Remote working is here to stay, even if the virus is not
Technology organizations have already announced strategies of a high percentage of their workforce operating remotely even when the situation returns to normal. Others are also beginning to take cognizance of this inevitability and attempting to put in place mechanisms that will make the organization resilient and flexible for an uncertain future.
Talent development and Talent retention have become even more important and providing an empathetic and continuous learning experience is a key lever for the organizations to enable this. This is the biggest opportunity for L&D functions to be of value.
We at Tech Mahindra, have utilized four levers to bring a more adaptive learning experience for our associates.
The first lever is Content and Methodology. The sudden focus on technology adoption and paradigm shift in the way of working required employees to overnight pick up new technical and behavioral traits – for them and their teams and customers; Resilience, a very high Emotional Intelligence (this includes managing self, a very high degree of empathy and the courage to be vulnerable), virtual presence, coaching, and career counselling, Purpose-driven Leadership, etc. coupled with new technologies like Cloud, AI/ML and Cybersecurity. And it was important to deliver this content in an asynchronous manner so that the associate had the flexibility to consume at her pace in a way she was comfortable with. This gave her the flexibility then to accommodate learning in her already asynchronous schedule.
This shift from synchronous instructor-led learning to a flexible, multi-pedagogy, asynchronous learning is the single most critical shift for L&D and cannot be achieved without the Use of Technology and collaboration with partners to set up a Learning ecosystem – which was our second lever.
“The move to remote tools like Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc. is only the first, basic step to go virtual – and L&D functions run the risk of assuming they have done their job by successfully migrating to such virtual tools.”
L&D functions need to develop the muscle of experimenting with the almost endless possibilities that are coming up on the horizon – mobile-based micro-learning journeys, WhatsApp based engagement, virtual group coaching, gamified learning and assessments, AI-based personalized learning nudges, podcasts and micro-blogs, quizzes, and polls to name only a few. With the multifarious technology learning needs that evolve at a rapid pace and millennials who prefer choice, it was important to build a Learning ecosystem of platforms and partners that would provide a seamless, yet personalized, choice-driven experience to the learner. Tech Mahindra had embarked on this journey well before the pandemic and the NAD LEARN marketplace made it easy to help L&D meet the learning needs of a predominantly remote workforce.
The L&D Professional was transitioning from a content creator to a content curator and the remote working era has only hastened this transition to a learning experience designer. The L&D team, besides being adept in the traditional skills of instruction design and adult learning pedagogy have now also built new skills in behavioral psychology, a good understanding of learning technology and experience design, and a close engagement with business to better understand their key metrics – as learning outcomes have evolved from training person-days and coverage to employee retention and growth, increased billing rates, reduced external hiring, etc. These are largely new skills for the Learning professional and can make us uncomfortable. However, it is critical for us to travel this uncomfortable zone so that we can help our associates and business to travel their own. The Upskilling of the Learning Team was our third lever.
The fourth lever is Leadership Support. The single biggest need in a long duration remote working environment is Psychological safety – and that is true for all employees, including L&D. It is the responsibility of leadership to enable an environment of psychological safety by demonstrating greater tolerance and empathy, openness to ask questions and seek support and bringing clarity in terms of redefining the purpose and aligning goals to the extent possible. This enables employees to experiment with new ideas and new ways of working and learning.
An era of change of this dimension has the potential to produce many moments of learning. It is important for L&D professionals to realize that Learning happens every moment and their approach should become adaptive and integrative to create and capture these learning moments that come from success and failure. It is a seemingly insurmountable task and it requires the L&D Function and the Leadership of the organization to shift from measuring L&D in narrow terms of training ROI to broader terms of employee engagement and morale, experimentation, and exponential talent growth.
This is the biggest opportunity for L&D to enable personal and business transformation.