Article: Learn, Unlearn & Relearn: 3 mantras for future-ready leaders

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Learn, Unlearn & Relearn: 3 mantras for future-ready leaders

To be able to navigate the complexities and the uncertainty looming around the whole business ecosystem at present amid the COVID-19 crisis and in the future, as it gets more uncertain, leaders of today and tomorrow have to follow the mantra of ‘Learn, Unlearn & Relearn’.
Learn, Unlearn & Relearn: 3 mantras for future-ready leaders

Market research firm Gartner highlights that just 20 percent of employees currently have the abilities required to succeed in their current and future job roles. In another recent survey, an average of 43 percent of young people said that they were confident that they will need to retrain and have the ability to do so.

As revealed in the Future of Jobs Report 2018 released by the World Economic Forum, ubiquitous high-speed mobile Internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big data analytics, and cloud technology are only some of the drivers of change that could lead to demand for new skills and create the need for continuous learning for entire workforce, irrespective of their industry or domain. 

As uncertain as it could get, the entire world of work has taken a hit with COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses across many sectors have been urged to now operate remotely and quickly adapt to the new ways of working. The role of leaders has become most critical, they have to help the organizations and the entire workforce navigate through this uncertainty looming around the whole ecosystem. 

To be able to navigate the complexities of the business ecosystem at present and in the future, as it gets more uncertain, leaders of today and tomorrow have to follow the mantra of ‘Learn, Unlearn & Relearn’. 

The need to learn, unlearn & relearn

The metaphor, ‘Change is the only constant’, is as real as it could get in the era of industry 4.0. The onus thus, comes on the business and HR leaders to invest in continuous development of their workforce and ensure that they are always up to date with the in-demand skills.

Anurag Bansal, Senior Director and Business Head, HUGHES Global Education shared, “In recent times, businesses across the globe are increasingly facing complex problems due to rapid changes in technology, disruptions happening through innovation, turbulent market conditions and changing consumer behavior. During such uncertainty, especially, given the complexities COVID-19 pandemic has led to, it is very important to have leaders at the helm who can steer their companies to success in these scenarios.”  

He highlighted that there is a need to create agile business models, collaborative needs across disciplines, and the push to drive greater efficiency with limited resources have become critically important for the businesses. Therefore, it's essential for leaders to strategically think and have required management skills to continue driving innovation to help their organization be ahead of the curve.

Bansal has further suggested some critical management skills organizations and the workforce must focus on:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • People Management
  • Leadership
  • Business Analytics 
  • Digital Transformation
  • Design Thinking
  • Business Management 

Some of the critical technical or functional skills depending upon their area of work can be: 

  • Business Analytics
  • Digital Marketing
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Blockchain
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cloud Computing
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Mobile Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

India Inc realizes the need for skilling

Paneesh Rao, Chief People Officer, Mindtree shared with People Matters, “Technology is ever-evolving and therefore, it is imperative for a progressive organization like ours to up skill and reskill the talent pyramid to cater to the changing paradigm.”

He added that reskilling as a necessity gets further manifested by the lack of available lateral talent which is fully equipped with the necessary skills keeping pace with the emerging technologies. For example, there are 10 positions and one candidate for each of the new technologies. In the future, it will be a combination of hiring one candidate externally and creating 10 within the company. 

In an interaction with People Matters, Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Senior Vice President,  Head of HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp reiterated the same thought about the need to skill, upskill and reskill. He said, “I believe in the collective wisdom of continuous learning to ensure the long-term sustainable growth of the organization.”

Besides automation and technological disruption, it is also the newer working models like gig economy, remote working and other aspects like increased generational diversity, among others that the leaders of tomorrow need to prepare for.

Avesh Kumar Jha, SVP – OD & PM, Hinduja Global Solutions shared with us, “Today, we’re dealing with a workforce that constitutes five generations, right from recent college graduates stepping into professional spheres to industry veterans. Can they be handled in one single fashion? No. They each have different needs and gauging this is a skill that should be acquired.” 

