Rajeev Vasudeva, ex-Global CEO, Egon Zehnder was hired as Centum Learning’s new Chairman this February. Rajeev Vasudeva started his career in 1995 with Egon Zehnder. In January 2014, he was appointed the Chief Executive of Egon Zehnder and served till October 2018. Prior to joining Egon Zehnder, Rajeev worked as a management consultant with Touche Ross and Price Waterhouse in the US and in India. He is currently based in London.
In this exclusive interaction with People Matters, Rajeev sheds light on challenges in India’s skilling landscape and how organizations need to structure their L&D programs in order to make their employees future-ready.
What potential do you see in India’s training industry? What are some of the trends that are impacting the sector?
India is among the largest economies in the world and is expected to grow faster than its peers in the coming decades. One of the biggest challenges that India is facing is not "availability" of talent, rather it’s "employable" talent. When I speak to CEOs, many of them tell me that they are unable to find the skills they require. I see a burgeoning gap in formal education and what corporates require. As a nation, we need to achieve this ambitious target of being the fastest growing economy, the most crucial aspect is to work towards bridging the demand-supply gap of "job-ready" talent.
Further, disruptions are being driven by technology and change in business models are having a significant impact on jobs, ranging from job creation to job displacement. This is reducing the shelf-life of job skills. This calls for quick acquisition of new skills & develop new competencies. Even the most experienced leaders need to learn new ways of leading in the 21st century.
“Life-long learning is no longer a "cliché" and is, in fact, a growth imperative for organizations.”
Companies that continuously invest in the renewal of their talent will be the "winners" of tomorrow. However, the most dominant reason that most trainings fall short of expectations is the notion of "one-size fits all". To achieve maximum effectiveness, it is important to focus on individual development needs rather than keeping up with "peers".
Since learning and technology walk hand in hand, the biggest opportunity is to create customized corporate training and delivery programs by leveraging technology advancements. The use of Learning eXperience Platforms, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and virtual reality can be leveraged to create and deliver personalized learning journeys that greatly enhance the ROI on training and lead to better employee engagement and retention.
Another potential frontier is to make employees feel the desire to participate actively and be motivated to engage and learn. To do that, it is important to understand how adults learn best and what makes them retain knowledge. Gamification, self-paced learning, bite-sized learning, peer-to-peer learning, and learning anytime, anywhere are important developments that are making learning more enjoyable and more impactful.
In all, the potential for the training industry in India is infinite, the sector has the potential to impact lives of millions of people, and it is for us as an industry to realize this to the fullest.
What, according to you, are some of the challenges that you see in this space?
In my experience of working with top CEOs of large MNCs, I know many organizations are underdelivering on their investment in training and development. Since L& D interventions are often delegated at the functional level, there is selective involvement at the C-level. However, for employee training and development to be effective, it is important that training objectives are aligned with the company's strategic direction and there is shared ownership for employee development across the business and function.
Additionally, even in organizations that have a strong learning culture, inherent challenges of poor knowledge retention passive learning and a lack of commitment amongst employees remain. Time and costs are a perpetual deterrent to training, especially classroom training of a distributed workforce. Increasingly, the millennials joining the workforce are more demanding regarding how and what they need to learn.
Most training programs are too generic, and not personalized enough. When employees are ‘forced’ to engage with irrelevant content, it proves to be a waste of time for learners. Here, companies need to invest in developing and tracking personalized learning journeys for each employee. Traditional learning methods are being upended with the emergence of new technologies and there is a growing shift away from classroom training towards blended training methodologies.
What are your priorities going to be in your new role as far as Centum’s next phase of growth is concerned?
At Centum we believe we can impact the lives of millions by helping people unlock their true potential through learning and development. Going forward, Centum will focus on the two most important challenges of present times: "employability" and being "future ready".
Our goal is to accelerate talent by helping them develop skills for growth - skills that help people get a job, progress on a job or move to another job. Technology will be at the heart of everything that we do at Centum, helping us provide a digital learning experience that is stimulating and personalized.
How do you think organizations need to structure their L&D programs in order to make their employees future ready?
Organizations are in the midst of adapting to the future of work and the fast-changing workplace. Artificial intelligence and automation are becoming more pervasive and taking over existing jobs while creating some new ones that never existed before. Employee, therefore, must adapt and continuously learn new skill sets. These new work practices, flexible working patterns, dispersed teams are requiring organizations to rewire their entire Learning and Development DNA.
L&D programs like many other disciplines, need to evolve to be more accessible, customized and flexible in response to the needs of the business to drive productivity and adaptability. You don't want a situation where your employee’s feel that they have been left behind-that things have changed around them and they did nothing to adapt.
The starting point for any successful L&D program is embedding a learning culture that flows from the top - a culture of life-long learning, where you learn, unlearn and relearn.
Successful organizations start the learning journey from the very beginning to ensure that learning is continuous and is aligned with the organization’s goals. Setting up learning academies that constantly inject new and interesting content and programs is key to having a future-ready workforce at all times. In designing L&D programs, it is the correct blend of content, learning, and technology that will produce long term results and help achieve the collective learning goals.
How will technology affect the skilling landscape in India?
Automation is altering industrial workplaces like never before. There are several repetitive tasks that can be done more efficiently by machines and robots and these jobs will disappear. So, while jobs that require cognitive and manual tasks will steadily decline, new categories of employment and professions will partly or wholly replace others. They will change the skill sets required in both old and new occupations in most industries.
Instead of being more machine-like, humans will need to be good at interaction.
“Soft skills are likely to become even more important in the 21st century. Technical skills are not going to be enough anymore - they will need to be combined with soft skills and life skills to be effective in the workplace.”
Universities and colleges are not equipped to develop these skills. There is a huge opportunity for e-learning companies like Centum to fill that gap.
(Know more about the latest trends in the learning & development landscape at the People Matters L&D Conference 2019 scheduled for 6th of November in Mumbai. Click here to register.)
Image Credits: Egon Zehnder