Upskilling employees: What should be the focus in digital era?

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Published: July 22, 2019 12:31 AM

Value creation or employee engagement—what should be the focus of L&D in the digital era?

The next important step is to have a dialogue with the business to identify the skills required in the teams to achieve the business metrics targeted.

Recognition of the right talent with the requisite skills as the key differentiator for the success of the business in the digital era has led to organisations planning training and devising several methods to enhance retention of employees through better engagement models. With the core objective of employee engagement activity being ‘making employees happy’, some companies have even created the position of ‘Chief Fun Officer’.

The combination of attractive compensation, challenging assignments, adequate exposure to new trends in business, recognising and rewarding notable employee contributions and facilitating socialising amongst employees at workplace and during offsites have been some of the cornerstones of employee engagement. In addition to all of these elements, the opportunity to learn and upskill on a continual basis that would help in career advancement is being viewed as an important factor for increasing the stickiness of talent. Hence, the learning and development (L&D) managers have a significant responsibility to develop an L&D strategy that resonates with the aspirations of the employees leading to better engagement with the organisation.

In order to bring about a positive change in the outcome of L&D efforts, firstly it is important to move away from L&D being a cost centre and become a value creator. L&D has to adopt key business metrics that the business is trying to achieve and build the L&D strategy around it. The next important step is to have a dialogue with the business to identify the skills required in the teams to achieve the business metrics targeted. Since the success of employees is closely linked with these metrics which would be reflected in their KRAs, there is a congruence in the objectives of both. With such an approach, what is now critical is to identify the skill gaps at granular level and personalise the learning path for each. Digital platforms and AI tools provide customised support including highlighting not only the gaps but timely pointers to knowledge sources curated from the knowledge repository or the coaches available within the organisation.

Employees would now be excited to take their learning seriously as they would be able to experience the benefits directly leading to acknowledgement of the organisation’s efforts to their success. At the same time, training programmes have to be designed to allow learning while working. To facilitate this, training programmes, knowledge repositories and support platforms need to come together in a seamless manner to help in the upward movement of the employee learning curve. It is also important to decipher after the initial learning, whether the employee is able to apply what has been learnt and if they go wrong or when things change, quickly support them with the appropriate digital tools.

Just as in team sports such as football or cricket, each member of the team is picked and coached with precision—individually based on their strengths and weaknesses with the help of simulations, L&D managers have to don the role of active partners to the business managers with the common goal to win. They need to develop learner effectiveness related analytics that would enable in recognising the individual pattern of learning and proactively curate new content using smart tools. Such an approach closely aligned with the business metrics will enable L&D manager to demonstrate value creation made possible by the motivated and truly engaged employees.

The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company.

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