The year 2020 took the world of business on an unprecedented journey – one that was extremely volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It taught organizations about the need to adapt quickly to a new normal. The adaptability and agility needed to navigate uncertain times was driven by the organization’s workforce by assessing current needs and anticipating future impact. This was achieved only because continuous learning was ingrained as an integral way of everyday work – as remote work took over and job roles were reimagined. To truly sustain a learning organization, everyone needs to pitch in –from leaders to managers.
A whole host of factors are changing the nature of jobs today– right from rapid globalization, technological advancement, digitalization and consumerization. A host of new-age skills – including behavioural skills and digital skills are becoming relevant while traditional roles based on repeated tasks are becoming automated.
Driving a culture of learning is a collaborative effort. While the onus of learning and skill upgradation has largely shifted from the trainer to the learner due to the consumerization of learning, managers play an important role in guiding, coaching and encouraging their team. Here are a few tips:
1. Learning check-ins: While performance related discussions are the norm, how often do managers schedule a ‘learning discussion’ with their team members? A periodic deep-dive into each team member’s skill roadmap, and future skill aspirations can help identify learning behaviours and prevailing skill gaps. Today’s managers must not just stay on top of a variety of learning avenues, they also need to understand and align coaching and mentorship opportunities to help their teams succeed.
2. Map learning to career aspirations: Standalone learning drives achieve very little. In order to truly convey the value proposition for learning, managers need to invest more time in aligning career tracks that complement the individual learner. Understanding an employee’s career aspirations is a first step in ensuring their active engagement in the learning process. Companies are actively thinking of career lattices (in the form of a career matrix of options within the company) and dual-career tracks to ensure their employees make the most of their learning journey.
3. Provide adequate support: While periodic learning discussions may help formalize a learning commitment, and follow through on progress. Giving timely feedback is a great way to encourage employees to look out to review and reboot. Companies are already exploring multiple forms of feedback – from peer reviews, 360 degree feedback to customer voice. There’s a need to align such feedback to individual learning roadmaps. Managers must be trained to be adept at aligning their career options, listen actively, and coach employees to make the right learning choices.
Instituting learning habits that can focus more on the process, instead of just goals will help employees break down their learning goals through the weekly and daily activities. Apart from this, driving efforts to motivate and inspire employees is also needed.
At the core, the employee is responsible for the learning journey, but the manager is a key stakeholder in the learning process, and must act as an active agent to catalyse the right learning reactions. The manager is in a better position to guide and counsel people for better learning retention. An up-to-date team that is continually learning can go a long way in achieving business excellence in the long run.
Truly imbibing lifelong learning into the organizational culture is a highly collaborative effort. Leadership must allocate resources to build a conducive learning ecosystem, with the latest learning infrastructure and learning methodologies. Engaging learning interventions will help create a ‘pull’ towards learning, and encourage self-paced learning.