Do you see L&D changing more broadly after pandemic crisis and why does it needs a revamp for the new workplace?
SM I think that the pandemic has most certainly changed the ways of working (WOW), the employee and employer mindset, customer mindset and while everything is changing around us, certainly L&D cannot remain untouched. It makes me think as if we are on a Star trek voyage. Remember the famous lines "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before" As the pandemic continues, employees continue to work from home for many organisations. For these organisations, while on one hand the commuting time becomes zero, adding quality of life for employees from a personal angle, and either increase or no loss in the current productivity, there are chances of the employees feeling burnt out. The focus of companies to organize workshops on wellness has increased. The Pandemic has brought in new challenges never imagined before and organisations still struggling to understand how to approach them. In this new light it is but obvious that the earlier practices of L&D lose relevance and it does need a big revamp for the new workplace.
How should learning and development be re-positioned or redesigned more strongly with a new road map?
SM The learning and development have to embrace the change. It has to take into consideration the new realities or as one says the "New BAU" (New Business as usual). There is a requirement for the L&D personnel to have greater conversations with both business leaders as well as with employees to identify the skill gaps as newer challenges in the work area would keep on coming. While bridging the current skill gaps are necessary, the long-term skill development plans should not be ignored.Its very important to identify what would be more relevant for learners to be developed both in the short and long term.
The key thing out here is to connect the learning pathways to the application of such knowledge and skills. Learning pathways are the curriculum that is created for learners for capability building. Such a learning pathway is designed keeping the outcome in mind and mostly a blended approach is recommended. However, learning pathways can be purely digital too. If the application of the knowledge is required in a phased manner, the learning pathways needs to be created accordingly that it becomes like a journey where the learners gain competence over a period of time and finds platform to apply the same in real life. Few organisations are embracing AI and Machine Learning to understand the real-life challenges/skill requirements of learners and formulate a personized and customized learning plan from existing available content as well as prompting the L&D department to get to know the learning requirement of the employees. Through AI few companies are identifying the experts in different skill areas to be reached out by learners to get guidance.L&D team can thereby connect with leaders with more data on the requirement and can analyse how well the data points gathered tallies with the skill gaps identified by business.
The L&D team could help to architect frameworks like creating blueprint for peer communities where learners can support each other's in learning. L&D could also facilitate such learning communities backed up by peer-based support. However down the line learners should be more empowered to identify their own skill gaps and follow learning plans curated by L&D architects. For this the L&D department should work upon creating and fostering a robust learning environment powered by AI & Machine learning, diagnostic tools and assessments, world class curated content that is being refreshed so as to stay relevant, adopt augmented reality tools for simulated roleplays to practice such skills, encourage learners to form domain or skill-based learning communities, get employees to share their best practices. Sharing best practices really helps to deliver learning solutions really fast in an ever-changing environment.
However, these sessions require the professional expertise of L&D professionals to ensure that at the end of these sessions, learners are able to take back the learning in form of a well-drawn action plan. BOTs can be excellent tools which can help to address the individual learning asks of employees and help them to identify relevant content from the vast content rich learning platforms which most companies have already deployed.
What are the key lessons on learning that organisations should keep in mind in, while redesigning the initiatives?
SM To my mind the following key lessons on learning are worth keeping in perspective while redesigning the initiatives.
- It is important that learners understand the WIIFM (What is in it for me) before they become part of any learning journey. If the WIIFM is clear and well understood the impact of such learning interventions will be much higher.
- It is very important to influence the business leaders in not pressing on the panic button and pausing the learning each time a crisis hits. The strategic learning plans (Long term learning interventions) should continue. Since business leaders are sponsors for most of the learning interventions, it is very important to prepare the learning schedule while checking with them on the work calendar of learners. Sharing the training calendar, a month in advance could be attempted for strategic learning plans while an invite at least 14 days prior to a training ensures that the learners can plan their deliverables better.
- Focus on Pull approach rather than the Push approach. Learners should be more enthusiastic to participate in the learning interventions than the learning partner.
- Keep yourself in the shoes of the learner - There has been lot of changes in the ways of working at the workplace be it in the office or while employees are doing work from home. These concerns should be well understood by the L&D department.Sometimes day long sessions can be broken into half day sessions to ensure that learners are able to complete their important work deliverables and thus can participate and engage in the planned learning interventions with greater comfort.
- Ensure employees are familiar with the virtual training tools.
- Encourage and empower employees to take ownership of their own learning plan.
- Ensure that the learning content is updated in regular intervals especially the technology learning. As technology gets obsolete very fast as they have shorter shelf lives, it is important that learners find the learning content relevant and purposeful.
- Deploy digital learning to increase collaboration among the teams that are working in different time zones as well as remotely. They can take courses together as well as collaborate in different virtual formats. As covid cases increase and in the event of work from home continuing for long, it ensures that learning is not paused.
What should people be learning right now, and how can L&D deliver it under the changed work environment?
SM People should find what is relevant and important in their work life and should learn whatever that they are uncomfortable within that. In organisations where talent management or competency framework is well placed, people should ensure that they strengthen their skills in line with the framework. Further it will be a good back up strategy for employees to identify their opportunity cost and work on developing their skill sets in that area too. It is good to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. People those who got the setback in pandemic were able to use the setback as an opportunity. They operated from a "positive mindset" and a "can do attitude". However, keeping in perspective, the current pandemic or many such crisis moments which may come in the future, it is suggested that people have a sound back up plan and create a continuous learning plan which may take into factor such crisis moments. We need to have a preventive plan rather than a corrective plan wherever possible. Further it is also suggested that people work on their personal branding. L&D professions can add a lot of value by facilitating workshops which help the organisation to set up various platforms which can help individuals and teams to create participant led learning with people as SMEs creating their own content. The content will be the most relevant and can easily be absorbed by people from that organisation if it will contain practices which work in the given the organisational culture, mistakes people are making and how to avoid that, share best practices which are working during the pandemic etc. Virtual instructor led sessions with the virtual break out room feature ensures that the L&D can run programs in large scale thus reducing the cost per participant but ensuring that quality is left uncompromised.