Technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the learning and development space. Just like the other functions, corporate learning has gone through a lot of transformations. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of the learning function. In fact, with rapid disruptions in the business environment, re-skilling and upskilling has gained even more popularity.
To gain more insights on the changing needs and technologies in the learning space, People Matters interacted with Sanjay Bahl, CEO and MD, Centum Learning. Sanjay talked about the challenges and the opportunities in the space and also reflected upon the major skills in demand currently.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
While several initiatives have been led by the government in association with various corporates, the majority of the youth is still not job-ready. What do you think is lacking?
It’s not a recent challenge. Earlier these challenges were far higher and the reason was very simple - lack of industry involvement. However, the solution is very simple, making training programs more relevant and real. To begin with, it’s important to assess what are the demands of local employers or possible employees in terms of skill development? For instance, if we are conducting a program in healthcare in North East and we know that Max, Fortis and Apollo have a unit there, then it will be good to talk to them and understand the job roles and skills in demand. These are the top 20 topics that we cover. A strong research before rolling out any training program is important for impactful results. The second solution is that the corporates be involved from the beginning. Make the graduates interact with industry leaders, make them learn from the experts.
If the industry’s involvement is there in each and every step, from the beginning to the last, the youth will be job ready.
And even industries and corporates are realizing this.
What are the major skills in demand currently?
To assess that, we have to take a look at the sectors that are growing across the country. Sectors like infrastructure, retail and e-commerce are growing rapidly. Then we have healthcare which still remains a key sector that continuously requires skill and talent. Even a sector like hospitality is proliferating. In FMCG, there is a rising demand for salespeople, so that’s the skill in demand there. Similarly, for consumer durables and banking financials, expertise and jobs in sales and customer services are most in terms of both requirements and demand. In fact, sales and customer services are two areas in demand in about 8-10 sectors, as these functions hold great importance and are required much more in terms of numbers. But most of these sectors and companies in the respective sectors are not looking for people necessarily experienced and qualified in these skills. They are looking for people with learning agility. They are saying, don’t worry too much about the domain; functional skills can be taught, but it is the attitude, the potential and the willingness that matters.
Earlier, 90 percent of the content of the programs that we designed focused on domain knowledge. But now about 40 to 50 percent focus on soft skills.
It’s the behavioral skills like these which are in demand across sectors.
Recently, technology has been influential in delivering learning programs for behavioral skills efficiently. Soft skills and behaviors can now be continuously reinforced. Through blended learning methods, face-to-face and self-paced learning methods, both designing and delivering programs has become easier.
Learning today is peer-based and with the whole process of scores flashing on the screen, progress being tracked and rewards attached to it, learners are becoming more competitive, therefore giving a push to the entire learning process.
Speaking of technology, how are the modes of training and skilling being transformed with available technologies?
I would say three things. For any learning whether functional or behavioral, the focus of the program should be the learner. New methods and technologies have led to the availability of so many options. So, the focus is now on how do we make the content and design more engaging. To make it more engaging, we have to make them more interesting. Using techniques like gamification and simulation would help in this case. Also, the mode needs to be more and more interactive. The attention span is continuously declining. So trainers have to assess how the learner’s behavior is changing and accordingly design the program smartly. An effective learning design has to be a mix of many things. Each delivery methodology in learning has a role to play.
Video-based and self-paced learning is fine, but still, there are few things which can be taught better face-to-face, for instance, conflict management or objection handling.
Next trend is byte-sized learning. Not only the attention span but the retention capacity is also decreasing. The smaller pieces of information for the human mind are easier to absorb and if those are coupled with frequent tests, it helps in reinforcing the information leading to better retention.
How do you think the learning space will transform in the coming years?
The key focus area for all learning providers will be content.
Curating relevant content and making it more and more interactive, fresh and engaging for the learners.
Secondly, analytics will become a critical part of learning and development. AI-based analysis of training needs and measurement of impacts, a lot of new solutions will emerge and be utilized in this space. There is both need and demand for it as well.
Lastly, the biggest challenge that learning providers and trainers will face will be in the area of design methodology.
(To know more about the emerging trends and to divulge into thought-provoking conversations on critical aspects of the entire learning lifecycle from strategizing to design to the impact, join the leaders in the learning experience at the People Matters Learning & Development Conference 2018 on 23rd October 2018 in Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. Click here to register.)