Learning and development (L&D) in an organisation was always important. A year under the spell of the pandemic has, however, accelerated its significance. People who were not equipped to handle the rapid changes that the lockdown brought faced struggle. However, those who foresaw a crisis which could be detrimental for the workforce, upgraded themselves much before the pandemic rendered everything motionless. 3M India is one such organisation that skilfully managed to leverage its many years of developed L&D policies to rise up to the occasion. Jyothi Unikkat, country L&D leader, 3M, reveals how the learning organisation partnered and championed its effort to impact the ‘Future of Work’, a key HR priority.
Development for All
Unikkat explains, “We’ve often heard that to build a culture of learning, it needs to be prioritised from the top. Employees must be equipped to be ‘self-sufficient’. At 3M, learning is a priority that starts with the CEO, and progress is reported to the Board. The simple line that says ‘Development for All’, is a powerful one — one that communicates inclusion and employee empowerment at its heart, with best-in-class resources being accessible to everyone.”
3M’s internal e-learning platform hosts a variety of options – self-paced courses, facilitator-led courses, simple 2-3-minute videos or documents on topical subjects. Across 3M, learning is now in the hands of the employee.
3M India saw 85 per cent employee participation in learning – a clear reflection of the increasing appetite for continuous learning
Jyothi Unikkat, country L&D leader, 3M
The power of coaching
3M has invested in a unique internal global coaching organisation that works closely with leaders, as opposed to many organisations that prefer to use external coaching support. Leadership coaching can be directed towards personal development, or specific challenges, or support through accelerated business growth. “The different ways we leverage coaching can be either 1:1 coaching conversations, workshops to enable people leaders to be good coaches, or group coaching sessions,” Unikkat reveals.
Enabling reach, scale and engagement through technology
With ‘Development for All’ as the motto, 3M is thinking about scale, reach and engagement. Four years ago, 3M India created a virtual learning organisation within the L&D function, in line with self-learning trends that it was seeing used on a wide scale today. Unikkat recounts, “During the lockdown last year, it probably took us about a week to pivot to virtual from classroom engagement – thanks to structures that were set up well in advance. 3M India saw 85 per cent employee participation in learning – a clear reflection of the increasing appetite for continuous learning. In 3M Asia, an open contest to identify top learners was enthusiastically embraced by colleagues in India! ‘Human skills’ like change agility, growth mindset or virtual collaboration became even more relevant, in a virtual world.”
Technology enabled 3M to bring relevant learning to its production workforce in India. “Our main manufacturing plant was open and working right through the 2020 lockdown as 3M India products fall under the Essential Commodities Act. Much like everybody else, shopfloor employees and plant leaders were mindful of employee well-being. While non-production employees had access to webinars and self-paced resources, we needed to bring this conversation through education to our production teams as well. On the plant floor, classroom training was out of scope and computer access is minimal,” Unikkat points out.
Leveraging available global content on personal energy dimensions, 3M partnered with HR professionals at the plant to design a simple module around enhancing personal energy. “Our plant HR colleagues led these ‘cross-plant’ virtual learning sessions and for the very first time, we had shopfloor colleagues, logging into virtual sessions with their cell phones, from their homes or from quiet spots in the plant,” informs Unikkat.
Strengthening the foundation
3M’s ‘Evolving Leader’ programmes for supervisors was an important initiative. The work of L&D in 3M India has been continuous, from educating employees on culture-linked performance conversations to sessions at virtual Feel@Home programmes for new employees. “Today, at the country level, we’re rapidly re-aligning ourselves to a global L&D model that supports scale and a consistent employee experience. The benefit of global collaborations is to give our employees the advantage of learning anytime, anywhere with 3M peers across multiple countries,” Unikkat points out.