Article: Age of learning – The role of continuous learning as the key to sustainable business growth

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Age of learning – The role of continuous learning as the key to sustainable business growth

On the third day at People Matters TechHR18, leading L&D leaders from IT talk about building a learning culture and how they are approaching the problem of continuous skilling.
Age of learning – The role of continuous learning as the key to sustainable business growth

What is a learning culture? Why is it important to have a learning culture and how do you foster one? How do you make continuous re-skilling a habit? And what is the role of a leader? These were some of the questions that panelists reflected on a panel on the third day of People Matters TechHR18.

Moderating the panel was D N Prasad, Executive Coach and Culture Strategist. The panel featured AN Rao, SVP and Global Head – Cognizant Academy, Mukund Nair – Director, Nagarro, Thirumala Arohi Mamunooru, Head – Education, training and assessments, Infosys and Ishan Gupta, Managing Director – Udacity India.

On learning culture

According to the S&P Corporate Longevity Forecast, the number of years a company spends on the S&P 500 list has fallen from 35 years in 1960s to 12 years in the next few years. “The fourth industrial revolution is about the scale and velocity of change” says AN Rao. "In the digital space, companies used to grow at 40-50% by selling technology to techies, they don’t do that anymore, CIOs are only 40% of our customers now” he added.

Thirumala defined a learning culture as the set of values and practices that an organization practices to help employees continuously learn. There are four factors that define a culture: 

1) Environment

2) Pull and push factors that the organization creates

3) Role of leadership

4) The tolerance for experimenting and failing 

According to Ishan, a learning culture is about: 1) It is about having a clear path 2) Having access to the tools required to learn 3) Having a strong incentive (these could be both monetary and non-monetary). AN Rao noted that a learning culture is about becoming future ready and that the shelf life of a skill is 4-5 quarters.

“It is the pervasive experience that knowledge is valued in a company” said Mukund, “There must be an inherent culture of problem solving, curiosity, and really looking how you are continuously learning.”

As technologies change, the need to learn core hard skills is critical. It is also important to also have soft skills. “Soft skills are the new hard skills” says of the panelist. “Design thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, etc., are needed to succeed. There is really no other option other than to unlearn, learn and quickly apply to the job.

Does learning have to be fun?

The panel had a variety of opinions about this question, their answers point out that what counts as fun for one employee may not resonate with another. “We can’t assume that everyone wants to learn the same way. Some employees want structured learning, some prefer byte sized. So it is important that we provide various means to learn. It is fun only when the approach is fun” said one panelist.

The role of learning function, service providers and leaders

“Earlier, the focus was mostly on the fresh talent, but with the advent of new technologies, the focus is on continuous learning,” says Thirumala. “We provide learning opportunities in the traditional and anytime-anywhere mode. Clients wants to know how you are assuring that a person is ready to work, so we not only train and enable, we also assist them internally and also certify them,” he added.  

Speaking about the role of service providers like Udacity, Ishan noted that service providers will have to be able to enable learning fast. They should do it in a way that teams are battle ready. “It has to happen at a massive scale” he says. “We have to be very services driven and very outcome oriented.” 

In closing, AN Rao highlighted the role of leaders. “Leaders are cupids, curators, Sherpas and change agents. As a cupid, leaders need to make people fall hopelessly in love with learning. As a curator, they need to ensure that the process is firm. As a Sherpa, they need to hand hold their employees and help them reach their potential.”

Topics: TechHR 2018, Learning & Development

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