FU­TURE OF WORK Mak­ing learn­ing more palat­able

Up­skilling is be­com­ing con­tin­u­ous, bite-sized, just-in-time, per­son­alised and out­come-ori­ented

The Hindu Business Line - - FRONT PAGE - CHI­TRA NARAYANAN

What will the work­place in 2020 look like? By most reck­on­ing it will be an au­to­mated, dig­i­tal world where we have bots for col­leagues, hold vir­tual meet­ings and our job roles and func­tions keep chang­ing. How do we pre­pare for such a world?

Com­pa­nies are rad­i­cally al­ter­ing their Learn­ing and Devel­op­ment (L&D) mod­els as they em­bark upon dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and pre­pare their em­ploy­ees to cope with an un­known fu­ture. From con­tent to delivery ev­ery­thing about train­ing is chang­ing. The buzz words in L&D to­day are to de­liver con­tin­u­ous, bite-sized chunks of con­tent that is just in time, just enough and per­son­alised. Also, there is a huge em­pha­sis on eval­u­at­ing and mea­sur­ing train­ing.

Arun Ra­ja­mani, Coun­try Head of Plu­ral­sight In­dia, an on­line train­ing com­pany that has de­liv­ered over one mil­lion hours of train­ing to In­dian cus­tomers, says learn­ing is now de­vi­at­ing from old mod­els of class­room train­ing and go­ing dig­i­tal. He ex­plains the im­per­a­tive: “With shrink­ing at­ten­tion spans and dig­i­tally in­duced dis­trac­tions plus the pres­sure of meet­ing work dead­lines, it is im­por­tant for learn­ing to be con­densed into bite-sized mod­ules so that the learner can switch to 2-5 min­utes of learn­ing and then switch back to their work.”

As train­ing be­comes 24/7 and all year around, sev­eral com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing in ded­i­cated L&D cen­tres at their cam­puses.

Fly­ing ahead

At Indigo, ar­guably one of In­dia’s most ef­fi­ciently run air­lines, you will find ex­am­ples of this new L&D model. As Summi Sharma, Vice-Pres­i­dent, ifly, the air­line’s ded­i­cated train­ing academy in Gur­gaon, says, L&D at Indigo is crisp and short to make it im­pact­ful, in­te­grated with op­er­a­tions to make it ac­tion­able and do-able, keep­ing it as close to re­al­ity as pos­si­ble. And it is eval­u­ated and mon­i­tored. “Af­ter train­ing, the par­tic­i­pants un­dergo tests as part of prac­tice – so that they im­ple­ment the learn­ing ef­fec­tively,” she says. Not sur­pris­ingly, Indigo has just been awarded for its L&D at the CLO Awards (Chief Learn­ing Of­fi­cers Awards) show held by Tata In­sti­tute of So­cial Sci­ence.

Although many com­pa­nies swear by the 70:20:10 frame­work of L&D – which holds that 70 per cent of learn­ing is done on the job (ex­pe­ri­en­tial), 20 per cent through in­ter­ac­tions with oth­ers (so­cial) and 10 per cent through aca­demic cour­ses (for­mal), Ra­ja­mani bluntly says there can be no ra­tios any more. How you learn no longer mat­ters.

Over to the em­ployee

He says the learn­ing ac­count­abil­ity is now in­creas­ingly shift­ing to the em­ployee. Jaspreet Bin­dra, Se­nior Vice-Pres­i­dent Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion at Mahin­dra Group, agrees that in the new world the em­ployee has to bear the onus. “When com­put­ers first came in peo­ple who didn’t learn MS word or Ex­cel had no job. Or­gan­i­sa­tions did not teach them,” he says. Eighty per cent of the onus of learn­ing lies with the em­ploy­ees and 20 per cent with the or­gan­i­sa­tion, he be­lieves. “There are so many op­tions avail­able for in­di­vid­u­als to skill up and so many ways to get trained, many of them free,” he says, point­ing to MOOCS, Stan­ford cour­ses, and such. Other ways could be to read, and at­tend con­fer­ences to gain aware­ness.

Bin­dra puts these skills into two buck­ets – hard and soft. Soft skills are cul­ture-re­lated and usu­ally de­liv­ered by the com­pany. Hard skills are tech­ni­cal and re­lated to job func­tions – some of which may be taught by or­gan­i­sa­tions. For in­stance, Mahin­dra em­ploy­ees were ex­posed to De­sign Think­ing. Ra­ja­mani says skills the most in de­mand to­day are “cloud com­put­ing, user ex­pe­ri­ence, mo­bil­ity, data sci­ences & an­a­lyt­ics, cy­ber se­cu­rity, ma­chine learn­ing, de­sign think­ing, au­to­mated test­ing , AI and RPA (ro­botic process au­to­ma­tion)”.

