Reinvention is the name of the game-be it jobs or life or learning! The biggest dilemma before learning leaders today is to enable employees to learn quickly, implement that learning rapidly, and adapt constantly to be ready for the future. How can learning leaders reinvent learning to make employees ready for the future?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Bimal Rath, Founder & Managing Director, Think Talent Services, a boutique firm specializing in talent management, sheds light on how can L&D leaders design learning interventions to help the workforce adapt to the new world of work.
How have you seen L&D as a function evolve in India particularly? What are the key changes that will impact learning at the workplace in the future?
The L&D function is becoming more business-aligned, as well as more ROI oriented. Given agility is a business need, the function is also becoming a bit more short-cycled and tactical in nature. There is a focus on instant results and measurements which may be detrimental to long term learning and capability building. The focus on functional skills (especially with the advent of the IT/ITES industry) lessened the focus on soft skills for a period. Now that there is more talk of EQ and soft skills being the differentiator towards rounded capability in the future, this may get better balanced.
“Balancing long term business needs with short term ones will be a key driver for the L&D function in the coming years.”
In addition, encouraging learner-centric interventions and content will be a key ask. Given the short employment cycles, as well as non-permanent or gig workforce, systems and capabilities in L&D to deal with this aspect will be important.
Much of our L&D function has been focused on base skills --functional, technical or behavioral. There is a need to build deep skills against generic ones. So the need for employees to excel in one or two areas will be increasingly asked for from the employee and the organization, the design and purpose of interventions will undergo significant change.
What are the biggest dilemmas learning leaders face in a disrupted world?
Three main dilemmas will continue for learning leaders.
a) Balancing the investments in a few as against a wider population. Increasingly, especially in the technology-led sectors, dis-proportionate results are provided by a few individuals. Should then companies invest more in them, or broad-base the investment into others to get them as close to these high performers?
b) How much investment should be made by the individual, as against by the organization in their own development? So how do I design my interventions and plan my budgets? This will be an increasingly difficult question that will be asked by the business, with shorter employment cycles and mobility across functions and companies.
c) How does one identify needs for future capability building? This becomes even more difficult as the relevance for any knowledge or skills changes more rapidly than ever? Just as one decides to focus on a particular area to invest in from an L&D perspective, new areas emerge and the catch-up game goes on.
Amidst a workplace marked by constant disruptions, how can L&D leaders shift the conversation to lifelong learning?
This is easier said than done. This term has been used for at least two if not three decades now. The core issue here is around WIIFM (What’s in it for me) for all stakeholders-companies, leaders at the top, managers, employees, HR and L&D leaders and suppliers. Unless there is a clear answer to this in a given limited environment, it is difficult to drive this. I believe that the most agile in this context are the individuals who are starting to invest in lifelong learning for themselves, sometimes in spite of the other stakeholders.
“In short, L&D leaders must build a WIIFM case to be able to change the conversation.”
How can technology and digital culture be leveraged to shift the learner mindset to the new world of work?
Creating day to day experiences is the best way. Building and deploying learning systems that replicate daily life events (say thinking of the employee as a consumer and her experiences) can work well. Link daily work and life with learning.
The best way to learn still is to engage what one has to get done (on the job). A deep look at redesigning jobs and ensuring that the person has to learn a particular skill to do that well can go a long way.
Let's take an example. The new world of work may mean many short disparate projects rather than one large project being done by a role holder. Providing a tech-based project management tool that forces shorter cycle project planning and monitoring of many projects including overlaps and resource optimizing capabilities will help. In terms of learning and development, the use of this tool can be supported by simulations and mentoring by someone who is great at doing this. The mentor may well be virtually mentoring sitting in any part of the world and belong to an industry or company which may have been doing this for some time.
With machines replacing repetitive tasks, how can L&D leaders design learning interventions to help the workforce adapt to this new world of work?
The significant contribution that can be made by L&D leaders in this regard is to help shift the attitude of each of us as learners, managers and leaders. In terms of interventions, there are three specific ones that would help.
a) Preparing everyone with digital readiness--not knowledge so much as perspective and some specific skills.
b) Helping people to learn to collaborate and leverage broader ecosystems. No one will have all the knowledge and skills in a fast-paced world, but if one can learn to leverage and collaborate, agility and effectiveness will both go up.
c) Learning to learn as a capability to be built. Knowledge and skills will get outdated very quickly and we will have to keep up all the time. If one knows how to learn effectively based on one’s own strengths, style and pre-disposition, it can go a long way in mitigating obsolescence risk.