There is only one way to stay relevant in today’s dynamic business environment-and that is through learning the new and unlearning the old. To grow under such volatile conditions requires a dedicated effort to learn quickly, implement that learning rapidly, and adapt constantly to be ready for the future. How can learning leaders reinvent learning to make employees ready for the future? What are their biggest dilemmas today?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Manavi Baveja, Head APAC- People Development, Uber, who will be speaking at People Matters L&D Conference 2019, sheds light on how can L&D leaders design learning interventions to help the workforce adapt to the new world of work.
How have you seen L&D as a function evolve in India particularly? What are the key changes that will impact learning at the workplace in the future?
We are entering the fourth industrial revolution, where organizations are seeing rapid technological and social change and an increasing number of sectors are approaching a tipping point at which companies must become agile to compete and survive. For the next ten years, we are going to be in this phase of becoming and being agile organizations. Agile organizations need to excel at customer-centricity, speed, growth, efficiency, and employee engagement—all in parallel.
Let me paint a picture of what this all means, increasingly complicated matrix like structures have emerged where the cross functional leverage is the edge every organization needs, to enable building of comprehensive/innovative products and accelerating the consequent speed to market. Parallel digitization that has entered the employee and organization life cycle causing a change in the engagement fabric of an organization. There is a significant change in the composition and behavior of the workforce from average age to changing notions about work. For example, motivation is a thing of the past, today, FOMO drives most of employee behavior, stability has given way to exploration and the paycheck is replaced with drive for purpose. Set against this backdrop, it is anyone's best guess that L&D needs a rehaul.
The ecosystem of learning has changed completely. You have to pass on the baton to the learner.
Rather than pushing learners into a fabricated space of learning, we need to bring learning into the center of their work. It is time to move from training to enabling; and helping learners own their agenda and careers much like their lives.
What are the biggest dilemmas learning leaders face in a disrupted world?
I would say there are a lot of opportunities rather than dilemmas in this new agile world, we need to be quick in recognizing them and shifting gears to address them head-on. L&D has been vacationing spot and a support function for many years now, the idea is to get front and center of the game and enable 'in the moment' learning. For instance - move from individual based learning to team based learning and performance metrics. Imagine the increase in opportunities, if there is a cross functional team in a common learning space, right before they start on a new project together.
We might use the same tools to enable them but the intent of them being in the room, the consequential impact on the product and the application of the intervention is going to be at a whole new level. At Uber, we work with teams as units, across the whole spectrum of Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing (Tuckman model), we offer solutions to leaders which meets them where they are and supports in tangibly increasing productivity and engagement. We also recognize that each individual learner has their unique style which works best for them and we offer a range of learning offerings - for the 'Just in time learner' - we have Degreed and LinkedIn at their service at all times, for the "Tell me how You do it" learner - we have on demand coaching with availability of cross geography leaders, for the ones who still like it the University way - we have HBX live ( Harvard Business learning) and these are all the opportunities this disrupted space has offered.
Of course the dilemmas exist, one of the foremost ones is how do we interact with the gig economy? There are a lot of temporary workers front facing your organization and you necessarily don’t have a way of enabling them. Where are their loyalties sitting? Can we influence their style of working and will that be sustainable, how will we measure ROI for anyone on a transit visa to your organization? These are all the dilemmas which are equally an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves.
Amidst a workplace marked by constant disruptions, how can L&D leaders shift the conversation to lifelong learning?
The whole question on lifelong learning sits in the mobius (Infinity loop) of mindset and tools. Organizations have been too focussed on offering tool based learning to learners. From functional learnings to certifications to models and theories. What we have missed working with mindsets and bringing in intentionality of the learner. One of the most powerful ways to bring in intentionality and intent is by working with self awareness, is working with authenticity and bringing the whole person to the learning space. Harvard research shows that the skills we learn fade away in 60 days of having learnt them, of course if we are more intentional about the learning, if the learner knows their personal 'why' then the learning penetrates the learners fabric and impacts the learner's behavior over time.
In the same spirit of intentionality, at Uber, learning is not L&D’s responsibility but is that of the learner. We have completely turned it on its head. We don’t have calendars and mandatory hours etc. Employees have the freedom to choose what they want to learn, they can express interest by signing up and one may think that's where their work ends, but here at Uber, it truly only starts. Signing up for a learning experience is an act of commitment for the learner and their manager. They are both invited to a readiness plan where they have to invest time in getting ready for the learning and only then can they be a part of the experience. This ensures there is commitment and real business case for learning and an equal intent to apply the learning back in the workspace.
How can startups employ technology and digital culture to support the learning and development of employees to fuel learning?
The greatest advantage of technology is that it is at the tip of your finger. Technologically enabled means - on demand and easy to reach. We embrace this completely, we understand that the new learner entering the workspace is behaviorally and neurally very accustomed to working with technology and we integrate it as part of our offerings. Ranging from regular learning platforms like Degreed and LinkedIn to creating special podcasts, mobile reminders and virtual learning spaces we offer our learners the most advanced ways of learning at Uber. Last year we were covered by Moneycontrol.com for our flagship digital platform matching coaches and coachees in a cross geographical setup.
We use digital in a way that it supports the learning ecosystem; it is not the learning ecosystem itself.
With machines replacing repetitive tasks, how can L&D leaders design learning interventions to help the workforce adapt to this new world of work?
The social fabric of our work and personal life has become digital, we interact with humans but with a tech interface more often than not. Within that there is predictive texting and predictive emailing, one of the most natural side effects of this savviness is the diminishing ability to maintain human relationships with the quality that they should be. That calls for an even bigger presence of people development, don't you think? One of the most critical competencies for success is indeed the ability to have , nurture and work through strong networks. Our work as L&D leaders is to help the learner understand the limitations of technology, as they know the perks all too well. What does it mean to have a network? How do you manage, enable and lead individuals, what is your leadership brand and how are you impacting beyond your work? So the whole aspect of leading/influencing/being with others and social behavior requires even more momentum.
It is not in individual brilliance that we will find our next answers but it is the strength of the network that will propel us into our next phase. Technology is not replacing the human interaction or the importance of it, and we are needed more than ever to help learners embrace technology for what it is and is not.
(Know more about the latest trends in the learning & development landscape at the People Matters L&D Conference 2019 scheduled for 6th November in Mumbai. Click here to register.)