“It is important for employees to make themselves and their team members relevant to the time we’re in by upskilling and reskilling continuously,” Jha affirmed. 

He further added that as the workplace narrative has changed with employees operating from home, remote locations, in-premise, etc., leaders need to have the competencies to engage and grow them and grow with them.

To be able to maximize the opportunities the new world of work brings in leaders have to learn the new, unlearn the irrelevant, and relearn, for the learning shall continue. 

How can organizations create future-ready leaders?

Bansal suggests, “The first task of talent leaders is to identify which skills are required for which employee depending upon their current work as well as future roles and responsibilities.” 

They need to divide employees in two categories of skill development, Technical Skills and Management skills. Those employees who are individual contributors, their technical skills must be developed and for people in supervisory roles or leadership roles, the focus must be on management skills. 

He advises that while choosing a program for skill enhancement, it is essential to focus on learning outcomes otherwise the whole purpose of the development will fail. 

“So, choose development programs that have live online interaction and rigorous assessments and not once with recorded online lectures as part of the training just as a means to save budgets,” said Bansal.   

Organizations, especially business leaders and HR teams have had learning and development on their agenda for a long time now. But its importance has only increased with time. As the entire world of work acknowledges the need to continuously invest in skilling themselves and others to be prepared, it is also essential to reflect on how this culture of continuous learning could be driven in practice.  

From classroom training for behavioral skills to e-learning to specialized executive leadership developments and certifications for functional skills, there are many ways in which organizations today can help the employees build the current in demand skills and the skills identified for the future of work. 

Personalized learning

“At Mindtree, we believe in personalized learning - each person should be learning what is relevant to them based on their technology domain, their project and their aspirations. While the credit system ensures that learning happens on a continuous basis, learners are free to learn what they choose as per their career and work needs,” shared Rao. 

Leveraging technology, Mindtree has a course recommendation engine integrated on Yorbit, a digital learning platform which generates personalized course recommendations for all learners. It considers the past learnings of employees and core skills and generates a list of courses that would be ideal for them to take up next. In addition to courses, Yorbit also recommends paths & packages. It also has mapped out ‘learning paths’ which enable a learner to learn as per their career and work goals. These paths are created by bundling together various courses into a ‘package’, which allows a learner to find and complete all relevant courses in one place.

Matching the speed of change

CSS Corp, for instance, matches the speed of skilling to the change in technology through its Digital Reskilling Framework, and grooms budding leaders through leadership development programs and mentor-mentee sessions. 

“In a dynamic and fast-paced workplace, we expect leaders to visualize future scenarios, be digitally savvy, and provide technological interventions without losing sight of the human aspect of interactions. A sense of sensitivity or human touch during interactions is of primary importance. It’s a blend of all of these skills and traits. Our flagship skilling ecosystem equips our workforce and leadership to stay at the forefront of the industry,” shared Visvanathan. 

Learning in the flow of work

Randstad has taken another interesting approach to create a future-ready workforce. Anjali Raghuvanshi, CPO, Randstad India shared how the company has globally created an experimentative culture for its employees to thrive. She shared, “We encourage people to challenge their status quo.” 

“Experiment. Make your hands dirty. Learn something out of it. The focus is less on outcome and more on learning,” added Raghuvanshi. 

Besides giving employees the opportunities to experiment, Randstad India also has invested in leadership development programs, for instance, ‘Leading transformation in the digital age’, a virtual learning program to help its workforce across hierarchies to be digital-ready. It helps them focus on learning aspects like strategic planning, strategic execution and people and strategy. The program in itself is designed to challenge the thought process of the learner and look beyond the comfort zone. 

Realizing the huge demand for new ways of learning, HUGHES Global Education has integrated the strengths of traditional methods of executive education in India with the latest technology, i.e. real-time Interactive Onsite Learning (IOL). With the help of new-age technology it created an ideal environment for employees’ learning experience. 

No matter how much we progress as an organization and people, learning will remain an integral part and the journey must continue. 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

― Alvin Toffler

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Topics: Learning & Development

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