Continuous learning is the concept of always expanding knowledge to gain new skills and expertise. In today’s rapidly changing world, it is critical for employees to engage in continuous learning to further expand their skill-sets in response to a changing environment and new developments. This is very important because growth-focused organizations must respond to changes on a regular basis.
In this special issue of People Matters on the theme, ‘Continuous Learning,’ we bring to you a series of case studies of organizations which are focusing on the continuous learning as a part of preparing the workforce of future.
In this article, we interviewed Shirin Salis, Vice-President-HR at Ingersoll Rand and learned how the company is investing in its employees’ skilling, reskilling and upskilling.
Q: How would you define “continuous learning” at Ingersoll Rand and in your sector?
Continuous learning is also about encouraging employees to constantly learn by providing them with tools that facilitate this learning. At Ingersoll Rand, we believe that continuous learning is about finding and gaining opportunities which are embedded in work and which are seamlessly integrated into day to day work of employees. It is real-time and also just-in-time supporting the performance of employees as they go about their work. Thus, it is job relevant and immersive with gamification, on-demand resources, and incorporates social learning like communities of practice, etc.
In the manufacturing sector, employers are incorporating lifelong learning skills to overcome the profound demographic change and to develop the workforce needed for smart factories. They are integrating the need for continuous learning into their business plans, right down to utilization targets for direct labor and provision for initial on-the-job education for new hires.
Q: What are the key challenge areas in creating a habit of learning? (Is it technology related, culture related or ownership related?)
It is very crucial to understand that we all face challenges when it comes to adapting new changes be it personal or professional. But as it is always said, change is the only constant and we all must adapt to it. Similarly learning a new skill can be time-consuming, sometimes from many months up to years, and considerable energy goes into it. It would thus be a challenge to make learning stick with the learner who is deeply engraved with old habits.
Some of the key challenges in creating a habit of learning range from a time-poor and sometimes dispersed workforce to limiting costs while improving engagement, and catering to diverse learning preferences. Other challenges also include generic training which means that the content is simply not relevant to the employees. A major obstacle which L&D professionals face is developing ownership and accountability for learners as many lack the sense of connectedness and personal investment in the learning process.
It is thus important for companies to encourage continued learning to develop the potential of each employee. An active learning culture makes all employees feel part of the culture and can boost emotional engagement. This emotional investment leads to increased learning. At Ingersoll Rand, we empower employees to inspire progress every day for our customers and communities and for themselves which helps them in putting their learnings to their daily lives as well.
Q: What are the essential ingredients needed to design and drive continuous learning at Ingersoll Rand?
Creating a learning-centered work culture is important for companies to attract top talent, giving employees tools they need to be successful and in turn, grow the business. At Ingersoll Rand, we believe that in today’s world the first key ingredient in inculcating continuous learning is technology. Technology is disrupting every sector and area of our lives, and work and learning is no exception. We are thus focused on helping employees embrace a culture of just-in-time learning as well as leveraging social learning opportunities. When applied in corporate training, social learning can work wonders as a learning strategy.
At Ingersoll Rand, we believe that making training sessions fun and creative can ease the overall learning process. With such fun sessions, we have seen employees begin to form their learning mindset even before the learning session starts. Creative learning is not just good for encouraging productivity and new solutions but is also highly effective in high-level learnings. We, therefore, incorporate different, fun and engaging forms of learning like gamification, social learning, etc. into our everyday learning.
Q: What are the key impact metrics you track for success?
Today, employee capability development is under the spotlight, primarily because organizational success factors are rapidly evolving. Organizations are investing large sums into learning and development initiatives, in a bid to empower employees to be their productive best. It is thus important to measure not only the quality of the intervention but also how it adds value to the employee and ultimately in the business growth.
For our enterprise level programs, we follow the level 3 assessment, which is an improvement in skill and behaviors and assessing impact on KRAs.
Q: How often do you re-boot and refresh your learning strategy?
According to the Harvard Business Review, a good learning strategy provides a high-level roadmap, outlines a set of principles to define actions to take (and not take) and priorities to achieve goals.
At Ingersoll Rand, we believe that continuous learning offers multiple benefits to both employees and employers – such as increased innovation and ideas, finding efficiencies, and improved competitive edge. All critical in a world where technologies, best practices, customer demands, and skills are constantly changing. To keep ourselves relevant in this changing world, we review and reboot our learning and development strategies annually as it gives us enough time to analyze and understand employee engagement and learning patterns and make relevant changes accordingly. It also provides us enough time to collect employee feedback and make a more informed decision about refreshing our learning strategies.