Building an inclusive, sustainable company learning culture
In the face of a continuously changing environment of people and work, learning is the one constant. It’s an insightful strategy to keep pushing the business forward and achieve its goals which is why it is imperative that we understand what it takes to sustain the right learning culture at the workplace. At this webcast session in association with Disprz, key leaders namely K. Arunan, Chief General Manager (Retail Academy), IOCL and Prachi Sharma, Head-Skills Solutioning & Adoption, Disprz come together to deliberate on how the learning agenda can be aligned with the business goals, strategies that empower and sustain a learning culture while driving learner engagement through targeted skilling programs.
Although learning and development has been a key focus area for businesses, the challenge of a leadership buy-in continues to remain. For successful implementation of learning programs as pointed out by Arunan, all the stakeholders have to support the initiative, recognise its importance as well as its benefits in a dynamic yet complex business environment. At the same time, the L&D function also needs to be agile and must keep pace with the rapid transformation of job roles while also being able to predict what the workforce of tomorrow would look like. To empower L&D Leaders at the workplace with the right strategies to scale up and build a more impactful skilling agenda, here are some key takeaways discussed at this session:
Skill mapping for greater alignment of the L&D function to the business:
At IOCL with close to 33,000 employees and 56,000 channel partners who add about 200,000 professionals to the workforce, skill mapping is expected to be a complex task. In the current business context, one week long classroom training of such a massive workforce is not feasible, flexibility becomes a core value in the skill mapping and learning strategies implemented. As a result, the company has invested in setting up a different LMS for the employees and for the extended workforce to make the task easier while also setting up different LMS at different levels of the organisation internally in line with the job function.
In combination with multiple learning institutes and programs such as the Indian Oil Institute of Petroleum Management and a Hydrocarbon Sector Skill Council under the National Skill Development Council of India, at ground level, what IOCL does is to ensure that each role division has its own L&D team. This team gathers information on the specific job roles and responsibilities which are then translated into ‘qualification facts’ and are incorporated into the courses in these institutes and at the L&D training currently run at the workplace.
Sharma in line with the business goals raises an interesting imagery of the ‘octopus approach’ which asks for skill mapping to be done in a fashion that is inclusive of wider responsibilities to ensure the longevity and the relevance of the role in the company at large.
What does it take to sustain the company's learning culture?
As emphasised by Sharma, a democratic learning environment backed by peer learning strategies can play a fundamental role. In the current digital environment, ‘content sourcing’ becomes a key differentiating factor especially when it becomes an extension of peer learning. When content comes onto the learning platform from learners themselves, the culture of training becomes learner oriented and places learner experience at the centre.
When the L&D function invests efforts in becoming good curators of content, inevitably there will be excitement and interest piqued among its learners. Not only are professionals more excited to learn from their peers carrying out their duties in the same context, it also gives them agency and takes a load off the L&D teams.
To highlight this with an example, Arunan points out the usage of the micro-learning platform ‘Sampark’ which encourages training and makes learning accessible in bite-sized portions to nearly 30,000 retail outlets. Further, in line with what Sharma has said, it also empowers the frontline workforce to upload videos outlining solutions during times of catastrophe or for day to day tasks.
Driving and evaluated learner engagement through targeted skilling:
Coming back to micro-learning which is a key enabler when it comes to learning in the flow of work, Sharma emphasises the need to break down a module into smaller, comprehensive portions clearly distinguishing between what is ‘need to know’ and what is ‘good to know.’
One also has to imitate the employee’s life cycle when designing the module so that these bite-sized learning portions can be cleverly inserted into their daily tasks without causing an additional burden.
At the same time, trainers have to acknowledge that everyone learns differently and accordingly make content available in different formats, an initiative which Sharma shares would be to host a workshop to gauge the reaction of learners to different content formats and then proceed with the module.
Arunan by citing an example of a pilot training programs for fuel station attendants spaced out over 13 weeks in Bangalore also raises the importance of spacing out content to achieve better learning outcomes. Not only did this pilot strategy improve learning behaviour, it also led to a 2-3% increase in terms of business for the fuel stations part of this program. Such experiments are key to devising innovative strategies to ensure learner engagement along with quarterly audit checks and tests taken prior to and post training. One also can back their evaluations with the data, suggests Arunan.
Sharma to take the discussion forward for both evaluation which is fundamental to acquire leadership buy-in urges the need to proceed backwards when designing a training module. By doing so, one can identify the business problem and design the skilling program accordingly. This is a game changer because it will point out the goals of the L&D program with greater clarity which will also make it easier for the management to see its short term benefits. Such targeted skilling initiatives is fruitful for learner engagement because it showcases how the learner can grow in their professional field by putting forward the relevance of this skill acquisition.
A purpose led L&D function at the workplace is what it takes to build a sustainable learning culture. In line with micro-learning, peer learning and content made accessible on the go in a number of formats that would appeal to different learners, L&D leaders also have to ensure the relevance of the skilling initiatives currently being run.
When the learning agenda is rolled out in this fashion, workplaces are bound to witness a change in terms of productivity and both employee and business growth will be achieved. To know more and witness the full conversation, click here.