The future of work is bound to appear daunting to the unprepared people leader. As experts from across different sectors gathered under one roof at the People Matters and ACCA Roundtable Discussion, they put on their thinking caps to tackle one of the major challenges facing people managers, HR professionals, and L&D leaders--how to best leverage continuous learning to prepare for the future.
The root of learning begins with realizing that there is a need to gear up for the fast-changing future of work.
Factors such as automation are impacting the type of jobs available in every sphere of work and people have to embrace it. Traditional and conventional career trajectories are no longer the norm and the millennials of today have to become increasingly agile in their learnability in order to stay relevant in the years to come. For the baby-boomers and Gen Zers in the workforce, changing the mindset and adopting continuous learning as the mantra for professional relevancy and excellence, is the only way forward.
Talking about “Learning for the Future,” ACCA, which is a global body designed for professional accountants, uses a method of first identifying the drivers of change, followed by understanding the skills required for the future and then instilling the culture of continuous learning among employees, according to Rahul Puri, Head of Employer Relations, India, ACCA.
With about 219,000 members and 527,000 students spread across 179 nations, ACCA prides itself in helping professionals build relevant skills required by their employers to become future-ready, especially in the careers of accountancy, finance, and management.
“When we talk about learning, the first question is ‘learning for what?’” Manish Chum, Chief of Experience Head, Whirlpool Aisa, said. “I think we have to go to the nucleus of the question.”
The nucleus, as Chum pointed out, is to understand the context of learning that employees come from before deciding on a learning strategy. “After about 22 years of a very prescriptive education model, we suddenly cannot expect a very different learning style,” he added, referring to the different learning models adopted by various companies.
Chum said that focusing on the following three aspects of a learning journey can go a long way in enabling L&D leaders to design a holistic learning model: learner, learnability, and the learning process.
Business acumen, data analysis, communication, and emotional intelligence surfaced as the key skills that are essential in order to gear up for the future. Learning agility has become a top skill that talent leaders are looking for in today’s landscape of work where there is a need to evolve at a fast pace--learn, unlearn, and relearn, added Puri.
As the landscape of work continues to evolve along with the structural changes, there is a shift towards self-curated learning, said Puri. He highlighted the need of the hour to prepare to change and creating an ecosystem of openness, taking ownership, and being ready to change as per the changing demands of the workforce.
“How do you leverage responsibility and culture to promote people to learn and create an entire ecosystem of how you (leaders) can support learning,” Puri said.
According to the Learning for the Future report by ACCA, the onus is on the Learning & Development professionals to be able to see business leaders and other employees in the organization as ‘consumers’ of learning. It is not just enough to be providers of courses or learning content, however, it is about creating a learning journey that is tailor-made to suit the needs of the employees.
For Rohin Nadir, Head of Capability Development, KPMG India, leveraging technology to create in-depth learning programs has become a crucial step towards equipping the workforce with the skills that are essential for the future.
“Technology for us is meant to be used for all critical, timebound, mandatory learning initiatives,” Nadir said. “Anything which has to be done within a month, you’ve got to use technology for that--even a simple e-learning course would do!”
The challenge with solely focusing on elearning modules is that eastern cultures are still favorable towards classroom trainings. Unlearning the way, we learn is the key. Having been conditioned to equate learning with training and considering the classroom set-up as the only place where learning happens, many employees today are having to unlearn these patterns of thinking and behavior in order to tackle the needs of the future head-on.
The new-era of agility and fast-faced consumer demands results in the need for an agile and on-the-job learning solution. An application-based learning module can go a long way in empowering employees with the confidence to implement what they learn into action and they can see it directly have an impact on business performance.
Apart from the attitude towards learning, a willingness to troubleshoot through problems and the ability to become “solution-focused” is a key skill that will set a professional apart from the rest of her peers, especially in today’s competitive world.
“The problem-solving skill is extremely important. The second is collaboration, especially when we are working in a cross-cultural context, when we are talking about different generations at the workplace, with an element of empathy. Third skill is the ability to connect the dots, what we typically call strategic thinking,” Chum added when talking about the three primary skills that a leading organization like Whirlpool looks for.
Mamta Wasan, Senior Vice President Human Resources, FIS raised a highly relevant and perhaps the most important aspect of building a culture of continuous learning--it all begins with generating a sense of excitement towards learning and imbibing new skills.
“L&D function along cannot bring about the change. The change has to happen on an organizational level,” she said. “A sense of purpose is one thing but creating a sense of excitement is more important.”