery efforts and accessing external expertise, global benchmarking of best practices and showcase creative approaches, customized for the context.