True democratization – L&D of the people, for the people, & by the people
The business environment has dramatically shifted from being ‘uncertain’ to almost impossible to predict. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and automation are rapidly transforming industries and creating types of challenges and demands that one can’t even predict. Technology skills typically now have a shelf life of just two years. In such a scenario, organizations themselves are not clear on what skills are required for the future. Businesses are being forced to move away from prescribing skills to asking L&D to be hyper-agile in responding to the ever-changing demands. For employees too, the learning landscape has changed dramatically. From relying on organizations for dictating learning and career paths, employees now realize that they have an upper hand in creating their own learning paths and upskilling themselves through multiple sources of learning, many of which are freely available. In this dynamic environment, when organizations don’t know what trainings to prescribe and employees don’t want to follow a set prescription, what exactly should the L&D function do?
At Nagarro we have had a very interesting journey over the past few years, scaling up at a breakneck pace. Our sweet spot has always been the use of technology to help change the way clients run their businesses. And while we have been early adopters of new technologies, getting people with the right amount of in-depth knowledge or domain knowledge is usually the key to success, which translates into the T- shaped profile requirement where people could use their cross functional knowledge along with in-depth knowledge of a specific area to serve business needs. However, we have taken this up a notch by building “bridge” shaped skillsets in employees. That is, employees having differing levels of knowledge in multiple areas like the vertical pillars of a bridge and a horizontal layer of knowledge across different streams, complementing the pillars of the bridge. For us, it is important that employees constantly embrace new skills and quickly master them. To enable this, we have been focusing on “Learnagility”, which is a learning mindset based on quick responsiveness and a willingness to try new things. This mindset shift forms the basis of a self-driven culture of learning which is aligned to our business goals but with an individualized learning approach. To help create this mindset while delivering business value, the following were the requirements from the L&D function:
Build a learning marketplace: A self-driven culture cannot be built by enforcing restrictions on access of content or choice of medium of learning. We, therefore, took a conscious decision to move away from a push to pull model and rather than prescribing content, we used recommendations from SMEs and contributors to curate content and make it all available as a learning marketplace.
Digital and not physical: We realized the pace of learning is dramatically impacted if learning isn’t on-demand. To enable this, we have promoted a digital learning marketplace for most trainings and only using workshops selectively for highly interactive innovation, soft skills, and leadership trainings.
Guidance: We also realized that while people can be nudged to a self-driven culture of learning, it works best when it is complemented with top-notch mentors, curated pathways, and continuous performance analysis. We have built a pool of active contributors who are voluntarily helping to keep the self-learning culture alive.
While employees are more than eager to embrace a high-level of autonomy in their learning, aligning it to the business interests by finding out what exactly they have learned is also imperative. We thus realized that as a business, we are keener on what a person knows rather than how much time they have spent on learning a skill. This led to us reimagine L&D as LEAD (Learning, Evaluation, and Development). And to help people voluntarily take assessments, we built our flagship program “LevelUp!”, where users can earn badges by attempting skill assessments of their choice and only when their badges are unlocked, the information is made public. The validation of their skills is used as a valuable input to resourcing and helps people aspire for opportunities in their areas of interest. Also, rather than prescribing a syllabus and then testing if the person is aware of the contents, we moved the discussion to assessing the skills. The learning plans are provided only as a recommendation and the assessments are designed so that users who have practical knowledge in the topic don’t really need to go through a separate syllabus to earn a badge. The right mix of gamification, content curation, and easy access to content can build a self-driven learning culture which not only promotes learning agility but also aligns the individual and business interests successfully.
L&D teams need to really understand business priorities and user interests deeply. Constantly engaging with the stakeholders is the key to rich insights. Mandates are a weak crutch and the real success in today’s dynamic environment is when organizations are able to build user-driven, intelligent, and democratized systems of learning.