The Evolving Role of Learning and Development

By Gunjan L Somaya, Sr. Manager Learning & Development, General Mills


Gunjan L Somaya, Sr. Manager Learning & Development, General Mills

Learning & Development has evolved as a role and function with its primary focus shifting from building technical expertise within a domain and retention mecha­nism to building leadership capa­bility and engagement of the talent within the organization. What really has impacted L&D in last few years is the technology and the generation (Gen Y) at workplace.

I)  Technology:

In this ever changing fast paced world where SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) is disrupting the world and becoming a game changer for new technolo­gies in the business; organizations are soon riding on this new wave and adapting to the digitization. How is this new wave impacting the organizations and the way employees learn?

Digitalization is not only changing the way organi­zations are structured but also the way people operate and get their work done. From Bring your own device (BYOD), flexibility, work from home (WFH) to getting things done through Artificial Intelligence and Robot­ics. The workplace is becoming increasingly automated from the assembly line to white-collar jobs. Artificial in­telligence (AI) and robotics is altering the earlier organi­zation patterns from recruitment, talent management & engagement to exit. This trend in automation is spread­ing quickly in various sectors and will affect many dif­ferent jobs across all industries.
Trends in L&D: Learning space is changing and the demand for micro learning; with structured, personalized, bite-size videosis on arise. Bite-size videos help employees easily access, learn and retain key message, with the advantage of reach to multiple people and locations.
Virtual reality: with wearables and gamification has emerged as an advanced and innovative way of learning for the need to directly experience and practical applica­tion of learning. 
Just-In-Time (JIT): learning is fastest and easiest way to reach out to millions/billions of employees across dif­ferent locations at the same time. Organizations continue to invest in web-based JIT learning opportunities to make use of this highly effective learning solution. 
Big-Data & Analytics: Few successful organizations have already started leveraging learning technologies to create training programs based on data-driven learning strategies, big data analysis and measurement of learn­ing outcomes. To develop better training initiatives in the future, companies can build models from the abundance of data available in order to predict potential results, track learning & behavioural patterns of the participants.
Open online learning platforms: Wide majority of people worldwide browse & rely on search engines like google; organizations with internal search engine and interactive- online learning platform with formal and in­formal learning will help employees to learn, share and interact with people in real-time across domains and ge­ographies.
Skills Development: Technical skills such as IT, soft­ware development, office productivity, data analytics and design thinking has seen a massive growth during 2016 and it will continue to grow in 2017. In soft skills and leadership continued focus has been on cross-cultural communication, etiquette, making impactful presenta­tion, leadership presence; along with critical thinking, design thinking, creativity & innovation. With the change in performance management system and transparency as a key theme for organizations, need for giving effective and timely feedback and coaching by immediate manager is becoming of prime importance for every business and L&D head.

II) Generation @ Work:

With Gen Y as prominent players in the business environ­ment and Gen Z soon to join the workforce; dynamics at workplace will soon change.

Research done by ‘The Bersin by Deloitte’ indi­cated, ‘Opportunity to be a leader’ and ‘Professional Development’ as top two priorities by millennials besides Work Life Balance, Flexibility and Sense of meaning for my work. The survey showed that 22 percent of millenni­als desired learning benefits, as compared to 19 percent wanting flexible work schedules and 14 percent wanting cash bonuses. It is clear that this trend will continue and more millennials will enter the workforce seeking training opportunities that they can leverage to climb the corpo­rate ladder.

L&D Professionals: Today, organizations are blending informal and formal learning by supporting training classes with videos, on­line games, coaching, and other learning tools. L&D pro­fessionals will have to continue to provide blended learn­ing approaches with multiple options to choose from: video, online content, web/mobile-based platforms to im­mersive technology to all-day learning festivals.

With niche skillset requirements increasing within or­ganizations and industry and shortage of candidate avail­ability in the job market, companies with have to continue look inward for developing their talent. This would mean a lot of partnering from L&D with the business leaders to understand the specific needs of the business and map it to the employees’ career aspirations to engage & develop employees and drive talent pipeline to achieve business outcomes.

While we all have seen training metrics and leveraged it for measuring course completion rates and test scores; what’ll really matter is how we build predictive models using big data and analytics to understand how learner’s behaviour is impacted post the learning activity, what per­cent of learners will apply the learning at work, what busi­ness outcomes will they achieve and what learning path will they opt for next.

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