Build your skills, not your resume – Sheryl Sandberg
Never have these words been rendered more true than today. As COVID-19 changes the realities of our lives, our businesses, and our jobs, it has become very clear that old skills and capabilities have to lead to the new for organizations to accelerate their transformation out of the downturn.
How can we reimagine workplace learning in order to stay relevant and more important sustainable? What are the new learning designs and delivery models that have come into play and what does it mean for L&D leaders? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Priyanka Gidwani, CHRO, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Ltd, shares her thoughts on the role of talent professionals to build resilience for enduring learning and improving the learning culture in their organizations. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
The pandemic has also brought back the importance of reskilling and upskilling of resources as part of the larger business transformation in the wake of the crisis. What do you think are some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19?
Capability building is a continuous process. Indeed, the pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption across businesses and has put the world into a state of chaos. More significantly, it has compelled HR professionals to rethink their roles and contributions in an organization. There is a visible reform process at work processes and structure that has led to an increase in demand for reskilling and upskilling in order to enhance efficiency. Organizing virtual training sessions and webinars to upgrade an existing skill or develop a new one, has kept the employees motivated and helped them to adapt to the current situation. These digitally enabled experiences ensure an increased sense of community, purpose, and focus on employees when they are away from the proximity of their colleagues, supervisors, and managers. Remote working or work from home was in conversation much before but, this pandemic has ensured that it is here to stay.
Many employees managed with learning in the first phase of lockdown. However, continued remote working called on them to upskill themselves. For instance, sales forces had to shift from personal meetings to setting up video meetings in order to manage customer relationships effectively in remote settings. Corporations are going through a learning curve as leaders are trying to figure out how to manage and lead their teams virtually and create camaraderie without the benefits of physical conversations. These are some of the skill sets that will emerge as companies contemplate returning to the workplace.
How do you think reskilling needs to change in the hospitality industry post-COVID-19?
The hospitality sector is currently witnessing a radical, digital disruption owing to unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic. It has become crucial for companies to conduct virtual training and upskilling sessions for employees to keep them aligned with the latest developments like safety practices and procedures. Adopting digital advancement tools has now become indispensable to the daily functioning of employees, like resorting to contactless services and dealing with customer queries. To increase productivity and stay at par with changing trends in the industry, it is immensely important to indulge employees in upskilling and reskilling activities on topics like Hygiene and Safety standards that take topmost priority currently and on technologies that drive digital savviness.
Companies that continue to invest in training and offer learning opportunities for their talent will emerge as winners on the other side of this crisis. What are some of the L&D initiatives initiated by Mahindra Holidays in this pandemic?
At Mahindra Holidays, we have been conducting extensive L&D programs to keep our employees engaged and help them getting reskilled during COVID times. We have retrained our sales teams to pitch and make product presentations virtually. We are constantly upgrading their knowledge by arranging online quizzes and competitions.
We have additionally launched an iTeach program, a digital learning series which is a one-hour session conducted by senior leaders in the organization on various relevant topics. It allows our senior leaders to stay connected and the teams value the face time with the leaders.
Further, Club Mahindra has re-designed the entire guest experiences, right from check-in, to in-resort experiences including F&B, to make them all contactless. The company has undertaken extensive staff training to ensure physical distancing, sanitation frequency, and safe service standards and interactions.
The pandemic also highlights the need to reskill and upskill workers towards stronger data science skills, a better understanding of artificial intelligence, and to expand digital literacy overall. What is Mahindra Holidays doing in that direction?
As the new work culture is shaping up, most organizations are going digital and relying on remote working. A substantial increase in the use of digital delivery, globally, is underway across all segments of the workforce i.e. from frontline managers to senior leaders to executives and even select blue-collar(ed).
Organizations around the world are using virtual learning to collaborate among teams that are working either remotely or across different time zones. They are taking courses together and working cohesively in virtual formats, such as videoconferencing and instant messaging. One of the biggest concerns for organizations is lower productivity in certain roles during continued remote working. Training/re-skilling current employees on emerging topics, technologies, and driving digital advancement will only help them move up the value chain and increase productivity. As mentioned above, at Mahindra Holidays, we have been conducting training sessions for sales staff to pitch/ converse with customers virtually and address their queries. This has augured well for us and we have seen promising results.
What steps can L&D leaders take to build resilience for enduring learning and development and for improving learning culture in their organizations?
In today’s scenario, leadership, HR managers and L&D teams need to play a critical role in keeping the teams motivated and informed. They will need to go that extra mile to connect with their remote employees. Organizations that are not used to having a remote workforce will need to start thinking about how they will share knowledge differently and lead virtually.
Every L&D professional will have to act fast in these tough times. Most importantly, they will need to understand the training requirements of the organization and will thus need to adopt an efficient L&D strategy to improve the learning culture in the organization.
The L&D manager will need to constantly review ongoing training programs and understand the underlying opportunities during these changing times. He/ she will need to encourage a continuous learner’s mindset and share information with the organization on virtual work, remote work guidelines, and virtual leadership. L&D teams need to be mindful to collect feedback and information to identify any areas that need improvement and feed into the next session and future programs. It is very critical to remember that there is a human element side of this that people are experiencing and not to forget the subtle power of “Digital Empathy” as well as “Story Telling”.