Seshadri Venkatachalapathi, Deputy General Manager, Training, Syntel
The last two decades have witnessed a tremendous change in the way organisations learn. Learning and development has matured into a practice that keeps the learner at the centre, strategically aligning the learning efforts of employees to the business goals of the organization. In doing so, it has and continues to expand the variety of experts required in the corporate learning eco-system.
Back in early 2000s, L&D consisted merely of a pool of Subject Matter Experts delivering training courses in specific areas –such as Sales Trainer, Voice & Accent Expert, Java Trainer, etc. With the gaining popularity of e-Learning, opportunities got created for a new breed of experts within L&D – Roles such as Instructional Designer and Content Developer gained popularity to design engaging eLearning courses. Instructional Designers are experts in designing the instructional curriculum based on research-based practices to achieve a targeted learning outcome. They are neither content experts, nor technology experts, but have a deep understanding how to design an engaging learning experience. Content developers are experts, on the other hand, are experts in graphic design, multimedia development, professional writing, and documentation.
Certain organisations have, as part of their L&D practice, a team of Performance Consultants, who are equipped with strong subject matter expertise and work with the business teams on special projects to deliver tangible business improvements.
The most recent and noteworthy addition is the role of a Learning Business Partner, who draws up a holistic learning strategy based on the Organisation’s Business strategy. The LBP, as it is called, is an L&D consultant and a business expert rolled into one. He/she understands the industry trends, organisational strategies, learning best practices to design a series of target driven learning interventions across technical, process, soft skills and leadership areas. These interventions cut across formal learning, informal learning from peers as well as on-job learning.
The industry has started adopting principles of game-based learning to make the learning enjoyable and impactful, opening up doors for gamification experts.
The Learning Management System (LMS) that used to be a stand-alone system for hosting e-Learning and capturing Learning data is also maturing to provide advanced analytics and intelligent recommendations for learning to employees based on status changes such as role changes or promotions. Many companies have taken their LMS a step further to integrate with the Knowledge Management Platforms, which is a social platform for employees to share their knowledge and participate in organisation-wide online communities. This paves the way for an exponentially increasing body of knowledge generated and accessed by employees. The development and sustenance of such LMS and KM platforms requires technology experts who have a deep understanding of the learning life cycle. The Knowledge Management expert is one who specialises in building and sustaining an online community of experts.
MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses are now becoming an integral part of the learning solutions. MOOC Providers such as Coursera, edX, Udacity etc. host courses from respected universities simultaneously benefiting overwhelming thousands of users across the globe. Many such courses are available for free, but also allow the learners to get a validated certificate for a nominal fee. Organisations have started to recognise the power of mobile-friendly learning solutions these MOOCs offer and partner with providers to sponsor off-the-shelf or customised yet cost-effective learning opportunities for employees.
L&D teams are starting to realise that it is no longer cost effective to hold just a centralised pool of trainers. As organisations diversify and introduction of new technological advancements speed up, the L&D has come to increasingly rely either on a de-centralised team of experts or the business teams themselves for sharing their experience and expertise. The challenge for L&D then, is to bring together the experts and the learners in a controlled and a structured learning environment. Such an environment delineates a clear learning path that correlates to the Skill-expectations as well as career aspirations of the employees. Mechanisms are put in place to groom senior subject matter experts to become Trainers, Online community leaders and On-job mentors. Competence management systems integrate into the overall HR Information systems thus feeding data for possible promotions, job-rotations, skill-based compensation and the like. The Chief Learning Officer is the architect behind integrating all the related elements to create a learning culture that delivers competitive advantage for the organization.
The future of Learning & Development looks absolutely promising as disruptive trends in business models and technologies require people to not just learn and adapt faster but also unlearn what is already learnt. This necessitates creation of a learning environment that is explorative, on-demand as well as life-long. Innovative learning methodologies such as flipped classroom, reverse mentoring, Second life etc. are being experimented with in the Indian context.
With India’s knowledge workers playing an increasingly important role in the world economy, the role of Learning & Development consultant can look forward to becomes all the more pivotal to help meet the talent demands.