On the second day, People Matters Virtual Conference on Learning & Development featured a number of interesting sessions, one of which focused on the role of a leader in building the right attitude for learning. This session was led by Vasudevan Narasimha, Executive Director – HR, KEC International (part of the RPG Group). Setting the context for the discussion, Vasudevan focused on the need for a leader to understand the current business context. Since CEOs are focused on the short, medium and long-term impact, learning should be contextualized towards the nature of the business and not be too focused on the kind of technology or the pedagogy involved, while both of them are important.
Understanding the context
There are a number of things that a leader needs to be aware of in building their own attitude towards learning, and understanding the context of the business and the macroeconomic environment is crucial. Here are five crucial indicators: 1) Demographics- leaders need to start thinking about the demographic shift in their own business and the kind of learning that needs to be supported for a new generation of learners. 2) Diversity – is a business mandate in today’s world and ensuring that the organizations are receptive to a wide variety of opinions and thoughts is crucial to the business’ success. 3) Understanding the potential of digital in enabling learning and the workplace, 4) Operating in a business environment that has a dearth of talent and 5) managing a dispersed workforce, are all factors that need to influence a leader’s approach to learning.
The Future of Learning
Understanding the future of learning is another critical pillar that should shape a leader’s attitude, this means understanding the potential of intelligent systems, machine learning, developments in neuroscience, and human-computer interaction.
Intelligent learning will be driven using intelligence augmentation related technologies like AI, VR, IoT. Where just-in-time, is no longer enough and learning should be “just for me”. Other focus areas should include, the role of untethered On Demand systems, Collaboration, and empowerment. Simplified and learner-centered systems, a continuous refresh of resources and intuitive, intense, engaged and accelerated systems.
What should a leader do?
Nurture: A leader should build attitudes to make employees fall in love with learning. Inspire curiosity and encourage employees to ask questions.
Reinforce learning – and share that the employees’ ability to contribute is the function of their ability to learn
Imbibe: Ensure that employees imbibe and live the right values
Inspire: Inspire employees to incubate new ideas to innovate and disrupt.
Learn: Leaders have to start learning like the millennials and this how they can lead by example.
Focus: Capability building to enhance agility is key
Plan: Succession planning enables training needs identification.
Drive: A leader should own the learning agenda, not just HR and L&OD professionals.
Identify contextually relevant metrics that you need to track.
Simplify: Access to learning, enhance employee experience and leverage technology.
A leader's mandate ultimately is to ensure that they are creating the right culture and leading by example, they need to therefore plan, and enable employees to do the same. Another critical role that a leader plays is to ensure psychological safety - and make enough room for mistakes to be made and for employees to learn from them.