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Defining the Future of Learning

Defining the Future of Learning
Prithvi Shergill - Chief Human Resources Officer | April 15, 2016

Over the past five - ten years, Organizations specifically in the IT industry have found the workforce operating in a state of accelerated change. They have witnessed a continued march of globalisation and a rapid pace of technological development.

Business as usual has undergone transformation with the advent of collaboration technologies, universal access and social networking. Work processes, once designed to be uniform, are giving way to more complexity and workforces, once more homogeneous now seek and reflect diversity. The current reality is the workplace is turning into physically and temporally dislocated collaborative environments facilitated by digital communications. What we see is an emergence of an entire nation of digital natives belonging to different cultures, speaking a similar language though expressed differently, and exchanging information as comfortably in virtual as in physical interactions. Creative friction is being encouraged to solve problems and deal with risk.

These transformations have caused an upheaval in the way that organizations are accustomed to plan, do, check and act to invest in passion, potential, performance and productivity of its people. The rapid changes are redefining how we think about competence, creativity, contribution and commitment.

So the question being asked by HR professionals is what should be the role of Learning and Development as a function in the future in this changing context.

It is evident that that the disruptive trends being experienced have brought about an exponential evolution to the way the employees want to learn. Learning in the future has to adopt a learner centric approach while responding to the needs of the business with the requisite agility.

The HR professional accountable for Learning needs to focus on being a Development Architect rather than a Trainer, simply producing and/or distributing content, courses and opportunities with the new primary goal being to be accountable to build capacity and ability at the right time, in the right place, with the right skill and at the right cost. We need to shift the focus from measures related to process maturity and service delivery to measure return on investments and quality of the learning experience.

To enable Learning and Development as seen through our Crystal Ball suggests professionals need to:

  1. Teach employees how to learn: Most employees fail to realize the full value of their formal and informal learning experiences. Learning leaders must go further and change the way the function designs and delivers learning to proactively address employees’ aspirations to learn by enhancing their ability to access high quality learning assets.
  2. “Right-size” learning opportunities: Curate, direct and align the supply of learning solutions as per the current and aspired role of each employee. Targeted development supports the learners and the business to grow.
  3. Make learning a game: Employees who grew often playing multiplayer games online are inclined to welcome gaming into their work life, too. Some experts predict that Workforce of the Future will integrate gaming technology to make complex information simpler and more available. Forming temporary teams, collaborating across functions and distance, and distributing decision making will become the norm. The Workforce of the Future will likely be less responsive to getting their information through speaker-centric, linear cognitive modes such as Microsoft PowerPoint and more receptive to the holistic information transfer typical of computer gaming.
  4. Create Collective Learning ‘on the job’: There is much that is learnt on the job through interactions with peers, experts, and manager. These interactions continue to increase with access and availability to new age digital platforms making communication a click away.

    Progressive organizations are creating and investing in internal platforms being the preferred media for internal communication as it makes it easier to build connections within teams and form global communities across employees or of people with diverse views on similar matters of interest, helps crowd-sourcing of insights related to client opportunities and career options, and connecting with role models who can mentor others across geographies and cultures, as well as also builds a sense of community and belonging for employees regardless of the location of their workplace. These networks can also be extended to customers, clients, and other stakeholders.

  5. Coach real–time: In the future, the act of mentoring has to be seamlessly integrated into each employee’s work life cycle. It needs to be issue and incident based, and not be based on a calendar, usually annual and only be developmental in nature. Today’s multi-generational workforce expects mentoring to be made available proactively by their team as performance support on-demand to perform in the networked workplace environment they share with and by peers, direct reports, manager & leaders. Inverting the pyramid to engage, enable and empower people is an expectation we have of leaders at all levels so they create a workplace environment that seeds, nurtures and harvests innovation and creates value for all stakeholders.

This article was featured in the India Today magazine on March 3,2016

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