L&D – The Neo Normal Reality

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The role and impact of Learning & Development as a process has undergone a paradigm shift in the mind space of organizations. Organizations have over the years evolved to understand and appreciate the importance of L&D as a strategic process for sustainable organizational growth. It can be established with empirical data that learning organizations are racing ahead of the others in terms of employee engagement, work culture and profitable growth.

“Leveraging of digital technology has been on a constant rise by organizations to increase the reach of L&D initiatives and also to improve the efficacy of the people development processes. Learning management systems are being put in place to facilitate an effective implementation of a blended learning approach – A hybrid model class room and virtual learning methodologies”

However, this approach is also experiencing rapid transformation with the evolution of technology like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Robotics, Automation, Intelligent App, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Conversational UI (Bots), Drones….the list is unending.

Technology is now an integral part of our lives, impacting and influencing our behaviour in a significant manner. It is now clearly evident that millennials will make up 50% of workforce by 2025 and they have made technology a part of their everyday lives and are constantly embracing all technological changes. This new generation workforce has a strong need for self-development and hence expects the organizations to provide them with technology enabled platforms to learn and grow professionally in a more agile and effective manner. Most L & D professionals are well aware of this need and therefore are working towards supporting their employees with a more digitized learning environment.

Against this backdrop of digital disruptions and imminent automation of learning processes, the L&D professionals will have to reinvent and align themselves to the new age people development methodologies.

The form in which the future of  L&D is likely to take shape, the 5 major challenges L & D processes and professionals will face are as follows :-

Enabling Digital Mind-Set For Leaders

Leaders will require embracing and imbibing digital technologies in their thought processes. They would need to realign their approach to leadership in the digital ecosystem where their team members are now expecting learning opportunities in a different form and shape. While the leaders and the L & D managers on one hand would have to provide digital platforms to their employees for learning, they would also need to move out of the virtual world to engage on personal interaction with the employees to understand and measure the learning outcomes.

With the advent of the new wave of digital learning, leaders in organizations should commit themselves to create a learning ecosystem that meets the needs of the new generation workforce and the first step in this direction is to commit investments in creating the appropriate digital infrastructure in their respective organizations.

Organizational Readiness To Change

Change never comes without resistance. As the global trend of L&D is changing from the traditional class room type of training to digital learning it is important for the organizations to change their idea about the L&D process. Fewer than 20 percent of employers in seven high-skilled economies are prepared to adopt digital workplace technologies such as virtual collaboration and mobile tools, according to a new survey by research firm Gartner.

The success of digital transformation often depends more on proper change management than on the technology itself, making it essential to involve stakeholders from across the organization who are willing to champion transformation initiatives. Employees must also be aligned to the new learning environment and they must be constantly encouraged to leverage the digital learning platforms through various reward and recognition programs.

Getting Employees To Make Time For Learning

According to a 2018 study by LinkedIn, the biggest challenge for talent and workforce development is getting employees to make time for learning.

In order to address this, knowledge and skills must be delivered with more learning value, but with less learning time needed. Learning can be of shorter duration, with sharper focus, delivered flexibly. L&D teams will have to adopt a blended learning delivery model – Class room and virtual – to ensure optimization of time and effort.

The availability of online courses and certifications has increased exponentially in recent times. Organizations that have incorporated this mode of training feel that it has distinct advantages such as self-paced learning, it is easy to integrate into L&D strategy and processes and it can be updated regularly with updated contents.

Over-Leveraging Of Technology

Technology certainly addresses the issue of the L&D managers having to spend a large part of their work time in doing repetitive mundane activities and frees them up to focus on strategically engaging with business to design courseware in line with business requirements, designing & monitoring of delivery systems and engaging with employees to measure the learning outcomes.  However, over-dependency and over–leveraging of technology to ensure speedier and broader coverage of training delivery systems by the L&D managers may take them away from the employees making the entire learning ecosystem very digital but quite impersonal. The L&D managers will have to strike the right balance between the virtual and the real.

Employee Engagement

In a virtual learning environment it is often found the employees tend to disengage themselves from the learning process due to variety of reasons – lack of proper monitoring of the learning process, external distractions, work related pressure and quality of courseware.

One of the most effective ways to engage, inspire, and motivate employees is to create immersive online training content and delivery mechanism. This may include real-world online training simulations, case studies, gamification, virtual/augmented reality etc. The key is to draw them into the learning process right from the start so that they get focused and sustain their self-development effort. The inputs also need to be designed in such a manner that the learner finds it to be relevant and relatable. A learner would only be interested to invest his/her time and effort in the learning process if he/she knows that the knowledge and skill which they acquire will be beneficial to them in their career.

An employee also tends to adopt a rather casual approach to digital learning if a proper monitoring and evaluation system for understanding the implementation efficiency of the learning outcome is not in place. The L&D managers need to put in place certain checks and balances to periodically measure the efficacy of the digital learning platforms provided by their organizations in order to ensure that the systems are relevant, agile and meets the expectations of the employees.

Learning in the digital environment is the neo-normal in the world of learning and development and this is there to stay.

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Sujoy Banerjee is a HR professional with 29 years of experience across industry sectors like Automobile, Tyre, Chemicals, Gases, Consumer Good, Industrial Products, IT, Pharmaceuticals, FMCG and Infrastructure & Construction. He is currently the “Group Chief People Officer” at Gainwell Commosales Private Limited. He started his career in 1990 with Tata Motors Limited at Jamshedpur and since then has worked in various capacities in organizations like Dunlop, ICI, Philips, BOC, Organon, Eveready and McNally Bharat Engineering Company Limited.

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