Article: Let the learning continue: 2023 Trends from People Matters L&D Conference

Learning & Development

Let the learning continue: 2023 Trends from People Matters L&D Conference

We’ve got the best learnings and lessons from our very own People Matters L&D Conference, that might come in handy as you begin to create the L&D roadmap for 2024. It’s at times abstract but very essential!
Let the learning continue: 2023 Trends from People Matters L&D Conference

As we come to the end of 2023, let’s take a look at the key takeaways, lessons and learnings in the space of L&D for all those who wished to attend India’s most progressive conference, People Matters L&D Conference but missed. From navigating the future of learning leadership to AI-enabled learning platforms, the thought leaders touched upon the evolving landscape of learning and what would it take to build a culture of excellence. 

The Heart Of Change: The Human Edge In Transformation

In the opening keynote, Greg Orme of Greg Orme Leadership began by introducing the audience to the characteristics of learning addicts, individuals who have a mountain of books they are yet to read, can see what they learn everywhere, constantly find connections between their new learnings and their acquired knowledge and are eager to experiment. The author of the book, The Human Edge has been at the forefront of developing and transforming organisations amid technological change and the one request he has been receiving for the past decade from every organisation is, what’s the new strategy to transform and how can we inculcate new mindsets and skills within our leaders. 

As he begins to answer this critical question, his message is simple: Don’t compete with machines, rather differentiate with human edge. For you to be able to do that, you need to cultivate four superpowers, including creativity (the process of creating ideas that have value in the world), collaboration (teaming up with fellow humans to take those ideas to the world), consciousness (asking the ‘why’) and curiosity.

Curiosity, the seed that propels humans to close the information gap, was believed to have been motivated by psychology, but in the past few years, it has proved to have biological roots. That means each one of us can motivate ourselves to be curious and it can be embedded in a company’s culture as well to drive learning. 

L&D leaders need to assess and align the say-do gap (what an organisation is saying as opposed to what it is actually doing), how each function can contribute to cultivating the learning culture and the role of leadership in inspiring learners through their own learning initiatives. It’s best summarised as learning needs to be exciting, experiential and everyday.  

Navigating the Future of Learning Leadership

One of the power panels, it was moderated by Ashish Kumar Jha, Vani, in discussion with some of the most renowned learning leaders including Archana Chadha, HSBC India; MVN Rao, Larsen & Toubro Limited and Aditya Sareen, Tata Power, where the themes touched upon were the need for learning leadership, the best practices and the challenges faced in today’s dual and disruptive workplace.

Rao brought forth an important idea about what kind of legacy of learning leadership do organisations want to leave behind? That’s what everyone is building towards - lasting learning leadership. Touching about the innovations in learning, Chadha spoke specifically about the new oil in the banking sector, which is data and how each of the firm’s practices, whether it is upskilling every individual in data from new joinees to seasoned bankers, to offering the best courses from top-notch colleges on data to choose from along with honorarium pay, the idea has been to incentivise learning. In the end, Sareen elucidates that the new playbook is all about ‘allowing people to make mistakes’ and learn together.’ 

With so many choices on offer, it is flexibility that employees would cherish - to be able to choose the areas where they wish to upskill and reskill.  

AI-Enabled Learning Platforms: A Roadmap To Success

Learning platforms have been disrupting the learning pathways in the workplace since the evolution of LMS, LXP and now AI. But what does it take to stay ahead of the curve in the Gen AI era? A cohesive panel discussion, moderated by Asma Shaikh,, including panellists Manoj Sharma, Aarti Industries; Major Vishal Karad, Gennova Bio Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Ambrish Rastogi, Accenture, deliberated over AI as an aid to upskill and reskill the multigenerational workforce to scale with speed.

