For a relatively new discipline within HR, Learning & Development (L&D) has gone from nice to necessity in a matter of years. LinkedIn has been tracking the state of workplace learning through annual surveys over the past five years and the trendline is clear: more and more organisations are recognising that skills are the currency of success in the new world of work and are relying on their L&D teams to lead the charge.
The 2021 edition of LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, which was recently launched in India and Southeast Asia, sums up the future of learning with four key insights.
L&D’s seat at the executive table is here to stay
Just a year ago, in March 2020, less than a quarter of L&D pros (24% in India, 25% in Southeast Asia) believed they had a seat at the C-suite table. Then, the pandemic happened. By June 2020, this figure had more than doubled to 63% in both markets. It was good news for learning leaders but the question had to be asked: Would the rise of learning be a fleeting moment or would it lead to a more permanent shift?
Fast-forward to March 2021, it’s clear that this was not a flash in the pan. L&D pros have confirmed that their seats remain intact (62% in India, 70% in Southeast Asia), proving that the positive impact that L&D can make during times of change and uncertainty has been acknowledged by business leaders. So, what’s next?
"Be a business partner and understand the business as much as the business person does! Look for newer ways to create experiential learning," says Poorna Pushkala, Sr. VP - HR & Training, Branding at Samunnati.
Taking the example from her own organization, Poorna shares, “The L&D Team at Samunnati has partnered with the business and process teams to ensure that their pain points are understood and addressed timely. Learning-unlearning-relearning is a key aspect of our L&D philosophy. Considering that most of what Samunnati does is first of its kind in the industry, we encourage our in-house leaders and subject matter experts to be key champions of L&D. Over the last few years, we have nurtured several learning champions who have become the torchbearers, and this cuts across several hierarchy levels. The L&D team is well-equipped to benchmark and replicate relevant learning trends from industry, empower themselves and others in the organisation and emerge as key business stakeholders. The idea of re-skilling and upskilling has opened several other avenues of learning and growth within the organisation. We are upskilling and reskilling the talent who have potential to upscale the business. Further, we have always believed in learning by doing/ exploring. Customised in-house ‘SamTalks’ is another area where we focus on learning opportunities for our team. We have signed up with LinkedIn Learning, rolled out specific leadership programs customized to the mid/senior management of Samunnati such as LIME (Lead Inspire Mentor Empower), Walk-the-Talk, etc.”
Upskilling and Reskilling are the #1 L&D priority this year
According to a 2020 World Economic Forum report, the rapid acceleration of automation, coupled with the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, will shift the division of labour between humans and machines. The report predicts that this will globally displace 85 million jobs and create 97 million new ones by 2025.
This signals a huge opportunity — or necessity, even — for L&D pros to inspire the skill-building that their organisations need in order to prepare for the new world of work. Based on LinkedIn’s research, it seems like L&D is onboard and revving to go.
L&D pros across India and Southeast Asia report that upskilling and reskilling is their top priority this year as they continue to pull their weight as a strategic partner to the organisation.
Top 3 L&D program focus areas in 2021
Chella Pandian Pitchai, Head - Talent, Learning and Organisational Transformation at Biocon Biologics shares, “Learning has been an integral part of Biocon Biologics people development strategy. We as an organization fully understand that curiosity fuels innovation and hence our focus has been "curiosity-driven" learning. Our L&D team constantly revisits the learning strategy to link it with business objectives and employee aspirations. We never cease to reimagine new ways of enhancing the learning experience for our employees across the globe. Integration with best-in-class digital platforms, adoption of new concepts like Design Thinking, and changing the focus to ‘strength-based learning’ have enhanced the reach, experience, and effectiveness of learning in a major way. “
He further shares, “ Building a learning culture requires not only a learning strategy but a translation of the strategy to a meaningful outcome. We have a huge commitment from our leadership to support this vision wherein last year they led by example by undergoing a ‘strength’ assessment & design thinking certification. As an outcome, a 350+ senior leadership team have discovered their innate talents and focused on strength-based leadership. 300 design thinkers who have learned their problem-solving leadership skills through design thinking, and continuing to innovate in their own space of work.
Community-based learning is a powerful driver of engagement
With fewer people in the office and a dramatic decrease in instructor-led training opportunities, many L&D pros spent 2020 creating, testing, and refining ways to maintain learner engagement. They seem to have landed on a solution: community-based learning.
In LinkedIn’s study, a vast majority of L&D pros agree that:
- Learning is more engaging when people learn together (90% in India, 94% in Southeast)
- Employees who learn together are more successful (90% in both India and Southeast Asia)
- Community-based learning helps create a sense of belonging (91% in India, 96% in Southeast Asia)
This sentiment is backed by platform data from LinkedIn Learning, which revealed that learners who use social features watched 30x more hours of learning content, on average, compared to those who don’t.
It follows that nurturing digital communities of learners is a huge opportunity for L&D pros to deepen engagement, especially in India and Southeast Asia where remote and hybrid workplaces look set to continue in the future.
Rajiv Naithani, EVP & Chief People Officer at Infogain shares, 'We have created various communities based on technologies, roles, and solutioning. ‘Community & Social Learning’ is one of the key focuses within our L&D Organisation and some of the initiatives under that include Industry Leadership Talk, Coaching & Mentoring, Bean bags/Meetup, Community/COEs of practice. These social learning interventions has helped us in breaking silos and provides a platform to collaborate with our colleagues, partners and other community members. This also helps us in leveraging these partnerships in exploring solutions for complex problem statements on a day-to-day work perspective.'
Diversity & Inclusion is becoming part of the learning agenda
Across India and Southeast Asia, one way organisations are working towards a more equitable future is by prioritising Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programmes. And they’re asking for L&D’s help to do so.
More than half of the organisations surveyed in India (66%) and Southeast Asia (58%) already have a D&I programme or are interested in starting one this year. A similar number of L&D pros (63% in India, 56% in Southeast Asia) agree that D&I programmes are a priority. This signals consensus across organisations that D&I needs to be infused across all learning programmes for it to drive lasting change.
Sanjay Mathur, Head – HR at Systra India., shares, “Systra Group is committed to contributing towards the United Nations’ Objectives for Sustainable Development. To align with this SYSTRA is working towards Gender Equality. In 2019, the ‘Women@Systra’ Network was launched which welcomes both male and female employees. This was created to promote/encouraging women’s careers through mentoring, promoting benefits of Gender Equality, building a global community to share experiences worldwide, and abolishing gender stereotypes/common biases.
Reflecting upon the various D&I events by Systra, Sanjay shares, "March 2021 was celebrated as the ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ month at Systra Group in India. Throughout the month, we focused on helping employees to recognize various biases like gender, age, colour, and sexuality by using an educational tool for raising awareness about one’s own subconscious thoughts. This was followed by self-paced training for managers and employees on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging as well as training on Unconscious Bias. Through such interventions, we hope to build a shared understanding of the fact that learning, unlearning and relearning is the most important tenet to make progressive strides towards Diversity and Inclusion.”
As L&D’s influence grows, so does its responsibility.
For a deeper dive into these insights and practical advice on how to rapidly build skills at scale, drive learner engagement in hybrid workplaces, and much more, download LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning India Edition.