With close to 15 years of work experience in varied industries like Airline, E-commerce, Geetanjali is currently heading Training and Development for the Enterprise vertical of a large Telecom. Before this, Geetanjali was in a global role managing Training and Quality for the CS function of a large airline. Geetanjali’s core strength in L&D includes Sales enablement, Employee engagement and internal comms. She is fuelled by the philosophy of life-long learning and therefore continues to back herself with functional and industry recognized certifications. Find her on Linkedin here
In a special conversation with Corporate Shiksha, Geetanjali Wheeler, she shares her perspective on Future of Learning such as shifts in Technology impacting workplace, creating a culture of learning in an organization, creating learning communities within organisation, building new Competencies by skilling/reskilling etc.
Q. How do you see shifts in technology (AI, IoT, Big Data Analytics, 3D Printing, Robotics) impacting your workplace in the near future?
The technological trends will continue to be one of the main reasons of disruption. The impact can be seen all around – whether we know them as the Power of 3 or Industry 4.0… it’s already happening and also has an impact on the workplace from a people stand point. Typically in any Organisation, we can see:
- Impact on ecosystem: The quality of engagement with Customers / Suppliers / Partners / Government is changing. For example: Customers are not going to need to speak with you for transactions… the engagements will increasingly involve complexity in decision making and problem solving.
- Impact on skills: We must remember that there will always be “Future of skills”… if you go a little back in time… operating computers was regarded as a skills change. I remember reading somewhere that in a not so far world, there will be two groups at workplace: One that tells the machines what to do and the others who are told by machines what to do!
- Quality skills of the future: We need to identify what skills will people require to meet the business needs of tomorrow? The customer expectations are rapidly changing and what they saw as value yesterday does not apply today and what they see as value today will definitely not stand true tomorrow! Organizations need to prepare employees for the future skills and as much as possible create talent from within the Organisation. As L&D, we must have a plan in place to meet this demand and support business continuity.
- Digital transformation: Organizations are serious about this and have created new roles & teams to achieve this objective… digital workplace is a reality now! How do we engage, train, performance manage and retain employees? The challenges posed by this integration of physical workplace with global and fast paced digital world is one of the top agendas of C-suite. Diversity in terms of generation makes it even more important to encourage having a digital mindset.
- Agile: More than a framework, “Agile” is a mind-set. Agility means speed, flexibility, adaptability at all levels in the organization. Agile approach enables leaders and their teams to innovate continuously whilst solving business challenges to produce what is called as a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in terms of value. It’s about structured progress in a world of challenges that already exists.
- Collaboration: Organizations expect their workforce to work better, smarter and faster. Technology has been one of the biggest drivers to make this a reality for organizations but the golden question is whether the collaboration platform is achieving the set objectives and not just another tool that has no internal buyers!
- People Engagement: One of the quotes read somewhere was “Employees are not so connected in this connected world!” The trends are impacting workplace culture and people behavior.
Q. Continuous improvement requires a commitment to learning. What is the secret formula of creating a culture of learning in your organization across all levels?
There is no just one formula to create a Learning culture… that’s the truth. We will see that successful organizations are driven by vision and values. The L&D function of the Organisation must have a vision and mission statement that is aligned to the business goals. It must answer “how” they are supporting People Strategy by growing key capabilities. Business storytelling is not just about telling Customers how you can be valuable to them but it’s also about telling that internally. Therefore, learning cannot be a one-time event but an experience that’s interesting and does justice to the adult learning principles.
- When teams see “value” in the learning opportunities that enables them to perform better, achieve the desired results and focus on excelling in their careers, the commitment will come!
- A culture of learning culture just like any other culture you want to develop is a result of the importance it gets from the Leadership. A leadership team that believe in people as differentiator and prioritizes continuous investment in their capabilities is the biggest support any L&D team can have. This is why both L&D and the Business teams must look at each other as Partners to drive business metrics
- The commitment to Learning has to come from within! Organizations must keep reinforcing to employees that “Learning agility” is one of the most important gifts they can give themselves. Therefore #investinyourself!
- The L&D team must fuel passion in creating a learning culture by knowing the pulse of the business, the people and continuously innovating it’s practices to be relevant, future-centric and attractive.
Q. According to you what qualities should leaders of the future should possess?
I love the way the questions you are asking is all inter-related. Now, that we know that every Organisation will be impacted, the question is whether the companies think that their existing and future leaders are ready to win in the world of VUCA, Artificial intelligence and Digitization? So, apart from known qualities of a good leader, I think the leaders of the future must have:
- Vision: As the foundation of existence, the vision defines everything that an Organisation does and stands for. As Jack Welsh said: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
- Ability to unlearn: You know that one has reached a dead end when they think that they don’t need to learn anything more. Just look around and you will realize that many things that existed 10 years ago do not exist today and so many that exist today did not exist then. It’s about survival and progressing and it cannot be done if one cannot unlearn and learn the new ways. An appetite for lifelong-learning!
- Agility: This refers to being agile in learning, leading, changing, adapting and innovating. An Organisation will fail in adopting agile approach if the leader is not agile and does not know how to lead an agile team. Learning from mistakes, implementing corrective actions, problem solving, design thinking, challenging the status quo!
- Digital & Tech Quotient: A leader must have the urge to understand and lead in the world of ever changing technology. How does the technology impact the environment? How can he / she leverage technology for improving company financials, internal processes, customer experience and organization capabilities that includes people and tools?
