The advent of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analysis, and automation have changed the milieu of skill sets required within the IT industry, creating job roles of the future. Learning and development (L&D) initiatives assume an important role for organizations in this scenario to harness a talent pool of the new age technology skills that are in short supply currently.
There is an ardent need for organizations to sync with L&D teams and work well in advance to identify skills that will be required in future and to create the courses, ecosystems, and frameworks to deliver on it.
If a strategic report by PwC is placed in context, finding the right set of skills to keep pace with the changing technology landscape is the topmost challenge faced by over 70% of all business heads today. Filling this gap has now become a critical priority for L&D teams. As employees also increasingly gravitate towards hands-on, always-on learning, the role of L&D is transforming from problem-solving to opportunity creation.
No wonder that organizations are now actively working towards strategically aligning and integrating L&D initiatives with business metrics. There are various approaches one can adopt to achieve this. While some organizations are opting for self-paced learning, others are simply providing easy access to third-party learning portals for employees to pick and choose their desired skill.
Learning as a business enabler
Learning is in fact one of our strategic pillars to drive growth at all job levels and roles. We should look at learning through various lenses, while its impact on business and talent performance is constantly monitored. The first dimension is about viewing learning as a key enabler of business growth. The objective is to have a skill mix ahead of the business mix, by enabling the talent pool to take on larger roles within the organization and meet client expectations with agility.
The second dimension of learning is to build a sense of purpose and meaning at work. We can do that by building a community of like-minded professionals who come together to share experiences and learn from one another. Coaching, mentorship, group learning, cross-functional work-integrated projects – all of these aspects are becoming important in learning strategies.
The third dimension is to aid the career growth of our employees. We can do this by leveraging several in-house platforms such as Lex, wherein we can build and transfer the digital skills stemming from our innovation ecosystem to help individuals gain meaningful, on-the-job learning. This allows every employee to take charge of their development, be in the drivers' seat to their own personal, and thus professional growth.
The following parameters must be kept into consideration while designing L&D initiatives:
Define needs – Mature companies understand that learning strategies must align with business strategies, and hence L&D programs must help organizations fulfil crucial needs. Conducting a periodic needs assessment for future talent requirements becomes imperative thus.
Understand the learner – Successful programs keep learners at the centre. Try and understand the business context, demographics, learning preferences to engage your learners. A good program will allow learners to link their own experiences with the lessons being imparted and encourage collaboration.
Consider the work environment – Training programs have moved beyond rule-based learning. It is now more about making learning a part of everyday work. It is about accessing, quickly and easily, an answer or a short piece of learning content while at work. Learning just in time is the way forward.
Training for impact
Today’s employees are incredibly motivated to learn and improve their skills. According to research by Toward Maturity, 76% of employees want to be able to do their jobs better, while 75% like learning purely for their personal development.
Delivering on this demand by designing an engaging, useful training program will serve as the basis for several positive outcomes for organizations, including increased productivity and customer satisfaction. A truly successful L&D program doesn’t only help employees grow and improve but impacts the bottom line in a meaningful way as well.
- Below are a few metrics that organizations can use to define the process of measuring the business impact of L&D initiatives:
- Develop a formal feedback mechanism to know the relevance and efficacy.
- Monitor the change in competency level or skills after the training.
- Collect manager evaluation periodically to understand if the training has shown impact and to identify specific skill gaps.
- Connect to larger organization metrics such as employee satisfaction score, internal promotions or progressions, business metrics, client satisfaction score, revenue per employee, and so on.
Learning is no more a one-size-fits-all approach. Employees want a more personalized approach, which allows them to have more choices on how and what they learn. This is where technology plays a key role. Content produced with the help of AI, for example, can adapt to an individual’s learning curve, give predictive suggestions on the required skills, and so on.
This need for always-on learning is giving rise to a hybrid learning model that combines in-class learning with remote learning. This is expected to be a constant expectation even after the pandemic has subsided. This requires a world-class learning experience with digital tools and systems that can adapt to changing circumstances. Bringing in the human touch enabled by digital tools will require L&D professionals to unlearn and learn new ways of delivering valuable training.