Article: Learning our way into the future: Futurist Forum

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Learning our way into the future: Futurist Forum

Here’s what L&D leaders had to say about the future of work and skills going ahead in the digital age, during the People Matters Learning & Development Conference 2019.
Learning our way into the future: Futurist Forum

Even though the world of work continues to remain uncertain, the value of the human mind is going to stay the same. Or, perhaps the human mind could be more in demand than it is today! 

The Futurist Forum at the People Matters Learning & Development Conference 2019 included sessions on topics such as Learning at Large by Anupam Trehan, Head of HR (India & SAARC), Cisco, on the topic,  a masterclass on People, Culture & Technology--A Self-Leadership Approach, by Andrew Bryant, Author, Speaker, Executive Coach, and Powering Reinvention Through Experimental Learning by Ashish Vidyarthi, in addition to a power panel discussion. 

It kickstarted with a session on “A data-driven approach to talent transformation” by Raghav Gupta, MD, India & APAC, Coursera, who set the context about the position of India Inc. in the landscape of work and skills in the digital age. 

India ranks 50th in business skills on Coursera’s Global Skills Index. In order to gear up for the constantly evolving digital transformation, talent transformation programs also need to evolve. To that end, leveraging the right kind of data at the right time is going to be crucial going forward, Gupta added. 

India is lagging behind in business skills, technological skills, and data science prowess on a global level. However, India is in the 75th percentile when it comes to Maths. As per the Coursera report on Global Skills Index and the Essential Skills Map for Digital Transformation, some of the top set of skills cover data related acumen in addition to the ability of agile management, business case development, project management, design thinking, change management, etc. 

Even the data science team that is working towards transforming talent needs to upskill its members via business and marketing skills, Gupta said. 

As the world becomes increasingly global, the world of work has become interdisciplinary where every specialist must have a working knowledge of topics that were traditionally not involved in their original job role, he added. 

The question that is faced by many leaders today is how to engage the learners into a program that excites them and keeps them engaged in the long run. Designing a learning experience that engages the learner is the key. 

Mobile-friendly app where the learner can watch bite-sized videos on-the-go and retain more information in a short amount of time, has become the norm. Shorter learning spans can also help in ensuring that the progress of the learner can be tracked on a regular basis. 

Data can identify the skills trends and gaps among the skill level in the employees in addition to the world’s top knowledge leaders and a robust learning platform that drives mastery-level learning across different fields. 

Learning at large

Anupam Trehan, Head of HR (India & SAARC), Cisco, picked up the thread and first took the audience back in time to the start of the learning function in the business. From programs such as apprenticeships that date back to the 1800s to being able to learn anything and everything on a portable device to now creating a learning experience that is focused on the people by leveraging technologies such as hyper-automation, AI, human augmentation--the L&D landscape has come a long way! 

In relation to Cisco, the focus is on upskilling the people and the team, depending on each individual’s role and function through mechanisms such as hackathons, ThingQubator, special events, etc. When it comes to extending this culture of learning beyond just the employees, establishing a learning network can not only help in spreading the knowledge among the business partners but also helps the company establish a connection and build their employer brand. This investment then moves beyond the constructs of a business and can spread across sectors in the community. 

That is the only way in which business and HR leaders can play a crucial role in building the talent for tomorrow, Trehan said.

The need of the hour is to redefine: redefine the learner, put the learner at the center, leverage technology and other devices as enablers, establish a strong partnership and foster co-creation of learning content, she added. If companies invest in learning from the get-go, then it becomes a conscious learning culture and thus permeates across various levels of the organization. 

Developing new leadership styles

Another aspect of learning for the future lies in leadership. Andrew Bryant talked about the different styles of leadership that would be required for Industry 4.0. 

“Future-ready leaders must understand how to leverage and deploy people, bots, and algorithms separately and in partnership,” said Bryant. 

Flexibility, ability to collaborate, and agility are the skills that leaders much imbibe in order to remain relevant and productive in the future. Just being adept at technical skills is not going to help in the long run. 

The currently relevant traditional tech skills are likely to become irrelevant in the upcoming three years. For example, systems thinking and service orientation are going to become less crucial as compared to negotiation skills, cognitive flexibility, creativity, and emotional intelligence. 

As the world of work changes, so would the structure of businesses. From a traditional approach of which is the best function to do a specific work, the focus will shift towards the best task to complete a specific work. The shift is already taking place as organizational employees turn towards gig workers and contractors for parts of the job that can be better performed by external experts. 

Striking the right balance between people, technology, and culture can make or break a company’s success in the future. In the digital era, becoming an effective and sustainable company becomes extremely important. 

During his masterclass, Bryant focused on helping leaders exercise autonomy, creating a self-talk or narrative to support effective behavior, and generating cues to trigger effective behavior. 

Bryant encourages leaders to inculcate a culture of ownership or self-leadership among their employees so that they progress cohesively towards shared goals that fuel learning, innovation, and creativity.

Experimental learning and the growth mindset

Moving away from a fixed mindset toward a growth mindset requires a shift in the way of thinking and an experimental approach towards learning. As Ashish Vidyarthi discussed in his session, rewiring the mind into believing in the human potential can unlock unknown skills that a person possesses. This can go a long way in ensuring that employees and leaders alike are attuned to their own skills so that they can work strategically towards reinventing themselves to become future-ready. The skill demands of the future can only be met by investing in learning today.  

Topics: #PMLnD, Learning & Development

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