‘Work to learn’ to ‘learn to work’: Are we ready?

Highlights of The Great HR Debate sponsored by Harappa Education and organised by HRKatha

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Some of the leading HR professionals, and learning and development (L&D) officials of India Inc., came together on a single platform, to discuss the various aspects of L&D in the professional world.

The event started with the inaugural speech by Prajjal Saha, founder & editor, HRKatha, who shed light on the sequence and motive of the first chapter of the The Great HR Debate series. A special address by Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and CEO, Harappa Education, was an added bonus.

One is not learning for one’s own sake. One is learning for the sake of the company, the team, the group that one fits into, and so on.

Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and CEO, Harappa Education

Commenting on the learning process in a WFH setup, Pramath Raj Singh, founder and CEO, Harappa Education, pointed out how “remote learning gave people a purpose, fired up their curiosity and gave them a sense of achievement.” People were able to learn and work at the same time, and “got a chance to practise, apply and experience the impact simultaneously,” he explained. He drew attention to the fact that discipline and consistency are two important things; and that organisations must expect their employees to be consistent, when it comes to learning, throughout their tenure with the company. “Finally, one is not learning for one’s own sake. One is learning for the sake of the company, the team, the group that one fits into, and so on,” he enunciated.

“Gig economy is all about flexibility. As individuals, if we want that flexibility to work with whomsoever we want to, then the onus is on us to learn and acquire the relevant skills to make that choice,” said Saurabh Nigam, VP HR, Omidyar Networks India.

The discussion was a part of the ‘The Great HR Debate’ sponsored by Harappa Education and organised by HR Katha on Friday, February 19, 2021, with a vision to establish the role of L&D in the professional world. The speakers put forth their views in three different sessions, chaired by Saurabh Nigam, Mahipal Nair and Shreyasi Singh, who are stalwarts in their respective fields.

 

The debate had three sessions, of which the topic for the first one was, ‘From “work to learn to learn to work”- Are we ready?’. Chaired by Saurabh Nigam, VP – HR, Omidyar Networks India, the speakers were Emmanuel David , director, Tata Management Training Centre; Jayant Kumar, joint president – HR, Adani Group, Tanaya Mishra, global CHRO, Essar Projects and Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, Global Epoxy Business, Aditya Birla Group.

When asked about how to choose the talents with the right skills needed for a job function, Emmanuel David said, “The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice. There is still a hunger for learning. People want to make themselves relevant.” According to him, in the virtual space, in addition to the quality of the content the outcomes are also happy, which is not the case otherwise due to lack of social interaction.

It is not about build-vs-buy. It is about remaking. New-age technology and its applications will force organisations to remake their workforces

Jayant Kumar, joint president – HR, Adani Group

Tanaya Mishra went on to explain, “Learning to work and working to learn are complimentary to each other. When we go to colleges and institutions to hire people, we hire attributes and train for skills. Today, it is not about the time period of the training, but about what is relevant in this time, and upskilling and reskilling accordingly. Today, it is also about outskilling. With the new-age workforce, it is very important to make sure that they stay relevant. So there is also outplacement.”

She further added that it is highly important to understand the need of the hour and ensure that our employees receive training accordingly. To further explain her point, she cited an example saying, “Today selling is no more just a mere powerpoint presentation. It is also about storytelling and giving the clients a complete framework. So things are changing and we need to stay relevant and future ready.”

The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.

Emmanuel David , director, Tata Management Training Centre

Moderator Saurabh Nigam posed the question as to how the skills across various industries have evolved over the last ten to fifteen years. He further asked whether the required relevant skills are to be bought and sourced or whether it is convenient to upskill the existing employees for the same. Jayant Kumar’s response was, “It is not about build-vs-buy. It is about remaking, which we are already experiencing.” He felt that this trend is likely to go further. The new-age technology and its applications will force organisations to remake their workforces because most of them will not find the existing skill competencies relevant. However, Kumar pointed out, “At the same time, replacing the entire workforce will take a toll on the total productivity. Hence, the organisations will be left with no choice but to remake.”

When a child starts walking, he falls and injures himself, but he stands up again trying to walk. The basic instinct of wanting to learn starts over there.

Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, Global Epoxy Business, Aditya Birla Group

Taking the build-vs-buy concept of skills across the industries further, Nigam sought the opinion of Ravi Mishra on the interventions and “what works pull-vs-push, when it comes to the success of the interventions”. According to Mishra, “The pull factor works more than the push one. When a child starts walking, he falls and injures himself, but he stands up again trying to walk. The basic instinct of wanting to learn starts over there.” Mishra believes that in the same way, “it is for us to create the instinct among the organisations about learning and make people believe that it is important for them to learn and that the organisations can provide whatever is needed for that learning process. So, I personally believe that it is the ‘pull’ that works.” He explained that not everybody follows the same pace. So, “we have to believe in the people with the urge to learn and help them build a better career path instead of arranging generalised learning programmes for all. Otherwise it is wastage of time for both the sides.”

Learning to work and working to learn are complimentary to each other. Today, it is not about the time period of the training, but about what is relevant in this time, and upskilling and reskilling accordingly.

Tanaya Mishra, global CHRO, Essar Projects

Sharing experiences of coaching interventions and the relevance of the same with the ‘pull-vs-push’ factors, Tanaya Mishra said, “Anything which is a technical skill and statutory necessity is a complete push-based action. There can be no compromises on certain matters, such as data privacy. Something that is relevant to a particular industry has to be a push-based action. It has to be monitored. In some organisations, if certain sessions are not attended, one misses out on the increment. There are certain things that define the working culture and character of an organisation. Therefore, it is highly important for people to abide by those, which have to be pushed. However, there have also been instances of people wanting to enhance their own skills. There, the pull factor works. Hence, it is a hybrid structure, with a combination of both that works.”

Gig economy is all about flexibility. As individuals, if we want that flexibility to work with whomsoever we want to, then the onus is on us to learn and acquire the relevant skills to make that choice.

Saurabh Nigam, VP – HR, Omidyar Networks India

Referring to the example of a child given by Ravi Mishra earlier, she said, “We may create instinct in a child to walk towards a thing, but unless we provide options and push the child towards different aspects, we will never know what he is actually interested in. As parents, we should offer the child options and tell him what he can do to achieve what. However, things keep changing depending on what time or stage of life the child is at. Similarly, things have to change depending on the state that an organisation is at.”

Nigam concluded the session by speaking briefly about the importance of both pull and push factors in the process of learning within an organisation.

The Great HR Debate was sponsored by Harappa Education and organised by HRKatha.

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