Learning ecosystems must be fuelled by digital experiences and experiential training: Lokendra Sethi, DXC Technology
It is evident that the accelerated pace of digital transformation has heavily impacted the learning landscape within organisations. Digital skills have also become top priority and added to this is the imparting of knowledge through the virtual space as well. At this juncture, leaders have to invest in efficient strategies to attain learning goals that fall in line with larger business outcomes. Simultaneously, the multiple challenges that turn up when operating in a hybrid workspace demand special care and attention. In a recent interview with People Matters, Lokendra Sethi, VP and HR Head-India, DXC Technology sheds light on L&D initiatives that corporates can take up to thrive and reap the advantages of the digital workscape.
Lokendra has over 25 years of industry experience in HR strategy and service delivery; and has held leadership roles in both regional and global markets. He has worked in multiple industries including the IT and ITES sectors, with companies such as Accenture, HCL, AECOM and Covansys. He also holds an MBA degree from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from IIT Varanasi.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Given the rapid pace in the digital transformation of industries across the globe, in your opinion, what are some of the skill sets that are very high in demand?
As industries globally embrace technology to drive digital transformation for increased productivity and agility, the demand for qualified talent has skyrocketed. Enterprises look for candidates with expertise in areas of Data Science, AI & Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, and Business Analytics, to further their digital-first approach, along with soft skills like Communication, Critical Thinking, and Problem-Solving abilities. It always helps if candidates are flexible and open to new roles and responsibilities as it widens their scope.
Having a specialized and marketable skill set is a huge differentiator in the current job market. In the case of freshers who are just starting out or experienced professionals looking to upskill themselves, I strongly recommend that they invest in certifications, coding challenges, and hackathons to gain much-needed exposure and expertise.
When it comes to meeting the skill gaps within organisations, there are two feasible paths: one is to hire talent and the other is to re-skill and upskill your current employees. Which option feels the most feasible given the uncertainty we continue to live in and why so?
An organization's hiring strategy should complement its overall goal of creating a future-ready, competent, and motivated workforce. When meeting the skills gap in the organization, not one single approach would ever be sufficient or the sole solution. The answer lies in an integrated strategy that comprises both the build and buy models. While investing in employees through training and upskilling initiatives is important, creating a campus connection for hiring is equally essential. However, at DXC, we invest highly in skill bridging/building. Our upskilling, reskilling, cross-skilling, and certification initiatives are key to the customer deployment strategy. When it comes to filling the skills gap, we use both models but put special emphasis on the ‘build model’. This strategy helps us in enriching our workforce and benefits our customers. Our comprehensive training modules provide guidance with technology, business, processes, and leadership skills.
When it comes to building an organisational culture, one aspect that is rising in importance is creating a learning ecosystem. How has your organisation invested in this and what are some of the challenges it has faced?
Gone are those days when candidates would choose a company based on the brand name or compensation. Today, the training infrastructure and growth opportunities are the biggest factors for candidates to pick a job. Thus, making it imperative for companies to ramp up their training solutions on priority. While earlier, in-person training was believed to be key, now, remote working has opened new avenues.
We have ensured that our learning ecosystem is fueled by digital experiences and experiential training. We have taken to gamification and simulated training environments to create personalized training modules. We are researching advanced technologies and their applications in learning, especially Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), to deliver immersive and comprehensive training. Besides this, there are customized leadership programs like SheLEADS@DXC which is our flagship initiative to enable women through their career and leadership journeys.
The challenges faced while creating a learning ecosystem especially in the current times is the shift to all things virtual. Though this is the new normal, it has led organizations to quickly adapt to new ways of imparting training, develop customized learning modules and simulate an in-person training experience while operating virtually.
In a world that has shifted to digitisation and automation and given that you also come from the IT industry, how has your organisation prioritised the L&D solutions for your employees and how is the success of these solutions judged?
DXC’s overall learning strategy is aimed at employee development and their alignment with business objectives. With digitization and automation, we have integrated needs identification with design and delivery, to drive learning solutions that are strategic, effective and measurable. As stated, when it comes to talent management, we prefer to use the ‘build’ strategy more than the ‘purchase’ strategy. Upskilling and Cross Skilling are key enablers in strengthening our focus on pivoting to internal talent and our customer deployment strategy. These are most effective since tenured individuals with a diverse skill set tend to learn and cross-skill more quickly, benefiting both – them and customers.
We offer role-based learning modules in areas of technology, process, business, and leadership skills. This is accompanied by a combination of tests and certificates for learning accreditation. Digitization has helped to have a robust delivery and badging strategy in place to help employees acquire and exhibit their skills. As an example, for employees in the agile and scrum practice, we enable the scrum master certification through ‘learning journeys’ that prepare them for the assessment and certification. Besides cross-skilling and upskilling, we are also focusing on customized leadership programs as well as learning interventions to promote women in technology and these learning journeys are further crafted as per individual/group needs and flexibility as we strive for excellence in the virtual L&D domain.
While we have imbibed this ‘digital normal’ in our L&D space with integrated learning modules, increased certification growth, better leveraging of partner networks, hyper automation and streamlining skill architecture, the final judge is always the customer and actual project delivery in terms of how an employee improves their performance after undergoing learning programs.
With the workplace turning either completely virtual or hybrid, when carrying out employee training programs, what can be done to encourage learner engagement and increase the effectiveness of these programs?
The training infrastructure of companies is fast becoming one of the decision-influencers for potential candidates, therefore, organizations need to offer learning opportunities through upskilling, cross-skilling, and role mapping. Previously, it was believed that a learning intervention had to be provided in-person to be effective. However, our learning team's strategy now has evolved into a unique blend of digitization and experiential training – of course, propelled by the current scenario.
Now, the initial skills and professional development training are virtually accomplished. Trainers are continuously discovering new and effective teaching strategies to keep pace with the ever-evolving times. Immersion programs that were created to provide individualized attention and care from supervisors and co-workers have evolved to keep the essence digitally. To achieve sustained engagement throughout the onboarding and training process, companies must invest in retaining the human connection by employing both technology and enhancing the roles of ‘project buddies’ and human resource partners. This will ensure that trainees adjust more effectively to the organization and embrace the new future of work.
Finally, what are some of the key priorities that HR leaders must keep in mind as they invest in L&D programs for their employees?
L&D programs are vital for organizations to align corporate training with business objectives – all while ensuring that staff learning, and development needs are met effectively.
As we know, employee satisfaction does not always depend on monetary compensation. Most employees believe that having an environment that encourages upskilling and provides opportunities for future growth, is more beneficial in the long run. Having said that, organizations must make programs that are geared towards both – employee satisfaction as well as the organization’s goals. It is also advised to create L&D programs that match the right individuals to the right roles. This will ensure a successful leadership team in the future.