Article: Staying on top of the functional skills – What can L&D leaders do?

Learning & Development

Staying on top of the functional skills – What can L&D leaders do?

Functional expertise will remain the cornerstone of learning and focusing on customers to identify the functional skills required should be the focus of L&D.
Staying on top of the functional skills – What can L&D leaders do?

How many of you have used a Kodak camera? Most of you may say a yes. How many of you use it today? The most common answer would be a “No”. Kodak was the market leader in the film based camera industry, but in 2013, it filed for bankruptcy. So, what changed?

  • The customers are changing. Expectations today from the customers are very different from what they used to be. Today the focus is more on getting the right experience. While Kodak may have realized the changes in the customer expectations they did not act upon it.

  • Technology today is playing a major role in transforming the way of delivering business. Kodak stuck to film based cameras and took a very long time to move up with digital.

  • Changing business models are challenging organizations with competition that were never seen before. Kodak had never anticipated competition to come from the newer technologies


An organization is as capable as its talent and L&D hence needs to take the baton to make organizations future-ready. What are some of the leading organizations doing for this today?

  • Focus on the customer experience. At TVS, the focus has been to understand the customer experience by having constant communications through focused group discussions. Once what generates the revenue has been identified, they work backwards to identify the right functional skills required. They have a Training-on-Demand program where the endeavor is to deliver learning content within a week of request.

  • There are four different drivers that should be focused upon by the learning organizations. Its engagement and experience, regulatory, fundamental shifts in the businesses and the changing generations of people. At TCS, as they look at these four levers, to respond to changing customer expectations, it became imperative that they train a large pool of people on digital skills. They have stepped-up to deliver agile learning on their own platform.

  • Also, changing customer expectations, intensified costs due to regulations and increasing competition are making organizations realize the constraints on the time and resources for learning. Industries such as powers sector which have conventionally been considered as very stable are facing huge competition from non-renewable sources of energy, an example being Germany where 40% of power comes from these. Hence, it is important to stay ahead of the trend and be up-to-skill with the functional knowledge to be able to adapt to changing businesses.

  • L&D has to focus on RONA (risk of not acting) and RONI (risk on not investing). The way technology is disrupting the businesses, the L&D function and HR business partners (HRBPs) do not just need to partner with business but be a part of it to create that impact. The technology is changing products, customer experience, creating marketplaces and brining in analytics. In the wake of all this, the need of the hour is to move the whole organization to be more tech-savvy. And to do this it is important to change our ways of training to be more collaborative. At Titan, they have partnered with a few organizations in Bangalore to collaborate on learning initiatives. Each organization conducts programs for all partners on specific themes.


L&D has to be absolutely anchored around business and hence functional skills are the cornerstone of the learning. It is important to understand the business, customers and context and leverage that to treat learners as consumers. 

This article is based on a panel discussion on “Staying on top of the functional skills – What can L&D leaders do?” at the L&D Annual League Conference.

Topics: Learning & Development

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