Out­come-ori­ented

L&D is also in­creas­ingly be­com­ing per­son­alised and ad­dress­ing the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of in­di­vid­ual learn­ers. Com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing thought into which cour­ses are bet­ter suited for which em­ployee, what the skills needed for a par­tic­u­lar role or func­tion are, and so on. All these changes are com­ing about as there is now heavy pres­sure on L&D func­tions at or­gan­i­sa­tions to de­liver and make an im­pact on busi­ness out­comes. As a re­sult train­ing has moved from be­ing a nice thing to do, to a very out­come-ori­ented ap­proach. “Ear­lier learn­ing was mea­sured on the ba­sis of time spent by a learner while to­day it is the abil­ity of the learner to demon­strate the new skills learnt on the job,” says Ra­ja­mani. Although changes are hap­pen­ing, the in­vest­ments in train­ing per em­ployee are still in­ad­e­quate, says Ra­ja­mani. MNCs tend to spend more. In­dian com­pa­nies spend just one-third of what global or­gan­i­sa­tions do. “Even if you fac­tor in cheaper costs here, we be­lieve that the spends are in­ad­e­quate con­sid­er­ing the enor­mous task ahead to trans­form or­gan­i­sa­tion ca­pa­bil­ity at scale. One of the main rea­sons for lower spends in In­dian com­pa­nies is due to their em­pha­sis on re­ly­ing upon tra­di­tional forms of learn­ing as well as lim­ited fo­cus on con­tin­u­ous learn­ing,” he feels.

Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates the over­all cor­po­rate L&D spends in the In­dian IT in­dus­try alone ex­ceed $500 mil­lion. On­line video-based learn­ing ac­counts for one-fifth of this spend and over 75 per cent of this spend comes from large and mid-sized or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Chal­lenges and in­no­va­tions

There are chal­lenges, of course, in the new mod­els. It is not easy to de­liver bite-sized learn­ing. Cu­rat­ing con­tent is a com­plex process that starts from the de­sign of a course, needs care­ful se­quenc­ing and in­cor­po­rates sig­nif­i­cant re­search of learn­ing be­hav­iour, points out Ra­ja­mani.

There are also mind­set is­sues. In the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion con­text, Bin­dra says top man­age­ment usu­ally buys in, and ju­nior em­ploy­ees usu­ally have these skills in­born. The chal­lenge is for mid­dle man­age­ment to adopt.

But sev­eral in­no­va­tions are emerg­ing too. Take Indigo, which has some­thing called ICoaches, an army of lead­ers. “Each sta­tion in our net­work has spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als who have been hand-picked and trained to rep­re­sent the L & D team at our air­ports. They not only act as our eyes and ears but also con­duct brief­ings and en­sure their teams stay up­dated by keep­ing in con­stant touch with ifly,” says Summi Sharma.

Indigo also al­lows its em­ploy­ees to take con­trol of their own learn­ing by run­ning open work­shops ev­ery month for which they can nom­i­nate them­selves and at­tend.

“At the same time, we also cre­ate DIY (do it your­self ) learn­ing videos on func­tional skills which they can view at their own con­ve­nience,” says Sharma.

Bin­dra says Mahin­dra has done in­no­va­tive stuff like get­ting em­ploy­ees to in­ter­act with star­tups or vis­it­ing new-age or­gan­i­sa­tions to see how they work in or­der to pro­mote ag­ile think­ing.

L&D is con­stantly evolv­ing. Ra­ja­mani picks three trends that will fur­ther change mod­els. These are gam­i­fied learn­ing, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and cloud tech­nol­ogy in learn­ing. “Gam­i­fied learn­ing not only makes the learn­ing process more of a fun ac­tiv­ity, it also in­creases learner en­gage­ment and ef­fec­tive­ness,” he says. Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is used for per­son­al­i­sa­tion. “Ma­chine learn­ing, which we use in our plat­form as well, will be used ex­ten­sively to un­der­stand user be­hav­iour to rec­om­mend cour­ses, paths and as­sess­ments based on their brows­ing pat­terns and in­ter­est lev­els.”

He be­lieves cloud-based learn­ing plat­forms will pick up in the enterprise space as firms look to pro­mote any-de­vice, any-lo­ca­tion, any-topic learn­ing so­lu­tions to meet their re-skilling needs at scale.

Goes down easy Lessons are bet­ter ab­sorbed in small bites GUZEL STU­DIO/ SHUT­TER­STOCK.COM

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