“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” – Mark Twain
In my view, every forward thinking organization attempts to have a journey, where today is better than yesterday and tomorrow looks more promising than today.
To have a compounding business growth journey, fungible skills and capabilities are paramount. Organizations ought to create a strong and efficient human capital quotient, by investing in up-skilling and cross skilling its existing employees through well integrated learning eco-systems. This has an added advantage to talent retention, employee engagement and business growth. In today’s dynamic business eco-system, continuous learning is not just tasked with developing an agile workforce for the present; but also, prepare them with right level of capabilities to deliver future business performance.
The role of CLO is transforming with the only mission of helping organizations and the employees to sustain and thrive as technologies, business practices, and industries undergo rapid change.
Deloitte reports that companies with continuous learning culture experiences 37% higher productivity and 92% of more innovation.
Institutionalizing continuous learning in the organization requires certain distinct approaches:
- The need for organizations to become adaptable to continuous learning means to evolve corporate learning goals. Goals that are not limited to developing new skills, rather to influence specific business & HR prerogatives (e.g. increase in revenue, improvement in productivity, CSAT, NPS, quality metrics, impact on attrition, recruitment, talent retention and many more).
- Shared Partnership. Most organizations expect L&D to provide formal learning opportunities and expect the managers to provide much needed on the job coaching, which is an absolute critical need to superlative performance. Irrespective of the intent, it is seen that a dismal 9% of people managers actually engage in effective coaching. Continuous learning requires equal commitment and investment of time and effort from both the parties across the aisle. Learning strategy must inculcate this shared partnership and commitment.
- Integrate 70:20:10 learning model into the learning strategy, with greater emphasis on 70% (OJT). Getting right interventions for this component is vital to organizational effectiveness. The successful implementation of 70% of the model also contributes to better ROI for L&D investments. This 70% is also depiction of shared partnership between L&D and business.
This learning model also helps in striking a balance between face to face and digital learning. Organizations typically allocate 70-80% of their L&D budgets for facilitators and only 20% to digital learning. It is time to flip the ratio. Digital learning allows flexibility to the learners to engage in learning as per their pace and time.
- Reshape Leadership development. The change of any form in an organization starts with the setting of right message, behaviour and conduct at the top leadership. Leaders need to Walk the Talk by being nimble and demonstrating continuous learning. Hence, leadership development at the top should focus on taking unconventional / new ways of doing business, taking calculated risks, learning from their experiments and sharing their learning (disappointments and accomplishments) with equal panache. This approach augments leaders to reflect on their mindset, not just their skills and expertise.
- Focus on capabilities, not competence. Capabilities enable people to sustain in the present and thrive in the future. Competence tends to box an individual to a specific area, domain thereby creating unconscious restriction and killing fungibility. This can be detrimental for the organization in the long run. Lack of fungible capabilities can lead to limited resource mobility within the organization leading to undesirable people costs.
- Feedback is a gift and an art. Learn to give it effectively and generously. The ability to give and receive effective feedback is a powerful skill that remains untapped and unexplored among all the rungs of leadership. Continuous learning is possible when there is a transparent, just-in-time and amiable exchange of inputs that encourages an individual to learn and perform better irrespective of the level of hierarchy one might be at.
As part of learning strategy and initiatives, this is one critical skill that should be part of managers and leaders development track so that the 70% OJT is effectively imparted.
- Learning should transcend hierarchy. Environment of peer learning and flipped learning is important to create an open mindset and have a successful continuous learning eco-system. The ability, flexibility and openness to learn from juniors and peers are extremely liberating and generate higher level of collective engagement, innovation and productivity.
- Easy accessibility of learning resources. Striking a fine balance between what I want to learn vs what I need to learn is crucial for continuous learning.
While organizations may be tempted to encourage their workforce learn skills that are pertinent to the current job, nonetheless the flexibility to learn something entirely different that need not have an immediate bearing on the current job envisages a long view of L&D
strategy. Hence, learning eco-systems must be devised to support the intent. This definitely requires certain investment and should be part of CLO’s long term vision.
- Solving real life problems. As a learner, I embrace new learning when I face any challenge. Replace face to face learning to hands-on simulations, where employees need to solve critical real life problems. Simulations can be ‘three dimensional case studies’ or series of situations weaved in to enable the learner solve the situations. This hands on or experiential learning gives the learner a taste of their own solutioning of a real life issue.
- Immersive Learning. L&D strategy should integrate instruction, introspection and immersion.Continuous learning happens when as a learner; I hear, think about what I have heard, mull over it and then imbibe in my daily work – life. And this cycle has to be vicious.
The fast changing business environment presents an opportunity to CLOs to be strategic and transformers to assist an organization to outperform in their present and future.
Immense and very interesting times ahead for CLOs!!
-By Reshmi Raghavachari [Head – Learning & Organizational Development, TeamLease Services Limited]