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, Ranjeet Singh Walia, Director – Human Resources, Eli Lilly 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 COVID-19 pandemic impacted almost all parts of our economy. The Pharma sector shifted from an offline model of working to a completely virtual model overnight. In a way, the pandemic rapidly accelerated the process of adapting to technology in our day to day work. At Lilly, we started working from home at very short notice including employees from sales as well as non-sales functions.
One of the first few things we had to do was to orient our own mindset to accept the new normal. At Lilly, we took this to be an opportunity to reach even more customers rather than it being a limitation. Employees needed to stay up to date with virtual settings and they continuously needed to update their digital capabilities almost on a day to day basis to retain customers and stay in touch with them. Our employees saw value in the upskilling trainings that were conducted and adapted to these new skills very rapidly. We observed a change in their mindset as they focused on shifting all their work to a virtual setting.
In the Pharma industry, it is critical to have a solid knowledge of your products when interacting with customers. In a virtual setting where customers are likely to lose interest and there is more reliance on remote discussion, it is very important for employees to excel in their knowledge of products. It is imperative that employees stay ahead of the competition through the discipline of self-learning.
As this pandemic has brought with it multiple challenges that employees are tackling both in their professional as well as personal lives it is also important to foster an increased focus on good mental and physical health.
How is the role of L&D professionals changing?
All businesses are striving hard to deliver better performance with reduced resources and this poses a strategic challenge for Learning and Development professionals. The pandemic has made things even more challenging with less face to face interaction, classroom training, and a decrease in international programs, a situation that will last well into the foreseeable future. L&D professionals understand that traditional methods of training delivery are no longer sustainable, and some methodologies have even become obsolete. The pandemic has not only accelerated but shifted the process completely.
L&D professionals now work on developing innovative ways of improving the employees’ learning process to maintain organizational competitiveness. They now play a more strategic role instead of focusing on just tactical operations of delivery of L&D programs. These professionals are now the drivers of strategy through:
- Driving cultural changes in employees to develop a sense of ownership of self-learning & development.
- Leveraging technology and making training programs more exciting and staying current with the latest market practices.
- Developing targeted interventions to improve training productivity by growing their ability for ongoing data analysis.
- Partnering with supervisors and business leaders to understanding the business needs and continued adjustments in the learning framework to improve training effectiveness.
- Creating training champions in the workforce and then engaging them to have a deeper reach down the line in the organization.
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 Eli Lilly India in this pandemic?
At Lilly, we have made conscious efforts to create a blend of our learning programs with experiential learning, and these are delivered through leaders facilitating these programs by sharing real-life examples.
We have successfully transitioned from a classroom learning model to on-the-job learning through our innovative ‘on-the-job short-term assignments (OTJSTA)’ initiatives. These assignments help our talents to apply their learning from these classrooms to real-time projects guided by functional subject matter experts.
These assignments accelerate the positive learning curve for our talents and help us to create a culture driven by a strong focus on self-learning.
Some of the initiatives we introduced were: -
• Build virtual coaching capabilities of leaders to drive the change and support employees remotely.
• Invested in strengthening and re-building the technical competencies of all employees by ensuring frequent product knowledge and selling skills refreshers.
• Fully Leveraged self-development resources like LinkedIn learning courses to improve cognitive, emotional, and adaptability skills for all employees. We encourage our employees to leverage the platform to learn new skills and explore their areas of interest.
• Community Learning: We conducted peer-to-peer learning sessions for voluntary upskilling across functions.
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 Eli Lilly India doing in that direction?
At Lilly India, technology has always remained one of the key enablers for everything we do. With a sales force that spreads far and wide across geographies, we have always relied on technology to connect.
In our response to the new normal, we expanded the ability of our sales force to operate in a fully digital environment and engage customers. “Selling in digital world” and “Engaging virtual Interactions” are some of the key programs we introduced to build digital capabilities.
Lilly has adopted several world-class systems across functions such as Workday, SAP, Success factors, and Salesforce. We also recognize the special needs of the sales force and trained advanced analytical solutions (tableau reports) enable them to understand their business data more clearly and make informed choices to select the best digital channel preferred by our customers.
As talent leaders, reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables for improving learning culture in their organizations?
At Lilly, we constantly focus on improving our learning culture and our first step in this journey begins with our leaders who are the sponsors of learning and they need to be supportive of a learning environment.
We measure our success in this area through a higher percentage of promotions and staffing from within the organization by focusing on our internal key talents.
We also believe that employees should own their development and take initiatives to acquire new competencies and capabilities.
The biggest strength in our learning culture comes from our ongoing focus on ‘shared learning’ in which employees and leaders collaborate across functions. These are the foundational expectations and are ingrained in our learning environment.