- Being Human: No, not the brand! A leader must never lose the sense of purpose. He / she must lead and motivate the team knowing they are humans. A leader I know once told me Digital is a world of “and” not “or” – therefore a leader must be high on Emotional Quotient and must never lose the human touch! The face of the workplace is changing with diversity in generation, gender, cognitive abilities, ethnic, social, cultural backgrounds. It’s proven that a diverse workgroup is more powerful. The leader therefore plays a critical role in driving Diversity and Inclusion at workplace.
- Leading Change and innovation: Change is the only constant – we know that and yet time after time again we realize that changing is difficult and often a slow process. A leader today cannot be waiting for the change but make the change to be ahead in the game!
- Communication: This continues to be one of the top qualities. A leader must effectively communicate with all levels in the organization. A leader plays a big role in embedding sense of purpose within the teams and drive it – how will that happen if the leader cannot articulate and connect to his / her people?
We must also remember that humility is an essential leadership quality. This unique characteristic earns the leader respect and aspiration from the team. This is inspirational and enables the leader to drive the sense of purpose.
Q. Do you see shift in skills impacting your work force? How are you planning to build new Competencies by skilling/reskilling and cross skilling your people?
Absolutely yes! Any organization or professional saying that they do not see an impact are on their way to become dinosaurs already! It may sound harsh but the reality is that we need to be agile enough to start anticipating the skills of the future and keep at it! When I say “keep at it”, it mean that it’s a constant process and cannot stop. Just like market research, customer analysis, product research etc. the capability needs of an Organisation have to be reviewed and redefined continuously. We know that the roles that exist today may not exist tomorrow and that there will be new roles that will come into existence.
Organizations are continuously evolving in how they do business, meet customer needs and shareholder expectations. As L&D, we have must have a Capability Development strategy in place not just today but for tomorrow. The success of this function is not only defined by the impact on business today but also by its readiness for the future to support HR strategy of the Organisation. (Such as implementing HR Analytics efficiently within the organisation)
Typically, we see demand for new skills e.g. digital and technology skills, higher cognitive skills or change in skills e.g. leadership, social, EQ, operations, project management and even reduction in repetitive jobs. All of this is creating a gap in demand and supply. Organizations adopt different approaches to bridge this gap some of which could be:
- Exposure and Reinforcement: It’s critical that employees understand the impact of the external changes on the business. It’s then important to help them understand what it means in terms of people readiness. This will drive ownership to learn and be future ready.
- Resources: The employees must be empowered with right content to learn. It’s all about “Here and Now” and as we become more and more digital it’s about being able to learn anytime / anywhere
- Social Learning: Adult learning principles have always indicated that adults learn best through interaction and collaboration. Today, it’s also about developing high performance teams through collaboration in this virtual world and that’s why it’s about learning to collaborate right from classrooms.
- Not limiting learning opportunities: Learning not just internally but bringing in opportunities and supporting the employees to learn new skills externally. It’s also about providing opportunities to the employees to implement their learnings or giving them chances to be a part of projects (action learning).
- Personalizing the learning experience: The one size fits all does not apply to learning today. Learning needs to be a personalized experience and should be targeted to employees on what they need for present and for future. The AI and Machine Learning enabled platforms today are able to provide more personalized learning experience to create persona based learning roadmaps
- Create a learning culture: For organizations to ready their employees for the future, it’s critical that its people take an ownership to create a culture of learning, innovating and changing. This is easier said than done and encountered by resistance. Therefore, it’s about building the right mindset and outlook of the Organisation and its people.
Q. Tell us what you are doing in your organization to create learning communities or peer learning environment.
Peer to peer learning always existed – remember in school and colleges how group study or the best performing student would explain topics to the class? In the recent L&D trends observed, peer-to-peer learning also included in Social Learning has picked up momentum. We also have many collaboration platforms such as Yammer / Slack or even Workspace that encourage peer to peer learning – whether that’s best practices or good reading material on related topics / trends made available. Peer to peer learning occurs whether we want it or not. That’s called as Informal learning. Peer-to-peer learning can be used extremely well by:
- Learning from Success and Failures: It’s good to learn why something became successful but the real learning lies in understanding the failures. Think about it – both these perspectives are required for complete learning. Also, because it’s peer-to-peer, it improves confidence and trust levels as there is familiarity of challenges and concerns. The agile philosophy can also be best implemented when working in teams.
- Learn-Teach-Learn: I picked this up from one of the leaders I know and think it was brilliantly executed. It’s not limited to learning something about the job and teaching others but expand horizons to learn beyond e.g. understanding the impact of AI or Blockchain on the industry and then downloading it to others. This improves knowledge sharing and knowledge retention. Access to resources and content does not guarantee learning! It’s important to get creative and drive implementation of learning at work. It’s also a good idea to create Learning ambassadors and keep them at the forefront
- Self-paced learning: Peer-to-peer learning promotes self-learning. It’s motivation to know that the learning has helped someone else and triggers the drive to find out more and share.
- Reinvent: We realize how effective it can be and so why not use smartly in workplace to enable learning? For example peer-to-peer learning can be beautifully structured in the “Experience” and “Exposure” of the Learning framework – 70:20:10
- Celebrate success: Any success when celebrated gives more reasons to celebrate. Peer to peer learning makes workplace agile as being agile is working work in teams and collaborating
Disclaimer: The responses to the questions are solely interviewee views as a professional and do not reflect that of the Organisation interviewee works for.