L&D and Leadership_ ‘Learning is not a singular event’

"The differentiation between training and competency development programs which goes beyond equipping employees with the ability to do the job well, rather in doing the job well in a dynamic environment where changes cannot be anticipated with certainty."


The Panel on Leadership was presided by the presence of Praveen Menon the Chief People Officer of India First Life, Anjali Raghuvanshi the Chief People Officer of Randstad India, Prof Nathan Subramanian the Director of the Institute of Public Enterprise in Hyderabad and Suman Rudra, the Head of Talent & Organisation Development at Larsen & Turbo. This round table of leaders discussing leadership challenges and the way forward was moderated by BW Businessworld’s senior editor- Ruhail Amin. 

Enumerating the key challenges, Praveen Menon opened the discussion on the problem that has always plagued the L&D leadership-the Return on Investment. He remarks that the answer is not simple for Learning takes time and leaders need to accept that ROI will come at a later stage. Secondly, he enumerated the differentiation between training and competency development programs which goes beyond equipping employees with the ability to do the job well, rather in doing the job well in a dynamic environment where changes cannot be anticipated with certainty. He surmised by adding that the key task for leaders is to build resilience in people and processes.  

Anjali Raghuvanshi remarked that conceptually, the understanding of Learning must evolve. “Learning is not an event, it has to happen daily, has to become a part of the culture” She believes that the important question is measured in terms of impact- ‘how has the intervention created an impact for people and business?’ She explains that the virtual reality that we are in can breed fatigue and exhaustion therefore learning has to impact people personally by stimulating individual ownership in the learning journey- An idea that borrows from linking learning to career trajectory so that employees perceive great value in learning constantly. She believes this can be achieved only when leaders walk the talk and prioritize the development agenda.  

Suman Rudra approached the question of the HR reaction to the Pandemic with a bird’s eye view. He noted that the HR function responded positively with agility. He noted that settling into the Pandemic, the focus was on the wellness of employees before slowly shifting towards maintaining productivity at home and keeping employees engaged. Now as we slowly emerge out of the pandemic, he notes that HR is now focusing on helping business gain back their productivity and get back in form. In this process, the attention has greatly been on reskilling and IT investment to provide technical support for the new normal.   

Professor Nathan concurred with Rudra and highlighted that the pandemic took the spotlight away from solely performance issues to employee well-being. Maintaining a high degree of motivation and happiness took precedence. He added, ‘A happy employee will help in making a happy organization’ He noted that this would not be a trend that will disappear post-pandemic but stay as a top priority going forward. In his closing remarks, the professor focused on attaining a balance in using digital tools and deciphering the right level of digitization that would help an organization remain competitive and future-ready. 

Raghuvanshi noted that skilling is the priority of the future and aligning that with career progression would be a future trend. She believes that attention should be given to making learning content deliverable and easy for absorption and understanding. As a means to this end, she offers that companies should make learning aspirational. They should create certifications and levels of training which would motivate employees to complete them. She adds that sponsorship and action learning projects will also aid the learning agenda as it will afford employees visibility and exposure to leaders. Her final remarks were on taking the manager along on the learning journey so that when employees emerge from training, the manager’s expectation is on the same page as the employees’ renewed competencies.  

Rudra articulated that the approach towards learning programs should shift from Man-days to man/woman behind the day-affording an upward career trajectory for individuals and grooming a handful of HiPos for managerial positions. He explained that measuring growth in terms of numbers of individuals groomed is more valuable to an organization and therefore readily usable.  

Professor Nathan observed that KPIs were moving towards increasing knowledge and competency and that learning methods now reflected that. He added that the future of learning and development was not just in terms of equipping employees with skills but also foster an attitude to deal with dynamism. 

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