Beginning with the widespread acceptance of Gen AI at the workplace, Rastogi evaluated how it stems from ChatGPT’s early end-consumer acceptance and evaluates the four broad categories on how Gen AI paves the way for innovation within organisations. From an L&D lens, organisations can map and search for skills faster, hyper personalise it to every employee, build on the work-learn fusion, as an assist to solve problems through learning nuggets and explore and extend individual learning for agility, relevance and bridge the skills gap. Touching upon the leader's role, Sharma believes that cultivating a digital mindset within senior leaders as they sponsor new learning initiatives can help in better uptick and adoption. For Karad, the biggest trap he’s come across is the failure of L&D experts to clarify the business objective before jumping on the innovation bandwagon. His advice is to study desirability, viability and feasibility before bringing any learn tech to the table. 

Organisations need to look at learning rather than training to expand their horizon and open the conversation for better avenues. 

AI & Tech Driven Talent Building At Scale: The TCS Story

A case-study into Tata Consultancy Services, Janardhan Santhanam takes us on a journey into exploring the needs of learner’s today and using technology to disrupt the way learning happens in an organisation. While learning has been disrupted by edtech tools all along, TCS has been focused on setting up a holistic, seamless learning ecosystem. The VP and CLO begins with the big question: How do you design an ecosystem that can scale to 600.000 users in 45 countries and 9 different languages across tech, domains, process and software delivery, leadership, business skills and culture?

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy as the fundamental pillar, Santhanam explains how tech can cause disruptions in the way organisations learn. Beginning at the bottom stage, it is where an organisation teaches its workforce to learn technology. One can ask learners to go through content, courses and videos but tech is a hands-on experience. At TCS, 10-15 portals and partners were brought in for a seamless learner’s experience, eliminating friction while adding persuasion. This includes making sure of on-demand labs for 280 technologies for 110,000 people, monitoring and quantifying their learning through algorithm-generated challenges and evaluating personalised learning.

For engaging learners, hackathons (52 in total) are performed through scaled hackathon platforms where machines, algorithms, APIs, cloud-based systems create challenges and check outcomes. The Metaverse and the full-scale of the technologies (Web 3, blockchain, cloud, AI, multi-player setup, 3D world) is delivered to 20,000 people over web and mobile to bring in inclusivity and for everyone to avail every feature and facility. 

Next comes building leadership, business and communication skills. Tools are available to learners to go through diagnostic assessments, business communication and coaching and the data generated is used to drive learning. The very next is, tech for teaching, which requires a lot of enterprise guardrails if one wishes to deploy it in a large organisation. The path chosen at TCS involves building those guardrails and then exposing it to curators, faculty and learners, in a way which is safe and ring fences what they can and shouldn’t be doing. 

In the end, it comes down to tech as the change agent, which is about making learners aware, helping them understand the change and making a mindset shift. The organisation is aggressively pursuing zero-touch change, which starts with a different kind of L&D organisation, an ecosystem of partners, and a firm’s commitment to use technology as a pillar to disrupt rather than as just an enabler or partner. 

The Entrepreneurial Edge: Let Your Talent Dream Big

In the keynote by Munaf Kapadia of The Bohri Kitchen (TBK) and MK Consulting, he looks at people’s perception around entrepreneurship and employment and how the two buckets seem to be immiscible. The ex-Googler, ex-Zoman and Chief Eating Officer at TBK has had a tumultuous professional journey. But no matter the ups and downs, he’s had a lot of learnings and upskilling on the way. 

When TBK was born in 2014, the idea was to bring the unique style of the cuisine and community to people through the best chef in the world, Nafisa Kapadia (Munaf’s mum). It started with complete strangers visiting the house for a dining experience and in 2015, Munaf quit his job at Google to pursue a venture he knew nothing about. He was able to create ample demand but had a hard time figuring out supply and scaling. When he scaled the business operations on the back of the talent he had hired, the reviews came out pretty bad. There was a stark difference between the food that was delivered and the one enjoyed during the home-dining experience. At this juncture, he had finally gone broke. 

