Raman Sidhu is the Global Head of Learning, Shell Eastern Petroleum. With over 25 years of experience in sales & marketing, supply chain, and HR, Raman has successfully led global teams in organizational development and learning, talent acquisition, sales, and supply chain.
In his current role, he leads a team of senior organizational development & learning professionals in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and works closely with the global business leadership to successfully diagnose, design, and deploy solutions that help the business address critical capability gaps, improve business performance and organizational effectiveness. Here's what he shared about organizational development and learning trends in the near future.
Here are the excerpts.
What are some of the new trends that the pandemic has brought into the limelight and which of them will have long-lasting implications for businesses globally?
At a macroeconomic level, the pandemic has meant slower GDP growth and recessionary trends in most of the global economies. At a community level, it has meant responding to the care and treatment of a large number of vulnerable people in our society. COVID-19 has brought economic strain to small businesses and families, including job loss and reduced income. The social impact of COVID-19 has meant less face to face people interaction and more time in confined spaces. This imposed reality has spawned multiple creative ways of engaging, delivering, exercising and caring for people in lockdown. Video interaction has become the default channel to connect and has reinforced how powerful it is in stimulating the social and collaborative elements of human nature. With businesses slowing down and people commuting significantly less, multiple options of WFO, WFH, WFO&H, WFA have opened doors to creative ways to serve our customers and provide meaningful opportunities to employees to stay productive. One of the biggest challenges COVID-19 has posed is in the space of mental health and the associated co-morbidities like addiction, marital violence, and social isolation. With the crisis situation not dissipating in the near future, it remains the most important yet quite neglected area of human well-being.
Employee learning and skill-building are more important than ever before due to ongoing crisis times. How are the new L&D strategies shaping up to be relevant to the current times?
Organizational growth and health are key outcomes of a sustainable business strategy at play. In the past few decades, the cyclical changes were longer, allowing leadership to respond by deploying appropriate strategic responses. As cyclical changes are getting compressed and sometimes superimposed over each other at the same time, the need for a swift strategic and agile business response is imperative. In the past, learning prepared people to skill up for the predictable cyclical business changes.
Today, there is a need to create an agile learning ecosystem that has the resilience to adapt constantly and a pull-based model. L&D has become a key strategic lever to constantly think ahead of the learning curve.
Virtualization has meant the need for L&D to be agile and conceptualize creative ways to engage and skill-up and foster network building across the organization.
What's your advice on bridging the skills gap the pandemic has brought to the fore?
COVID-19 has meant businesses have had to preserve cash, protect revenues, and innovate to open new commercial streams. And this has been quite challenging with the top line and supply chain processes disrupted across geographies. Skill-building has meant focusing on personal care and care for the community and with more disposable time available due to WFH, there has been a spike in learning content in the past six months. COVID has accelerated the digital journey for most organizations and forced their hand in deploying creative platforms, channels, and media to engage, entertain, stimulate, and commerce. These incubators have disrupted established business models faster than before and have taught organizations to manage the value chain at a fraction of the cost and at a much faster speed. This has meant skills like agility, collaboration, e2e decision making, and knowledge of newer digital channels to reach the customers have become essential building blocks of organizational success.
Given the accelerated changes at the workplace amid this pandemic and challenging economic conditions, how can employees continue to perform well while working from home?
Working from home has meant re-contracting the schedule at home. It has trade-offs in terms of delineating a workspace within a home environment, fusion of work and home priorities, monotony of spending long hours staring at a screen, and a confined and compressed social time for the family. In this global storm, the challenges are unique to each employee; some have enjoyed WFH while others have had challenges managing small children and household chores. To perform well, employees need to be coached on assessing their unique home circumstances and then making healthy trade-offs between work, family, self-care, entertainment, and downtime.
What is your advice for CHROs and talent leaders who face challenges to skill and re-skill their employees including cost barriers?
In my view, HR leaders need to focus on three things. Firstly, helping their business leaders manage themselves well. Secondly, leaders taking initiatives to genuinely care for their people by engaging, empowering, empathizing, and encouraging their efforts. And last but not the least, foster an organizational climate to preserve and grow the business that brought everyone together in the first place.
What are some key upskilling and reskilling initiatives that you have implemented in your organization and how do you ensure a high-impact learning culture?
Learning has leapfrogged to become an even more critical HR function during COVID. The need to engage our people, build informal networks, foster curiosity, and a learner mindset, and stay focused on physical and mental health has meant the scope of learning has expanded to harmonize the business system at organizational, team and individual levels. Virtualization has meant instructor led interventions can be as powerful as face to face, self-paced learning has grown exponentially this year and has helped our people stay focused on their development. Newer gamified and scenario based-learning solutions have been deployed.
Where do you see the L&D function and the role of L&D leaders five years down the line?
Learning and organizational development will play a critical role in employee engagement, organizational effectiveness, and impacting business outcomes in times to come. Learning and organizational development leaders who master this paradigm will create a significant impact on progressing the relevance of the function and attracting the right talent to this exciting pillar of HR. Kirkpatrick’s learning model has been in vogue for many decades now. However, I have found it difficult to find many organizations demonstrating an ability to deploy L4 learning solutions. I believe that a learning model based on predictors of performance will lean heavily towards an agile business outcome-based approach. We have applied advanced data analytics to key business databases to distill these predictors of performance, producing correlational and causational trends. This has allowed us to design learning and development interventions that correlationally influence these predictors of performance.
From an employee perspective, any skill building that leads to achievement of business results is exciting, rewarding, and helps create an innovative organization that learns, unlearns, and relearns all the time.
Read more such stories from the October issue of our e-magazine on 'Reimagining Workplace Learning'