“Learning experience and aggregation platforms will grow bigger; lead to true democratisation of learning,” Hemalakshmi Raju

Design thinking will ensure that the right objectives at different levels are addressed, without it, we may end up creating a digital clutter, which does not serve any purpose. In conversation with Hemalakshmi Raju, chief learning officer, Reliance Industries for HRKatha 2019 Forecast.



New technology will change learning in 2019

Digital technology in the learning space has been on a growth path and will progress further in the coming year. In line with the philosophy of ‘Meet learners where they are’, the mobile will grow even bigger as the key platform to meet employees, be it for dispensing learning, or communication and interactions pertaining to learning. The voice of learning purists questioning the impact of mobile learning will grow even more feeble, with more and more scientific data getting established on the mobile’s role in learning effectiveness.

The significance of the need of learning to boost performance, learning nudges to combat the impact of the forgetting curve, and so on will come to the fore. Some other trends that will make good progress are :

Deeper utilisation of artificial intelligence in general, and machine learning in particular, leading to personalisation of learning, so that the learners are enabled to learn what they want to learn at just the right time and at any place.

Advent of bots in learning administration-related aspects (course enrolment, FAQs on curriculum, and so on) and within courses will lead to more personalised knowledge checks and clarification.

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Learning experience and aggregation platforms will grow bigger, leading to true democratisation of learning.

There are signs of AR and VR becoming affordable. Hence, bigger steps towards leveraging them in the learning agenda can be seen.

Developing new skillsets for the future workforce

As highlighted in multiple studies, with automation and change happening at a rapid pace, soft skills will assume even greater significance. It is seen as a means of softening the impact of automation and enabling the man–machine interface. Coupled with this is the need to think holistically about people, their health, their futures, their stresses, and ambitions. Building soft skills at different levels of hierarchy will be an important agenda for learning and development across sectors. Within the soft skills gamut, one of the important focus areas that will assume added significance in the current context is building an inclusive mindset.

Learning agility is one of the key determinants of success. For this, employees need to learn on a continuous basis and on their own. However, this is often found falling short, not due to lack of will or time, but ignorance about how to learn on one’s own. There needs to be a sharp focus on learning to learn. This will enable employees to understand the ‘why, what, how and where’ of learning.

Managers are a key link in their teams’ capability building. It is not just about transfer of learning post a formal intervention, but more importantly, about building learning moments at work. For learning in the flow of work, along with digital enablement, manager involvement is crucial. Building both the will and skill of managers is an urgent focus area.

While 70:20:10 is more than a three decade long framework, a structured approach towards making the 70 and 20 come alive is often found to be lacking. On-the-job learning does not happen automatically, simply because someone is on the job. Same applies to learning through developmental relationships. One needs to follow the cycle of plan – learn – reflect – practice for this to happen successfully, and a support structure needs to be built ensure effectiveness. Considering the pace and quantum of learning, there needs to be a sharp focus on this.

Last but not the least, L&D is often caught in the tactical trap of building capabilities needed for today. This is important as failing to do so can cause businesses to divert from their course. However, failure to focus on building future-ready workforces can impact organisations in the longer term. There is an urgent need to understand futuristic capabilities and focus on the same. For instance, building capabilities to ensure digital readiness are a requirement across sectors. Top leadership expects L&D to be supported with futuristic capability building.

Application of design thinking to learning

Learning interventions: Design thinking will ensure that the right objectives at different levels are addressed. The content to be covered, methodology to be used, and assessments to be carried will all be influenced by design thinking, and will ensure better benefits.

An important point to note is that, while the learner is an important customer, we cannot ignore the business and line managers who are the key stakeholders. A comprehensive design-thinking process will take them into account to ensure that their needs are taken care of. For instance, involving managers in the pre- and post- intervention stages and crafting business objectives (and not just learning objectives) are aspects, which will lead to effectiveness, but are often ignored. Employee experience has been a buzz word in HR, and rightly so, over the past few years. It includes elements of what people encounter, observe and feel over the course of their journey in an organisation. According to Jacob Morgan, a thought leader on the ‘Future of Work’, employee experience is created and influenced by three key aspects — organisational culture, technological environment and physical environment.

Design thinking— a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving complex problems and generating new opportunities— lies at the core of employee experience. Putting the employee at the centre and following through the structured five-step design thinking process will ensure that we are building the right culture and the right physical and technological environment that will create a ‘wow’ experience for the employee.

In learning and development (L&D), design thinking will ensure that we create a top-notch learner experience. At a time when learners’ time is scarce and learning opportunities are abundant, learner experience through design thinking is what will create stickiness for learning. Learner experience will be integral to learning effectiveness.

Design thinking will need to be applied across different elements in the learning value chain as follows :

Learning process: The various processes – learning, need identification, intervention design, and so on – will need to be centred around design thinking if they are to be effective in addressing customer needs. When it comes to learner interfacing processes, such as learning communication, feedback collection, and participation in external events, focus on this will ensure that we create a hassle-free process that leads to perfect adoption.

Learning technology: An intuitive, user-friendly digital system is what anyone will want. Design thinking will ensure an easy to access and use system with all the right features and functionalities that will enhance effectiveness. Without design thinking, we may end up creating a digital clutter, which does not serve any purpose.

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