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Digital Transformation & Innovation in Corporate Learning and Development : 2021

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

Manoj Kothari, February 6, 2021


Physical notes I made while moderating this session - made possible by the 'digital'​ nature of things :)


I moderated a roundtable session on the theme, Digital Transformation in Learning and Development, with innovation challenges as the underbelly. Participants included some of the senior leaders in the Learning and Development sector, most of whom belong to the Indian IT sector. The event was organised by tHub, Hyderabad.

L&D is undergoing transformation not just due to the ‘digital’ but also due to large demographic shifts, rapidly changing business models and changing geopolitical situations with far-reaching effects. The challenge of an engaging learning experience that is on-demand and personalised is faced not only by millennials and GenZ. In fact, it spills into the entirety of the multi-generational workforce currently in the offices and on the workshop-floors. Bite-sized learning is already a cliche and 'learning in the flow of work' is being spoken about. Here are my salient takeaways from the session -

1. Pressing need for ‘Skills Map 3D’: In large organisations, mapping skills of the employees against the organisational needs continues to be a stumbling block. Let's say a person has expertise in Java, C++ and Python. He/She is also a critical thinker with a problem-solving attitude. On top of that, they ‘could have’ the capabilities necessary for project management. It turns even more complex in the present age of disruption, when skills become obsolete every 5-7 years. What's missing is a comprehensive model that can mitigate this challenge by charting out employee skills comprehensively and facilitating their intersection with organizational requirements.

My view: I thought IT companies had it all covered by now. This is a case where tech is helpless unless there is a core model to map these. This model will be a complex one and can be a potential opportunity for startups.

2. Top-down change management: No scenarios related to Digital Transformation and/or Design Thinking can become a reality UNLESS the leaders change their BAU (Business as Usual) methods.

My view: All through our consulting @TurianLabs with large organisations trying to implement Design Thinking, this is exactly our learning. Unless the team at the top is aligned with the change to-be introduced, nothing moves. Decision making in this regard is never bottom-up.

3. Changing role of L&D - Learning Ecosystem Facilitation: Learning is now seen as a JOURNEY rather than as an event. There is great 'democratisation' on the way. This implies no more counting hours of training per year as a sacrosanct metric. With the changing needs of the stakeholders, the job of the L & D team is to create an ecosystem that facilitates the user to learn on his own terms, pace and size. The role of L&D professionals is shifting from 'drivers' to that of 'facilitators'.

My view - Millennials and GenZ have been spoken about as people needing bite-sized learning in 'gamified' or 'fun' ways to match their short attention span. Our own research speaks to the contrary. These are highly driven individuals seeking 'authentic learning' when it comes to their careers. They are a part of the DIY generation which can assemble its own learning-furniture. All that the organisations need to do is to make things available.

4. Big picture accessibility: Data analytics makes the big picture of the business available to the employees. This accelerates the process of skill upgradation with responsibility. Although de facto, in a small company and a startup, this must happen in a large setup as well to infuse seeds of innovation in the employees. (Data analytics also has another ‘job to do’, is to be able to digest the user-data from online sessions, with more efficacy).

5. Digital personality adoption enablement: More than the digital transformation of the system, what is needed is that the end-users/employees adopt digital personalities such that the postman of yesteryears is a banker of today (doing almost all that at our doorstep, that a banker does in the bank). The pertinent question is: How can organisations facilitate this adoption of digital personalities even before the digital transformation mandate.

My view: Great point. But I feel this is a transitional phase where some are more 'digital' than others. Very quickly, in a way, we all would be the 'digital first' generation. 90% of Indians would be on the internet by 2030. As 'millennial' is now being touted as a mindset more than a generation, we can sit easy on this point.

6. Gamification 2.0 - a real game changer: Gamification 2.0 would be beyond tiny tricks, leaderboards and medals, which the current version of gamification has been loosely sold as. It would be about close to real-life simulations and scenarios using augmented reality and AI that would help train project managers, salesmen, shop-floor workers and business strategists faster, farther and better.

7. Training the gig workers is a challenge: Gig workers are a growing reality in all sectors and training people-on-contract could be challenging.

My view: However, gig-working is no longer a phenomenon restricted to small time or low-paying jobs. Higher social strata refers to this as 'portfolio lifestyle' - where a person chooses to freelance for multiple jobs or engages in diverse kinds of work at the same time. Building ace teams with these gig-workers or portfolio-teammates would be a great challenge for the large organisations of the future.

And a bonus fact I got to know - Indian IT organisations have much better women centric work policies than their western counterparts. And yes, Indian women may lead the tech world of tomorrow.

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