Why must India Inc Invest in Learning Initiatives?

2021 is already seeing an emergence of skill-hungry professionals and artisans. Companies are opting for candidates who are agile and creative. It is important that we recognise the significance of employee learning and development during these crucial times


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The Green Disruption was reflected in the double- and triple-digit growth in users and revenue of several asynchronous (self-paced) learning platforms like LinkedIn, Coursera, Udemy and numerous LearningTech start-ups riding the wave. In fact, LinkedIn Learning reported 3X jump in their user base during pandemic. During our part IV of the Work Reimagined survey conducted in Oct 2020, 69% of businesses surveyed made tall claims of “self-paced learning” being their go-to method to support a culture of continuous learning in their organizations.

Do these numbers represent true intent of India Inc? Probably not. In fact, the Red Disruption presented stark reality of the sharp drop in people development investments by India Inc. and how virtual developmental options were used to keep people busy during this pandemic. During my recent conversation with several CXOs, an interesting trend was observed. CXOs were unsatisfied with the use of asynchronous learning platforms due to the lack of results seen in terms of people development. This method was only adopted during pandemic because of its lower cost. One of the biggest disadvantages of this method is the fact that employees registering for these sessions can easily mute their eyes, ears, and interest along with computer audio-video. This exactly shows the urgent need of revamping company’s learning strategies in recent times.

It is shocking to know that majority of Indian mid-size companies spend less than 1% of their revenue on developing their most critical resources – people. The irony however is these same companies spend nearly 3% to 6% on upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure.

Companies have now understood the importance of blended learning and hence have shifted their focus from asynchronous learning to synchronous learning. While the future will continue to have blended learning ecosystem, these organizations need to be more committed by investing more financial and time resources for people development. Here are 6 major reasons, as to why India Inc needs to invest in Learning initiatives.

Learning – An Essential and Sustained Investment: With projected 11.5% GDP growth for this financial year, Indian companies will now have to learn to unlearn old practices to be prepared for the coming agile and dynamic market scenario. Indian companies will have to evolve in terms of making learning programs an integral part of their strategy to survive in this demanding environment. Companies will need to build resilience for managing the unknown and unpredicted which can only be achieved through continuous learning programs.

As per the Training Industry Reports, organizations in USA and Europe spend nearly USD 1200 per employee per annum for learning and development against USD 120 per employee per annum by Indian corporations. This staggering data shows the need for Standard Accounting Practices to include a strong mandate towards making learning and development programs a fundamental priority for Indian companies.

Globally Competitive Workforce: We have now witnessed major shift in the federal policies including the latest performance linked incentives for new manufacturing. With so many policy initiatives and young workforce, India is set to attract huge investments from across the world. Global investments in Telecom, IT, Pharma, Defence, Auto, Infra, Process Outsourcing, and several other essential manufacturing sectors will need highly skilled globally competitive workforce. This would include soft skills like being decisive, visionary, agile, and resilient in this ever-changing landscape. For maintaining this, our workforce will need to experience immersive and continuous learning.

Employability Gap: There is an urgent need to address the challenge of employability gap. Some reports indicate that 46% of Indian graduates are not qualified for any industry job and 71% engineering graduates are not employable. Even with the newly announced education policies, India will only be able to reap its benefits after a decade of implementation. For Indian companies to grow, they will have to own up this task of making India’s youth employable. In the past decade, the encouraging fact has been that the unemployability of India’s educated youth has reduced by 14% according to the India Skills Report survey of 2019. However, the need for skill training acquires enormous magnitude and unprecedented urgency specially in a talent rich country like India.

Nurturing Assertion, Confidence and Self-esteem: Indian workforce often lacks assertion, oscillates on two extremes of confidence continuum, and looks for external validations on several occasions. One of the reasons for these characteristics is the lack of appropriate feedback ecosystem and learning apparatus during formative years of school education. Corporate organization will therefore need to invest consistently in people development. After all, having a more developed workforce will only mean higher speed and quality of output for these organizations.

WFH and Gig Workforce: From the changing dimensions of nature of work to introduction of new labour codes, organisations are now forced to become more flexible, agile, and streamlined in their policies for talent acquisition and talent retention. Learning cohorts in the companies will need to be nurtured now not just by large corporates of India, but by large number of MSMEs as well. As someone said – Path for Million Dollar company to be Billion Dollar passes through avoidable but essential investment in upgrading people capabilities. This will stand true for Indian start-up ecosystem as well. With WFH and Gig workforce becoming norm for all sectors, companies will need to undertake strong measures for their continuous upskilling.

Gender Diversity: With gender diversity becoming a key focus for Indian companies, Covid 19 has led women to re-explore and advance their careers by availing flexible working opportunities. While large number of Indian corporates have been very sensitive to the needs to build gender diversity, often some lack providing specific inputs on developing women workforce and that too those who restarted their career. With the technology industry going through changes on a regular basis, a hiatus can lead to a gap in knowledge which can only be fixed through continuous learning interventions.

2021 is already seeing an emergence of skill-hungry professionals and artisans. Companies are opting for candidates who are agile and creative. Digital Skills are the most sought-after new age employable skills. It is important that we recognise the significance of employee learning and development during these crucial times. This will help in pushing workers to adopt a growth mindset and foster a culture of continuous learning which is of high importance right now.

As organizations develop future-fit leaders and teams prepared to deal with increasingly frequent change, there should be a focus prioritizing agility, and this can only be achieved though continuous learning journeys. Let people development be as essential as energy for doing business.

(Given article includes inputs from Samir Parikh, Founder, NamanHR)

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