Article: Fewer companies realise reskilling a key part of digital transformation: Tata Communications’ Global L&D Head


Fewer companies realise reskilling a key part of digital transformation: Tata Communications’ Global L&D Head

Despite organisations ramping up digital infrastructures, many have noticed potential issues such as the need for cybersecurity experts and the widening digital skills gap and companies generally deal with these concerns by hiring new, skilled staff. But, this approach is not sustainable, says Ina Bajwa, Global Head, Learning & Development, Tata Communications.
Fewer companies realise reskilling a key part of digital transformation: Tata Communications’ Global L&D Head

READ the October 2021 issue of our magazine: The Skills Gaps Conundrum

Ina heads Learning & Development across the globe for Tata Communications. In this role, Ina spearheads the learning transformation journey of re-skilling, upskilling and cross-skilling talent to enable the organisation’s future-readiness. Ina has 15+ years of experience in various leadership roles in HR, spanning diverse industries. In recent years, she has worked closely with business leaders to establish and scale new businesses in the IoT, Managed Security Services, and cross-border Mobility and SaaS domains in India, APAC, UK and US geographies and has been at the forefront of driving new-age talent management. Ina has specialised experience in areas of diversity and inclusion, talent management, organisation development and strategic resourcing. Prior to Tata Communications, Ina worked with BCG, HSBC and the Essar Group.

What’s your take on the 'new' world of work and what’s the most significant trends for you as a global talent leader?

The way I see it is that the ‘new’ world of work offers an immense opportunity on the back of all the uncertainty that it entails. There is an opportunity to relook at the ways of working, people practices, business models, and for companies to redefine the whole definition of an ‘employee’. Employees are looking for purpose and a meaningful direction for their work, as many are choosing to become entrepreneurs and many others as freelancers. 

The most important aspect that emerged as centre stage for organisations during this time is Employee Experience (EX). EX reflects a move towards employees being at the heart of driving organisational performance. To navigate this landscape where monetary compensation is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, companies are outlining a holistic EX plan as a company strategy to create a promising competitive advantage; and one that goes well beyond the HR moments that matter - to encompass every interaction that happens along the employee lifecycle. 

How has the pandemic transformed workplace learning? Can you share the top three shifts that you think are significant?

Workplace learning has become centre stage over the last 18 months, and the development agenda has a seat at the table like never before. 


This movement is equally employee-led as employees are prioritising upskilling in their jobs/preparing for their new ones, as much as it is company-led, as companies are focusing on mass reskilling as their business models/strategies adjust because of the disruption brought by the pandemic. Workplace learning is here to stay for the coming years, with learning technologies evolving and adding to the overall employee experience proposition for employees. 

At Tata Communications, our AI-enabled on-demand learning platform - Tata Communications Learning Academy (TCLA) – is the primary learning interface where our employees can learn any skill through our freemium and sponsored providers as well as undergo targeted upskilling programmes that are critical for functions in our value chain. And all of this is digitally enabled – interspersed with virtual learning - to offer enhanced experience wherever required. In a nutshell, learning is driven by the business impact it can create, and it will continue to be hyper-personalised and offered through platforms. It will also increasingly be employee and company-led. 

The rise of automation has highlighted the skills gap facing businesses globally. How can organisations reimagine their capability-building approaches?  

Despite organisations ramping up digital infrastructures, many have noticed potential issues such as the need for cybersecurity experts and the widening digital skills gap. Currently, companies generally deal with these concerns by hiring new, skilled staff. 

That being said, it is not sustainable for businesses to opt for layoffs and hire new, skilled staff. This is because the demand for these professionals will only continue to grow, and finding ways to upskill staff will eventually become the norm.

Furthermore, organisations can start providing employees with the flexibility to decide how they can value-add to the company. Industrious HR functions should be actively promoting upskilling or reskilling with employees, not only for their current job but for their next role – in the same function or a completely new one. When organisations make the continuous quest to learn, train and develop as part of their organisation’s DNA, it will make them more attractive to new talent and place them in the driver’s seat.

How has the learning landscape changed in Tata Communications in 2021? How are you bridging the skills gap?

The pandemic has significantly accelerated digital adoption in companies. We are already seeing businesses finding new ways to actively optimise their business processes, improve their user experiences, and become more agile. However, fewer companies realise reskilling initiatives are an equally important part of their digital transformation journey. Because just as automation is replacing jobs, it’s also widening the digital skills gap.

To ensure that there is a continuous quest to learn, learning and development initiatives at Tata Communications, the Learning & Development (L&D) team engages with business leaders and function heads through the year to align learning solutions with the business strategy. We are now at the leading edge of having a learning culture in the company where employees are self-driven to learn further and build their capabilities. The introduction of Tata Communications Learning Academy ensures we provide our employees with the same consumer-grade experience we deliver to our customers. We wanted the new platform to become the primary learning interface for all our employees − a one-stop-shop for all learning and skill development needs, including reskilling, upskilling and cross-skilling requirements.

Tata Communications also implemented ‘Project Marketplace’ a few years ago where employees can implement new skills by volunteering in new projects or addressing certain existing issues. It has features such as a matching algorithm for skills and projects, a gamification framework integrated with learning opportunities, and real-time learning recommendations.  

How can L&D leaders up their ante to meet the learning needs of employees moving forward?

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has shifted many companies’ learning and development approach to a completely virtual one. To succeed, it will take the right tools, technology, and environment, along with the consideration of all the different cultural and regional nuances. 

Furthermore, L&D leaders have to be willing to understand learning requirements at an individual and team level to offer the learning experience they get in today’s commercial learning space. It will require constant feedback on existing and future content and continuous dialogue to enhance the entire learning experience and outcomes for employees as well as improve the business impact. 

How is Tata Communications dealing with the ‘great resignation’ and how are you transforming for the new world of work?

At Tata Communications, we are heavily invested in furthering our L&D brand where employees understand the importance of upskilling and how this aligns with their own aspirations and business objectives. Continuous dialogues on the subject, as part of the regular coaching conversations with their managers, reiterates the importance. Integrating career progression as an outcome of learning and targeted development using a platform approach is what we believe will differentiate us for the new world of work. We are very close to announcing this offering to our employees which has been developed completely in-house. 

Today, our L&D ecosystem offers a wide range of self-service learning content by providers including edX, MasterClass, TED, the Center for Creative Leadership, MIT Sloan Management Review, Mckinsey Insights, Mind Tools, Udacity, BCG and many others. We will continue to invest in making the ecosystem robust so that employees and teams across are using the platform extensively to learn core and future skills in networking, cybersecurity, mobility, leadership, and more areas. 

What's your learning mantra?

Empty your cup often so that it can be filled again!

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Topics: Skilling, #TheSkillsConundrum, #DigitalTransformation, #HRTech

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