“HR will have to identify, enable and reward learning agility,” Anant Garg

Anant Garg, director - HR, India &South Asia, Becton Dickinson, feels the biggest challenge for all leaders will be to identify, enable and reward ‘learning agility’, and channel it for business outcomes.


HR has shown great agility and business acumen

The one boon from 2020 was that everyone was forced to rethink, challenge assumptions and innovate. Everyone, across professions and roles, did their jobs a bit differently. Much of that happened on the go and in an environment where even predicting the next two weeks was difficult.

One not-so-great outcome was the erosion of economic value and momentum in a few places. People had to drop everything and think about survival first. Many decisions had to be delayed or dropped. Many businesses (minus a few exceptions) have been pushed back by 12 to 24 months, in terms of their growth plans. Overall, I would summarise 2020 as the year of resilience and learning.

“Leadership should have the mindset to ‘listen to what the data is saying’”


C-suite doesn’t want reports, it wants results

The usual issue nowadays is the abundance of data and scarcity of insights. For this, HR teams need to work at three levels:

First, follow a logical sequence in terms of what data is needed — first build the people strategy, then the goals, then the metrics for the goals and finally the data relevant to those metrics. A common mistake is to start with the generic metrics and then force fit the available data, as everyone needs something like a scorecard.

Second, we have to build analytical and data interpretation skills in our own teams. HR professionals should be able to filter the right data, connect different data points and generate management insights or the ‘so-what’ from that data, and present it in a simple manner (minus the head-spinning pivot tables or graphs).Often companies invest a lot in generating tonnes of data through complex software and systems, but much of it is hardly used as the teams don’t have the capacity or the ability to use that meaningfully.

Finally, the data needs to be actually used to make decisions. Having all the insights is of no value unless it is complemented by a leadership mindset to “listen to what the data is saying,” especially when it doesn’t match their own perception or notions.

The best HR leaders are able to combine the power of data insights with sound judgment (built through experience and learning loops), to help management teams make the right people decisions.

Identifying right skill gaps or reskilling

Reskilling is a continuous eternal process, and it varies by job and many other factors. Therefore, making a general list of skill gaps is difficult. However, with the accelerated rate of change, the core differentiator will be the willingness and ability to learn or adapt. It starts with willingness to change, awareness of the environment, openness to new ideas and humility to challenge one’s own assumptions. Then it comes to the capability of learning fast – it is a combination of intellectual capacity and persistence. Therefore, the big challenge for all leaders, including HR, will be to identify, enable and reward ‘learning agility’, and channel it for business outcomes.

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