More than ever, businesses are witnessing an accelerated need to nurture lifelong learning mindsets and boost digital, analytical, and technical skills. Companies that continue to invest in training and offer learning opportunities for their talent will emerge as winners on the other side of this crisis.
What are these new workplace learning paradigms that COVID-19 has pushed into the spotlight – from learning to staying relevant? What does the role of L&D leaders looks like in the era of the pandemic and beyond it? How can they build resilience for enduring learning and form an improved learning culture in their organizations?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Ramesh Kumar, HR Site Leader for India, Wells Fargo India, sheds light on these questions and the changing face of learning.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview-
The pandemic has also brought back the importance of reskilling and upskilling of resources as part of the larger business transformation in the wake of the crisis. What do you think are some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19?
The concept of the office as we know it has been challenged. A transformed agile way of working was already in the making in an increasingly digitized world – the pandemic is a disruption that has fast-tracked it to an immediate reality. Agility and adapting to the ‘new’ is now table stakes.
The other huge impact of the pandemic has been on our ability to engage and lead people in this changed environment.
The traditional belief that teams perform better when they come together in the same space, drawing synergies from rapport and collaboration is a belief that has to be unlearned.
While the existing teams still have their association to fall back on, new managers and new joiners are faced with unfamiliar challenges. New managers have not met their teams and new joiners haven’t met their colleagues or their managers, in fact, they have not even seen their office space! In addition, such virtual and agile teams pose a challenge to the years of working in a specific hierarchy. This has made the skills to lead and manage teams that continue to be focused and engaged in a virtual world a non-negotiable reskilling need for managers and leaders.
In addition to Change Agility and Learning Agility which are the key emerging trends, Agile, data science, Technology (RPA, Machine Learning, AI) were already areas of focus for upskilling and reskilling before the pandemic struck. The evolving COVID-19 situation added the dimension of reskilling managers and leaders on how they manage and lead their teams virtually and assimilate new joiners into the organization.
How is the role of L&D professionals changing?
It’s back to the basics for L&D professionals. “Learn” from home has forced the learning and development function to look beyond the accepted norm of development opportunities. Learner experience and engagement are at the center of the new virtual model of learning, given that employees are juggling multiple things while trying to learn from home.
The ‘classroom’ L&D professional has to transform to a trainer who is extremely proficient in Technology, Design Thinking, and Instructional Design along with a deep understanding of Business lines, their challenges and aspirations.
Companies that continue to invest in training and offer learning opportunities for their talent will emerge as winners on the other side of this crisis. What are some of the L&D initiatives initiated by Wells Fargo in this pandemic?
At Wells Fargo, skilling, re-skilling, and upskilling our employees is a continued focus. And, the pandemic has not slowed us down – on the contrary, it has accelerated many learning plans that had been under discussion. There is no denying that there was a setback when we were hit by the situation – but our agility helped us, we adapted our strategies to the new possibilities. We regrouped quickly and in an agile manner ensured that virtual delivery tools were put in place.
Fortunately, our focus was already on driving self-learning, influencing our employees to focus on their own learning using virtual platforms. About 50% of our learning consumption was already via e-learning on our Learning Management System at Wells Fargo India & Philippines.
The L&D function at Wells Fargo is closely aligned to our businesses – Technical training, Banking Acumen training, and Process-focused training have been at the forefront of employee development along with enhancing professional skills.
A year ago, we had moved to design blended learning journeys – a move that helped us during the pandemic. Another effective learning platform has been the launch of cloud labs that are now integrated with our virtual offerings that employees can directly access.
In our Leadership and Manager Development program, we have added two initiatives. The first is to build managerial capability across the people management life-cycle via short modules that are relevant to a manager’s daily role, managing virtually; and the second is the curation of resources available internally and externally which has been helping build leadership skills to lead in such extraordinary times.
The pandemic also highlights the need to reskill and upskill workers towards stronger data science skills, a better understanding of artificial intelligence, and to expand digital literacy overall. What is Wells Fargo doing in that direction?
At Wells Fargo, our learning and development conversations have gone beyond digital literacy and data science skills, to holistically look at skills requirements of “the employee of the future”. We have been able to categorize it in four parts:
- Emerging Technologies to ensure digital literacy of all employees
- Emerging Skills to focus on Agile, Citizen Data Scientist, higher-order collaboration, etc.
- Business Acumen to focus on building banking skills depth, and;
- Digital Leadership that will teach an individual to build and lead a digitally savvy organization
An integrated strategy of these four pillars has been leading us toward transforming our workforce to be future-ready.
As talent leaders, reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables for improving learning culture in their organizations?
- Alignment with business aspiration, focusing on the individual’s ability to perform better.
- Alignment with an individual’s aspiration, to marry aspiration with an appropriate career path – existing or new.
- Thinking outside the brick and mortar to enable learning content that is not restricted to the organization, even content that is free source.
- The mindset that learning is more than a tick in the box, not just tracking for completion but enabling context of its relevance; thus ensuring that employees are able to ‘skill’ themselves and keep improving their learning quotient continuously.
Know more about the latest trends in the learning & development landscape at the People Matters L&D Conference 2020 coming to your screens from 21st-22nd October. Click here to register.