Just when he was about to give up, he got a call from Forbes for their 30 Under 30 List. He was surprised as to why they would want to feature someone on the verge of bankruptcy. But they were of the opinion that ‘I might not have raised millions but I’ve been inspiring millions’. At this point, closing TBK would've been unfair so he kept it going while he started working on aspects that he didn’t explore before: accounts, stepping into the kitchen and understanding the business in all its intricacies. 

When celebrities started enjoying TBK, it gave a lot of clout and Munaf was able to raise funds and scale. The feedback from delivery and home-dining experience was on similar lines too and it gave him the chance to open a physical outlet and five cloud kitchens across Mumbai. But then, the pandemic hit and with the burden of taking care of a large team and no money, he was pushed to give up again. Just then, he received another call from a publishing house to write a book on ‘How I Quit Google To Sell Samosas.’ 

Today, TBK is alive and will turn 10 soon and is a successful catering business. Munaf was finally able to segregate his financial ambitions from that of TBK. He realised that it has its own destiny and he has since moved up the corporate ladder at McDonalds and Zomato, who were keen to see him bring in his entrepreneurial zeal to their projects. His parting message to leaders is: Create an environment where entrepreneurs can return to the corporate world and leverage their learnings from their entrepreneurial career for business growth. 

Surprise To Victory: Winning In The New World 

Gen VP Malik of the Indian Army gives us a glimpse into the stark contrasts between the Indian Army and the corporate sector and what the latter can learn from the former in his closing keynote. He has always believed in human capital as more integral than tech, and that has resonated throughout his session. He begins with a simple question: What’s been neglected in the corporates? It is the art of leadership, which is learning the skills to lead and practising them. He is of the opinion that leaders need to be honest and transparent with their employees to build trust and vice-versa for the success of any organisation. If the new joinee can’t speak to the CEO about the blind spots they’ve found, the minuscule problems will ultimately become overwhelming challenges.

Looking from a different lens, he asks: How many CEOs will give away their pay to keep their employees from being laid off? But these instances can be found in the Army. The line of command, from the top to bottom and vice-versa is crystal clear. And that is something the corporates should strive to emulate. What happens at the top should trickle down to the ground-level employees, in the intended tone and manner.

We've seen corporate culture come into focus but firms are still struggling with it. The Army has always been able to unite everyone in its spirit based on its ethos, mission and values. Even with diversity like no other, where people from different backgrounds, cultures, economic status come together, there’s always a sense of inclusivity and belonging. The Army has built the tradition of not just interacting with its soldiers but extending it to include their families. 

The curriculum in the Armed Forces is such that learning and development are weaved into the very fabric. To rise up in the ranks and to be well-versed in new tactics and weapons, one needs to constantly upskill. It always prepared for uncertainties and it’s embedded in the mindset of each soldier that surprise is awaiting at every nook and cranny on every mission. In the Kargil War, the Indian Army had challenges in the form of a mountainous terrain, surveillance failure due to the weather, unclear on-ground situation, intelligence failure, weapons and ammunition shortage, etc., but they remained undeterred because every plan from the get-go had maximum flexibilities and contingencies. 

In the Army, each individual is empowered with the responsibility to lead. The senior leaders might give the instructions but when the time comes, it falls to the soldiers to execute; how he/she does it is solely on them. There is no micromanagement or interference, which is quite prevalent in the corporate world and has been known to tick people the wrong way. 

Talking about productivity, Gen Malik believes it can be brought up to 200 percent with the right motivation. He shares that as General, he always interacted with his team on-ground with simple questions and gestures about their wellbeing, family and work. Compassion, care and immediate recognition can play a pivotal role to drive a team towards collaboration and clearer goals.  

In summary, L&D leaders will have to be very mindful of 2024 trends and navigate learning and development for their organisation in a consistent manner with long-term goals in check. Don’t get derailed by the newest implementations on the horizon or competitor’s initiatives! 

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Topics: Learning & Development, Culture, Diversity, Entrepreneurship, Leadership Development, Skilling

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