Article: 'L&D needs to move from a ‘supply chain’ approach to a continuous learning ecosystem'

Learning & Development

'L&D needs to move from a ‘supply chain’ approach to a continuous learning ecosystem'

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, IBM’s Chief Leadership, Learning and Inclusion Officer Deb Bubb talks about how emerging technologies are transforming the landscape of learning and development, and the role of leaders in encouraging learning.
'L&D needs to move from a ‘supply chain’ approach to a continuous learning ecosystem'

Deb Bubb is the Chief Leadership, Learning and Inclusion Officer at IBM. She leads the organization responsible for executive leadership succession, executive search and integration, management and leadership development, and diversity and inclusion. In addition, Deb provides HR leadership for North America Sales and IBM’s Corporate Units, driving people and culture solutions. 

Here are the excerpts of the interview.

What are the top talent and HR trends of 2019 that can make a mark in 2020?

Digitization, Automation, and AI: These will continue to influence all industries and every sector of business, including HR and Talent. The consequences aren't future challenges. They’re here now, affecting how businesses and organizations attract, develop, and retain talent. And with the half-life of skills decreasing and employee expectations for development and career support increasing, the implications for HR in terms of engaging, including, developing, and leading the workforce are immense.

Decision Augmentation: More businesses will realize the need to incorporate data into every talent decision. To do this at scale, businesses will need to use AI to uncover insights that will empower leaders to make data-driven decisions. Incorporating more AI will enable personalized, consumer-grade experiences and free up employees to focus on value-driven activities, including designing solutions and developing in-demand skills. 

Automation: Robotic process automation and Agile workflow design will increase quality and efficiency to fuel new investments.

Diversity and Inclusion: The business case for diverse and inclusive cultures has been clearly established, with improvements in driving innovation and generating better business results.  Plus, polarization and increasing activism puts culture at center stage.  The competitive talent landscape will increase the importance of diverse and inclusive leadership and commitments to each.

What according to you should be the focus areas for HR in the year 2020?

Embracing a data-driven, science-based, and human-centered approach to all offerings and services. 

This requires skill building in people analytics, expertise in human-based sciences (social, psychological and neuroscience), and experienced-based design to create the conditions where employees feel like they belong and can achieve their highest potential. HR leaders should consider greater integration of AI and cognitive decision support to mitigate bias in talent acquisition, leadership selection, and employee development. This will enable more informed decision making and insights that can improve employee engagement and performance.

Given the complexity of the talent landscape, using AI to improve Talent Acquisition will be a competitive advantage while reskilling, upskilling, and continuous learning rise in importance.

HR leaders should consider greater integration of ai and cognitive decision support to mitigate bias in talent acquisition, leadership selection, and employee development

How is leadership changing in the wake of digital technologies? 

Gone are the days when leadership was defined by a role or title, and often required significant administrative focus, task management, and process controls. Today, the rate and pace of change and innovation require more distributed leadership – that is, the ability for everyone to lead and adapt to client needs and market opportunities.  As a result, we need leaders at every level who not only have modern leadership skills, deep industry expertise and technical acumen but also the human skills – empathy, communication, collaboration, and inclusiveness – to cultivate environments where people can innovate, learn and adapt.

Do we have enough digital leaders to deal with future business challenges?

Innovation requires quality positive leaders, meaning human-centered leadership at every level where employees role model courage and empathy and create an environment where leadership is an action, not a role. Building digitally fluent leadership means investing in business, technology, and personal leadership skills.

What is the most critical thing that the L&D function needs to do to enable organizations to reinvent for tomorrow? 

L&D is challenged to move from a ‘supply chain’ approach to a vibrant, continuous learning ecosystem. We have to make learning and development offerings simple, sticky, and scalable so that employees can easily find and consume what and when learning is needed. Doing so will allow Learning & Development to attract, develop, and retain talent through a compelling employee learning experience. And it will harness the curiosity and career aspirations of employees to thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace and adopt the skills that the businesses of tomorrow will require. 

What's new in learning and why businesses should embrace them?

AI and advanced analytics are revolutionizing learning. Today, workers embrace and expect learning as a key enabler of their success at work. Employees demand consumer-grade experiences for learning content. Businesses are tasked with creating an ecosystem that provides compelling content and inspires continuous learning. Whether it’s an in-person immersive experience where the social, networked interaction is necessary, to the live virtual events that connects a global team, learning is now a 24/7 journey for employees. And since learning directly impacts employee engagement and productivity, skills development, and career mobility, businesses must consider learning and development as strategic assets and dedicate proper support and funding. 

How can technology and analytics be leveraged for L&D to power reinvention and make an organization-wide impact?

Technology and analytics are core to powering reinvention across an entire organization. With a modern learning ecosystem, analytics can be used to generate insights that lead to content decisions, investment choices, and identifying and matching the right skills with the right learners. By leveraging the broader knowledge of career progression, organizational priorities, and a holistic people perspective that includes motivations and personalities, L&D becomes an integral component of HR and people systems. At the same time, AI-infused learning will bring together elements of social learning, behavioral science, and digital nudging capabilities to create a culture of continuous learning. This technology will better enable a compelling learning ecosystem, created by L&D and complemented by data analytics, that inspires employees to learn new skills.

By leveraging the broader knowledge of career progression, organizational priorities, and a holistic people perspective that includes motivations and personalities, L&D becomes an integral component of hr and people systems 

Can you share some latest L&D initiatives that you have taken recently /planning to take at IBM?

In the last year, my team has launched Positive Leadership Edge, a new program that’s focused on driving cultural change by enabling IBMers to thrive and deliver exceptional results. Based on five elements that have independently been core to IBM for a long time – Growth Mindset, Resilience, Engagement & Inclusion, Agility, and Trust & Transparency – this program is designed to strengthen the behaviors that drive better outcomes, motivate and inspire our employees, and create the conditions for sustained high performance. Since we launched Positive Leadership Edge last year, thousands of IBMers have participated and shared valuable feedback. We are already seeing the results of the program’s global impact on the way our businesses and our units operate – culture change at scale.

We’ve recently launched Your Learning Boost, a mobile enhancement to our learning management system that acts as a "Fitbit for Learning." IBMers can set daily learning goals, receive reminders to keep them on track, and build a dashboard of success with skills-based digital badges. Your Learning Boost will be supplemented by a digital nudging capability that will provide a highly personalized support system, encouraging continuous learning, & a sustained focus on improving skills. 


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Topics: Learning & Development, #ExpertViews

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