With the introduction and evolution of advanced technologies like Cloud, Security, Mobility, IoT, Software Defined Networks, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics, the marketplace for talent is undergoing a paradigm shift.
It is estimated that every 12- 18 months, Software engineers need to upgrade themselves. Research by Deloitte has shown that jobs in marketing, sales, manufacturing, law, accounting and finance have similar demands.
Speaking about the changes in the demand for training, Aadesh Goyal, CHRO, Tata Communications said, “The training days per employee per year have nearly tripled in the last three years and today, 80 percent of the learning is consumed digitally which is a tremendous change from three years ago, when 90 percent of the training was delivered in a classroom format.”
“At Tata Communications, we believe that acquiring new skills play an integral role in creating a company of the future and not just being future-ready,” Goyal said.
“The habit of (continuous) learning is created if it becomes an organizational imperative,” he added. The company is at a stage of enabling a learning culture in the company, where employees are self-driven to keep learning and build their capabilities.
The avenues of learning
In order to tackle continuous change, and uncertainty about who needs to learn what and when, the company turned to creating an on-demand platform for learning called Tata Communications Academy. It is accessible to employees the world over and enables learning through byte-sized content. The portal enabled by algorithms helps employees search skills they want to learn and need. Managers and leaders can assign certain skills and related programs for their teams to pursue. These can vary across various roles and job families.
For many business units, the company worked towards functional academies that serve the specific needs of the business unit. Within these academies, customized programs or learning journeys were designed.
“Based on continuous dialogue with the leaders as well as inputs from all employees, we keep adding new programs to these portfolios,” Goyal said.
Teams and business units create their own content using easy tools and host digital programs on our internal video channel ‘Play’, which is widely used across the organization.
Employees also have unlimited access to many Massive Open Online Courses like Coursera, Skillsoft and Pluralsight amongst others.
“Certifications continue as a focus area for us, both external and internal and help us in creating credible learning milestones. Regular webinars are also held by the learning team on interesting topics, where industry or Tata Communications experts are invited to host discussions with employees,” Goyal said.
Continuous learning needs continuous feedback
“Over the last three years, the leaders and the HR team have been able to drive this focus across the company to create the right employee mindsets and most importantly, help them understand the business case for continuous learning,” Goyal said.
Employee feedback and business focus have been the key driving factors to build a successful continuous learning culture at Tata Communications, according to Goyal.
To ensure that there is a continuous quest to learn, trainings and development initiatives are aligned with business strategy and the L&D team engages with business leaders and function heads through the year to align learning solutions.
To understand the learning requirements at an individual and team level , the L&D team follows a two-step process -
1. Development Inputs from Coaching Conversations – During coaching conversations every employee discusses their development plans and this data is used to execute role-specific, skill development learning needs.
2. Customized Business Requests (CBRs) – Functional trainings identified by employees and/or their managers that demand customized learning are raised on our online platform. Once the learning needs analysis is done, relevant learning solutions are designed and implemented.
Learning managers work closely with business units to address the individual and team specific training needs by providing the best learning solutions blended with both digital and external mediums. Examples of these are Sales Academy, Technical Skills Academy and IT Academy.
“As employees continue to search for content & learning experiences that can help them in their current or future roles, the L&D team takes regular feedback on existing content and if there is a need for any new requirement,” Goyal said.
Don’t just learn, practice
While the company worked towards evolving the learning proposition, they focused on creating avenues for employees to practice the learnt skills.
'Project Marketplace' helped employees implement their new skills by volunteering in new projects or by addressing certain already existing issues. Developed in-house, it is a talent platform that has helped create a freelance skill network within the organization. The goal was to bring forward-looking features such as a matching algorithm for skills and projects, a gamification framework integrated with learning opportunities, real time learning recommendations and a social /community-based learning on our internal networking platform, Yammer.
Action learning projects where launched so employees could practice skills that they learnt in workshops or in online courses. Since its launch two years ago, the platform has hosted ~200 projects from across the globe engaging ~1500 people in various projects. These are good beginnings and we continue to experiment with bringing-in avenues for employees to practice their skills.
Changing L&D roles
The company created a Product Manager role in the Learning team to build a medium-term view on our key learning products – where there is continuous dialogue on improving the product features, doing away with what’s not working well, and adding elements that will bring value.
“We are currently democratizing learning further by offering a recommendation engine on a digital platform which is powered by skills from an employee’s current role or the one they want to grow into. They can add to their skill repertoire already available on the platform, and choose learning courses – either for their professional development (e.g. AI), career growth (a specific role) or personal growth (e.g. astronomy or music). In addition, they can choose to follow other colleagues in the organization, and get automatic feeds on what they are learning,” Goyal said.
“The desire to stay ahead of the curve has inspired us to listen, observe and implement innovative ways of working on the go,” he added.