The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic took away every pursuit that brought sense and purpose to our lives. It operated within two blind paradigms – “How much do you know about the situation” and “How well can you manage it”. This demanded that businesses reinvent themselves. The key aspect that emerged from this situation is a compelling need to strengthen agility and resilience for survival. The outbreak has further exposed us to the VUCA (vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world and several corporates have embraced it as a framework to develop resilience through continuous and exponential advancements in technology for people management strategies.
While we are unsure of how the pandemic will pan out, what corporates can certainly work towards is to equip their employees to overcome adversity. Agility and resilience, as far as People, Processes and Systems are concerned, will define the competitive advantage of a successful organization. Initiatives that can help build resilience and develop an agile culture, range from re-structuring, revamping, reskilling and reiterating the culture of the organization.
Employees are the greatest asset of any organization and employers must realise that their well-being is of paramount concern. The pandemic has forced remote working (work from home) and reduced the number of workdays. This paradigm shift has created a distance between each other – physically – the camaraderie, the banter, combined energies and excitement of working on-site all took a back seat. While each individual would probably have their own trepidations, it should be the priority of leadership teams to recognize that these are testing times and make concerted efforts to constantly stay in touch with their teams and engage with them. To this end, many corporates are also launching counselling as part of their employee management strategies. Professional counsellors are being made available offering a safe place for employees to seek support. Some are even introducing 24*7 helplines, managed by employees, for employees to reach out to for support or information regarding COVID-19.
It is imperative for leadership teams to set up communication forums to stay connected with employees. The top management should reach out regularly through periodic virtual addresses and weekly chats.
The pandemic has not only impacted employee morale but also growth and infrastructure projects for many a corporate. Along with growth comes the need for additional recruitment, which has also been put on hold by most companies. Reduced spending, maximum productivity and optimization of existing resources have become the new focus areas of Corporates across the board. Other focus areas include ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ employees to ‘future proof’ human capital. HR initiatives should focus on developing organizational capability, developing & enhancing functional capability and building a value-based culture.
The success of any of these learning paths would depend on four factors –
Agility, Availability, Analytics & Data and appreciating & celebrating learning accomplishments.
Learning Agility: To know what to do when you don’t know what to do, meant developing a culture of learning. We used Operational downtime to promote learning from peers, leaders, and external resources who are thought leaders in their space.
Availability: To create learning opportunities catering to different styles and learning needs. Anytime – Anywhere learning with access to a host of options – MOOCs, customised e-learning content, virtual instructor-based learning, project-based learning, etc. Near the job - On the job - Learning on demand is by and large how learning takes place. Be cognizant of possibilities like network unavailability during WFH and hence options to have access to learning otherwise.
Analytics & data depended learning: To empower the learner to make choices based on business need, personal growth as well as motivation and use data to analyse organizational learning trends which are then communicated to draw attention and influence learning journeys or curate learning experiences that cater to a pre-defined goal. Critical to the whole purpose was to capture and document byte-sized, regular and long-term learning at various levels – teams, functions, projects, etc.
Appreciate & celebrate learning accomplishments: To appreciate the efforts of employees who demonstrate a focussed approach to learning and celebrate learning milestones, certifications, subject mastery and then rope them in as Leads who could curate further learning journeys.
Industry related certification-based training, which would normally be a challenge as employees in operations would have to be away for long durations have now become easy to rollout through e–learning modules, enabling several mandatory certifications to be completed.
Transformation of Team L&D - now and post pandemic: The challenge for Team L&D was to create an environment where employee groups, who were apprehensive about remote/ web-based/ e-learning, see value in the initiative. Content that is engaging thus becomes a huge pre-requisite for drawing learners in. The right learning journeys must be curated to create interest.
The Learning function must step-in to improve all round employee well-being, equipping people managers with the right skillsets. Mental health and well-being, coaching for greater performance, mentoring for success are all critical aspects that need to be learnt by people managers and leaders. Thus, the Learning function helps drive the desired culture in the organization in collaboration with the business and leaders.
- Learning has been digitized – now and forever. This reduces the administrative roles of L&D, resulting in quality of learning
- Content should be engaging- Learning journeys have to be curated for impact
- Learning must be agile – use technology and human capital available in the ecosystem to co-create and propagate learning. Content authoring tools, SMEs and Leaders stepping up to facilitate learning will go a long way, rather than looking outside.
- Learning autonomy – Create environment, provide resources, communicate powerfully and allow the learner to choose.
- Continue tracking transactional learning metrics like coverage and man-days to ensure that the system is efficient, and resources are utilised optimally.