Do you see L&D changing more broadly after pandemic crisis and why does it need a revamp for the new workplace?
TD L&D has never ever been so responsible and in demand like today's business scenario. Organisations have realised the need and significance of L&D in these rapidly changing times. All other functions now have high expectations from L&D for their progress and prosperity.
Adaptability, agility, up-skilling and re-skilling have become the saviour for business to survive and thrive. To make so; everyone now looks up to L&D to help them in this transformative journey. With the imposed limitations on movement almost everything is becoming digital. Interactions with internal and external customers are changing. Adapting to these new normal demands both skill and will.
Here L&D takes the role of Sherpa who enables the climber to reach the mountain top. To make that happen L&D has to come out of its new existential crisis and take the lead role. Because only making people learn would not be sufficient now as the pace of change is super accelerated. So, L&D has to emphasise on creating conducive conditions where the new skills can flourish.
The L&D has to evolve to stay relevant and to significantly contribute to the business. No doubt L&D people have always been well equipped with their knowledge on human psychology but now they must be well versed with technology too. So, it has become super critical to revamp the workplace which can accommodate this massive change in both internal & external environment.
How should learning and development be re-positioned or redesigned more strongly with a new road map?
TD L&D now has to say goodbye to the role of carpenter and lead the organisation as a gardener. The carpenter chooses the shape it wants to give to the wood at hand. Sometimes he makes a beautiful idol and sometimes a doll. The freedom to choose and decide stays with the carpenter only, not the wood.
On the contrary the gardener does not decide a uniform approach for all plants. He gets to know the exact nature and need of the plants. Accordingly, he creates a conducive environment for them. He prepares soil and waters the plant as per the need of the plant, not as a uniform standard operating procedure.
Similarly, in this time of uncertainty, we have witnessed that training needs are much more diverse, highly urgent, and more situational. Many times, it is problem specific and that too for a handful of people at one location. So, L&D has to redesign itself as a gardener and nurture talent.
Amidst all uncertainties and ambiguities L&D has to safeguard itself from one common mistake that we all get tempted to make. That is solving temporary problems with permanent solutions. When we are talking about creating a road map, we must consider the longevity and criticality of the problem. Even if it is still ambiguous yet it is advisable that L&D must be agile and accommodative at the same time. It must refrain from applying a permanent solution to the temporary problem.
Now organisations are asking tough questions about the way we train and develop our people. Last year when the pandemic started; L&D responded quickly with all its might. Suddenly everyone thought they had found the panacea in 'all online learnings'. It continued successfully for two quarters. The response from employees was awesome yet the results were ambiguous. Some found it enabling and enriching while others resented heavily.
Organisations realised that some competencies are better learnt in person. Especially the soft skills, which are awfully hard to learn and practice. Even safety training, which involves numerous fire drills and rescuing simulations; became challenging on online platforms. In many organisations L&D had to get back to the in-person training for safety and other behavioural trainings.
What are the key lessons on learning that organisations should keep in mind in, while redesigning the initiatives?
TD A : Attendance vs Attention
Which is more important for L&D? It is not a tough question yet a challenging one. Because attendance is easily measurable whereas attention cannot be accurately measured. That is why it is easier to treat attendance as a one of the key parameters for the efficacy of L&D. Earlier it used to be a task to pull out people for training, especially in manufacturing units where training programs are conducted in the premises. For a change online learning have got increased attendance compared to in person training. Logging in from mobile phone or laptop has become super easy.
The real question L&D is facing right now is about the attention. Is the attention span of people low in online learning? Do they easily get distracted by notifications on their mobile phones? So, attention is the thing L&D has to keep this in mind.
B : Home vs Conference Room
We all know that an appropriate learning environment is a must for effective learning. A distraction free room improves our attention span and helps us learn easily. Now the thing we must keep in mind is the infrastructure available at home for our employees. A working couple with a school going kid would require three separate rooms for online interactive learning. That too with minimum noise and distractions. This ideal learning environment may not be available to everyone in our organisation.
C : The Duration: In person vs Online
It is proven that attention span in online platforms is not anywhere similar to in person training. Keeping the thin attention span, challenging infrastructure, and unwelcomed distractions we must rethink about the duration of the training programs. We simply cannot copy the in-person training hours and paste it on the online modules. Even if we complete the targeted 'training man hours' we will lose on our real purpose of learning.
What should people be learning right now, and how can L&D deliver it under the changed work environment?
TD What people should be learning right now would be a judicious mix and match. However, considering the current business environment people should learn two C's. Collaboration and Change management.
A : Collaboration : Global connect has become much easier than before. Interacting with one another is now handy. Meetings and con calls are an integral part of life. So, now is the time to leverage the technology and optimise our collaborative skills.
So now L&D can create a culture of collaboration inside and outside their organisation. Many organisations have successfully implemented the mentor-mentee culture. People have been hugely benefited by this intervention. Some have used focus group interventions where a need-based team is formed to solve a problem. Some organisations have their 'Experts Speak' sessions where they invite internal as well external people to share their expertise and experience.
B : Change : Change at any level gives us a bag full of emotions like shock, denial, and acceptance and so on. So, people must be trained on change management and its emotional aspects. The focus of change training must be two dimensional; professional as well personal. Because a lot has changed also at home front. The daily routine has gone for a massive revamp. Some have adjusted to it and some are still struggling.
L&D must equip their employees well with relevant tools and techniques on change management. L&D must work on perspective shift on change by creating an agile environment. Recently an organisation has playfully implemented the same. They selected some promising young talent internally and made them CEO, CFO, CTO for a day or two. Not only those young people felt motivated but also, they became ready for a positive and progressive change in their thoughts and actions. Some with help of the assigned mentors created a detailed road map to reach that coveted position in future.