In the year 2020, when everything else has changed, one of the biggest areas of concern has been employees—their wellbeing, their motivation, their need to innovate to help the company deal with the challenges this year has thrown at it. In that vein, learning and development too has a new, reinvented purpose—to not just help employees upgrade their skills and bring them hope in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, but also keep them in the forward-looking, growth mindset.
A growth mindset is one of the basic requirements for innovation and positive change, because at its core lie curiosity, openness and agility. For cultivating this growth mindset, learning and development can play a very pivotal role—if we look at it beyond the traditional role of L&D.
Learning and development has evolved immensely over the last several years. Though training for the key skills required for the job remains an important focus of present-day learning and development, the overarching goal is the holistic elevation of the employee’s understanding, functioning and emotional wellbeing. Beyond contributing to a positive work culture and healthy societies, this focus on health and happiness makes business sense. Data shows that investment in employee development leads to lower attrition, higher productivity and improved customer satisfaction.
Another change that has required companies to rethink training is that employees have begun to value growth, holistic development and purpose as much as, if not more than, financial rewards in the workplace. As businesses adapt to these changing priorities, learning and development (L&D) teams across the world are altering the way they operate.
New subjects and sessions
Going beyond skill enhancement, topics such as mindfulness, empathy, stress management, etc. are being added to the learning calendar. The methodologies are also evolving. From being delivered in a classroom by expert trainers or professional facilitators, companies are embracing diverse methods to impart learning. Coaching sessions, projects, boot-camps, and in these times of Covid-19 as the employees across the work are working remotely, online learning and e-modules are replacing conventional face-to-face full-day sessions.
In this new era, we can increase employee engagement and efficiency by leveraging learning and development as a tool for holistic well-being. Some ideas that work for us at Genesis BCW are:
Integrating wellness into the formal training agenda
Skill development and behavioural training are usually the two dimensions of most learning and development initiatives planned in corporate organisations. The integration of wellness-related programmes, which purely address the personal wellbeing of individuals, has long been neglected. A priority on delivering measurable outcomes often override the need to implement initiatives that are intangible and difficult to measure. The pandemic has exacerbated the need to include sessions which focus on mental health and building resilience. Organisations such as ours have been able to quickly meet these needs of employees due to the synergy we have with our international teams and our ability to draw on a vast pool of resources. Even for those companies who need to build such initiatives from scratch, several programmes are available on the internet, both free and at a cost.
Explore mentoring and coaching for building support networks
From the junior-most to the top leaders, the meaningful connections created by mentoring relationships plays a significant role in enhancing confidence and overcoming personal and professional challenges. At Genesis BCW, we have a structured mentoring and coaching programme in place for both our leaders and the associates who join us directly from the campuses though our management trainee programme. This has helped us ensure that the younger, most vulnerable, employees have adequate guidance to realise their full potential in these times of unprecedented change. For the seniors, the opportunity to mentor the young provides a sense of purpose and meaning.
Have more people wear the trainer’s hat
Everyone has a special skill that they can teach and share. Encouraging and guiding more people from mid to senior levels to facilitate training programmes widens the scope of learning in organisations. By getting involved in learning and development as trainers, employees feel valued and more engaged. Positioned as experts in a subject area, this provides an incentive for them to keep abreast and make efforts to enhance their own learning. When they train their own teams, the training becomes more relevant and focussed to the team’s needs and when the training is across functions, the larger group benefits from the expertise that would remain siloed within a smaller team.
Support self-directed learning
Online learning platforms such as Coursera and Udemy have reported a huge boom since the pandemic struck with Coursera reporting 10 million new users from March to May 2020. Like many organisations, we at GenesisBCW, have tied up with online academies to allow our employees to enrol in some courses relevant to their area of work. However, we have observed, that employees want the freedom to choose specific courses, sometimes even at their own cost, which they believe will either improve their job performance or help them to pivot to another related skillset. Learning and development functions need to recognise individual needs for learning. Allowing for freedom to choose courses that an employee finds most useful is the need of the times.
As the year ends and 2021 begins, there are many trends people are predicting, but there is a common theme running among all—it’s still going to be uncertain and unpredictable. Strengthening L&D initiatives and evolving them for more well-rounded development of your people will help you not just stand apart but also give your people a sense of reinforced confidence to take on what the year throws at them. It will also build a more engaged relationship with your employees, which in turn, translates into a growth mindset for them and the organization.
Authored by Kaninika Mishra, Head – Learning & Development, Genesis BCW.