How Jindal Stainless is leveraging tech to achieve its learning goals

The Company has assessed and analysed some important learning needs and skills at a functional level, which were hardly touched upon earlier

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Jindal Stainless (JSL), a big name in the steel-manufacturing industry of India, is revamping its learning function to prepare its workforce for the coming future. As Nitin Thakur, head of learning, Jindal Stainless, shares with HRKatha, the Company has been upskilling employees at all levels and functions. Very recently, JSL analysed some key upskilling areas at the organisational and functional levels, and is now trying to equip its workforce with future skills, through various learning interventions.

Analysis and assessment

The Company first analysed and assessed the role-specific learning needs, the individual development needs and the business needs of the Company. Data points were collected in various ways by the learning and development team at the firm. Earlier, there was a generic way of analysing the learning needs. Thakur reveals how, in the past, the Company “analysed the learning needs through the performance appraisal system, and therefore, regular behavioural skills and other generic skills were touched upon at a very superficial level.”

Now, however, various technology tools are deployed by the firm to gauge trending skill requirements for a particular role, as per global standards. Thakur feels that HODs are the best people to interact with if one wants to know what future skills they really want to see in their current workforce. Therefore, the L&D team at JSL collected data on upcoming learning requirements, from each HOD of the company, individually. This way, the team was able to gauge the learning requirements of each function. For instance, in the customer-servicing function, the person should not just be able to handle enquiries, but should be able to serve as the one point of contact capable of resolving all problems for the customer — a trouble shooter in the true sense of the word. Another example can be of the HR function, where data governance was one of the skills that emerged as the top need or requirement.

“We do not start learning interventions if the impact cannot be measured”

Nitin Thakur, head of learning, Jindal Stainless

Role-specific needs

Apart from that, the Company uses an AI crawler technology provided by one of their learning vendors which analyses the learning needs for each job role individually, matching the competencies globally, with the current KRA of the role. It suggests certain key and trending role-specific learning needs of the individual. Thakur shares that the HODs of the Company were consulted on the industry trends — where the industry is headed and what skills will be required in the future for people to stay relevant.

Close study of the collected data revealed that JSL required to work upon some key skills to keep its workforce and business relevant in today’s time and the near future.

Key skills

Thakur shares with HRKatha some of the key skills that JSL is now focussing on, such as advance Excel, SAP, data analytics, strategic thinking and subject expertise.

Under subject expertise, Thakur cites examples of various functions such as corporate communication, where website management was one of the key skills the function lacked. Another instance he cites is of the supply function, where contract management emerged as a skill that could do with a lot more focus.

The Company is also working on cross-skilling of employees in multiple areas, beyond their core skills, which is crucial at an organisational level. “The need for cross-skilling will come to the fore in the future, because companies need a backup for each employee, and firms will work with lesser number of people to achieve cost efficiency,” predicts Thakur.

“After collecting all these data points, we realised that the skills which emerged as learning needs of the Company were never really touched upon in the past,” mentions Thakur.

Measurement of outcomes and application of learning

Following the pandemic, JSL shifted all its learning online, and trained all its trainers to conduct virtual sessions. Most of the learning content in the Company is bite-sized and 70 per cent of it includes experiential learning. That means, the moment employees finish learning something, they are then put on real-time projects where they can apply those skills. This way, they are able to retain what they have learnt better. “We started breaking down the learning journey of our employees into small journeys,” reveals Thakur, while mentioning how JSL is using mobile learning content and has gamified the learning experience at the firm.

To assess the learning impact, the Company follows the Kirkpatrick model, which has four levels of measuring the learning outcomes of each learning intervention.

The first level is the reaction level, where participants are asked for feedback on content, engagement and facilitators. At the second level, the Company tries to identify the difference before and after the training through pre-test scores, on-the-job assessments and supervisor reports. The third level is where the team studies how the employees use the newly-acquired skills, through peer feedback, customer feedback, self-assessment questionnaires and managers’ reports.

At the end, the final report is prepared through an action learning project, which requires all participants to apply the newly-acquired behaviours and skills to a live project. This is where business outcomes of the learning are assessed. In fact, JSL has also digitised the tracking of learning outcomes, where participants can update their action learning reports using a software which actually helps track the real-time progress of each employee.

Through the action-learning projects, the Company can gauge the financial outcomes of the ongoing learning. “The effectiveness is gauged from the extent of improvement in quality and the financial savings achieved from the application of the new skills by the employees,” explains Thakur. Till now, JSL has been able to save Rs 500 crore, and still counting.

“We do not start learning interventions if the impact cannot be measured,” admits Thakur.

Having embarked on this journey to create a culture of continuous learning, JSL is optimising the power of technology and digitisation to achieve its learning goals.

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