Amidst the endless growth versus inflation debates, and squabbles over the likely GDP growth rate, what stands out clearly is that the Indian economy is growing at a higher pace than some of its western counterparts. Multinationals are looking eastwards to take advantage of the rising demand. The emerging economies are at the centrestage of economic action, and the key to sustaining this growth lies in complementing the robust capital inflows with adequate and skilled human capital.
As multinationals ramp up operations, there is an inevitable scramble for talent in a highly competitive marketplace. PwCs 2012 APEC CEO survey has found that the perceived skills shortage is a real threat to expansion, with 42% of the participant CEOs expecting the pressure to only intensify. It is imperative that organisations not only think out of the box to leverage new and creative avenues for recruiting talent, but also supplement it with developing the right skills internally. As a fallout of this strong business case for talent development, the onus is on learning and development (L&D) to respond to this call, and play a pivotal role in supporting business strategy.
It is, therefore, important now, more than ever before, for L&D to align its strategy with business needs, and take ownership for demonstrating the value and impact of training on business.
There is a growing trend for L&D to move away from targets like average training days or average per person training days, which its been traditionally chasing, and focus on initiatives that are relevant from business perspective. Suchitra Bhaskar, director, training & organisational development at CRISIL, says that all L&D initiatives at the company are strongly linked to business outcomes.
This trend is corroborated by Raj Bowen, managing director, PDI Ninth House, a global leadership solutions company, who, through his interactions with clients, has not only found a definite and unmitigated corporate commitment to employee development, but has also noticed an encouraging trend of accountability, with L&D teams exercising caution in utilising budgets. Organisations are also scrutinising their training initiatives, eliminating those that are underutilised or have a low business impact, and executing ones that make business sense.
Pallab Mukherji, president, human resources, India Infoline Ltd (IIFL), adds, Budgets have never been a constraint for the right initiatives, and there is no precedence of a HR programme, aimed at accelerating operational efficiency, being dropped due to inadequate resources.
Senior management commitment to employee development manifests itself both by way of budget allocation as well as in the form of active involvement in promoting L&D initiatives. Suchitra Bhaskar says that not only are CRISILs business leaders forthcoming with suggestions for creating training content, they also participate actively in stand-up training delivery. This enhances engagement levels and makes training effective, since the audience tends to be more receptive to messages delivered directly by business leaders. Training programmes are more contextualised as a result of their understanding of the organisational perspective. This sends out a strong message about the seriousness that the management accords to people development.
Pallab Mukherji adds that business heads and directors at IIFL actively participate in knowledge sharing sessions on the domain and business side with the IIFL staff. A spokesperson of IDBI Bank similarly speaks of a 100% senior management sponsorship for training and development in terms of budgets and infrastructure.
What is the focal area of L&D in terms of employee levels According to a Bersin & Associates report, best practice companies today are developing leaders at all levels, by allocating nearly 60% of their leadership development budget to the emerging, front-line and mid level leaders. It also reports a slight drop in the senior executive allocation compared with previous years.
Raj Bowen explains that the new emerging leader band comprises the movers and shakers or fast trackers, who have not had the advantage of learning from experience as a result of moving through the ranks step by step. And it is imperative to equip this group with the right business, interpersonal and people management skills, since the top management depends on them for executing the business strategy.
Pallab Mukherji points out that while developmental opportunities are available to everyone at IIFL, they are largely aimed at the middle and senior management employees.
What are the top competencies that organisations are aiming to inculcate Two competencies stand outfirst, the ability to influence the customer and, second, the ability to build talent.
Suchitra Bhaskar says that one of the top competencies CRISIL is seeking to address is the ability to influence stakeholders. This is crucial from the business perspective and encompasses skills like communication, presentation and relationship management with internal and external stakeholders.
Pallab Mukherji alludes to this as being client savvy or having the ability to appreciate the clients context, understand his needs, and respond to them with alacrity, within the given boundaries. A spokesperson of IDBI Bank speaks of customercentricity and marketing skills being identified by senior management as important, and being the focal area for L&D initiatives.
Organisations look upon managers as crucial cogs in the wheel for building talent, as they are best placed to take on this task. CLC Learning and Development research shows that employees reporting to managers who are effective at employee development have a 25% higher performance level, 40% higher retention level and 29% higher commitment level, compared to those who work for relatively ineffective managers. Further, 75% of the managers believe that employee development is an integral component of their jobs, but less than half are effective at developing their direct reports.
Suchitra Bhaskar says that from a leadership development perspective, CRISIL is striving to inculcate coaching skills in its leaders through a formal training intervention. Senior leaders are coaching a group of high-potential talent that would help create a culture of coaching, which would go a long way in building talent in the organisation.
Pallab Mukherji observes that for HR at IIFL the focus remains on team building, grooming managers as team leaders and motivating employees towards becoming engaged at work.
According to the 70:20:10 rule of learning, only 10% of learning happens as a result of formal training, 20% on account of environmental support, and 70% as a result of the employees own initiative to learn on the job. In view of this, the first task that looms large for L&D is to share this insight with its stakeholders, engaging employees and managers as equal partners in the journey of learning. Second, it needs to garner support for creating a learning environment that not only provides but also encourages people to leverage informal learning avenues like on-the-job experience, mentoring, projects, coaching, working groups and industry events, making leaning a process, rather than an event. Crucial for taking this agenda forward, is for L&D to align with business strategy, integrate with the other streams of talent management, and be deemed as a consultant and a facilitator, rather than a learning provider. It needs to measure impact and demonstrate positive results, in order to get a voice at the table and gain greater influence and credibility.
The author provides training and consultancy services in the area of people development, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org