Re-Imagining Work And Learning

Re-Imagining Work And Learning

The way of learning has changed in the last decade from macro to micro trends such as the creation of internal experts and peer‑to‑peer learning and has come about to reimagine learning. What are your thoughts on such a transition?


I transitioned into learning from product development about 15 years ago.  Given my background in learning theory and adult learning, I feel that the macro to micro learning trend is superficial. The big question is why corporate learning has not been working well. This is primarily because organisations have focused on instructor-led learning, usually done in the course of an 8‑hour day. This is not very efficient for the learner, but for the people organising the training. The fact is that people do not transfer that knowledge back on to work, and, 80% of such learning is forgotten within 30 days. People have swung to the other extreme to try feeding short nuggets of learning since lecture-based learning did not work well. Though there is nothing wrong with micro learning, the effectiveness of learning is based on different needs one is trying to accomplish. For instance, if you are asked to make a presentation to the Executive Committee in one week, and, you feel a strong need to brush up your presentation skills, you are not going to wait for a class, you will go online and start figuring out if there are little pieces of content that can get the knowledge and expertise to you. That makes micro learning very popular. However, that is not everything. If one wants to become an expert in machine learning, micro learning might not be enough. The learner might need to read related literature, watch certain videos, and listen to podcasts. This is where Degreed creates the value for the learner, by way of creating a curated pathway with all kinds of content to build skills and expertise in an amazing way. It might contain pieces of micro content along the way, but it is not just micro content.


Learning preferences are changing across generations. However, the socio-political and economical VUCA changes do not allow the time and space for reskilling. How does Degreed keep a learner on a progressive career path?


In order to understand the platform, take a macro view of what Degreed does. We do not create content ourselves. We bring together the best content in the world in one place that is very learner-centric. This means bringing together content that enterprises have created by themselves, content through paid libraries, and free content.


There are a couple of ways in which Degreed provides peer-to-peer learning as well. For example, if there is a group of people who want to learn social media marketing skills, they can create a group in Degreed with these skill needs. The group is given a pathway to learn. The group will be consuming them and can also leave takeaways that are shared with peers. They can comment on what they learnt and thus develop a collaborative approach to learning. Taking one step further, Degreed connects to the domain experts. One can ask them questions, see what they are learning, through the Degreed profile.


The two best things that help in creating a career pathway through Degreed is its ability to integrate content from Coursera and other team-based MOOCs, where teams work together to solve real business problems in a real workgroup and its options of recommending content across the organisational hierarchy. If I know that a colleague is trying to build her skill in marketing and I come across a relevant article on marketing, I can recommend the article for her. Peers or business leaders can recommend content they feel will be useful for aspirants of that particular skill.


As Degreed talks about transformational learning versus transactional training, what is your perspective on leadership training or coaching, two fields where human interaction surpasses Artificial intelligence and machine learning?


Often, we put a narrow border around what we consider to be fit for e-learning and instructor-led learning. The reality is that learning is happening in so many different places; whether you are going to a conference or for a training programme.  Those are traditionally categorized as learning, but we need to consider reading articles or books, or listening to podcasts, or watching videos which are not part of traditional learning. 79% of people are learning through informal resources traced on their own rather than those that have been advised by their HR, L&D organisations or their managers to learn. Everybody realizes that they are required to constantly learn in order to develop the skills for the future, and, if they are not getting it at their workplaces you have to go out and get it on your own. Learners have progressive career paths. You need to provide learning to learners in the flow of work, whenever and wherever they want, rather than the old model of sending employees "out" for training. It is an antiquated model as things are changing so fast. When you provide learning in the workflow, when you are solving a business problem, that is when a platform like Degreed brings you curated information about that topic and makes it handy for you to use. An individual learning profile on Degreed helps the platform to cater curated information and this can then be tied to skills and career path.


The most important factor on which learning is dependent upon is motivation. And, most people are not very excited about learning at work. The fact is people do love to learn when it is relevant to them, when it impacts their career. We are putting together a leadership initiative around helping our managers get better at what they do. We have identified 8 major skills that managers need to be effective at, they can assess and rate themselves on those skills (level 1 through 8), and, can also ask peers or managers to rate them so they get a sense of where they are. Specially curated pathways for skills that some managers may be struggling with can also be created. We also supplement what we are doing for the managers on the platform. E.g. We may decide to bring all our managers together for a day to talk about having effective feedback conversations. The misconception is that it is either classroom training or its technology. You need to have both.  People do like to get together to solve real problems and to network with each other. A comprehensive learning strategy building on the strengths of both works best.


Coaching is more of a personalized thing. It depends on what you are trying to achieve through in-person coaching. Coaching is feedback from a peer, from a mentor, from your own direct manager. In our book “The Expertise Economy”, we talk about a learning loop that every learner is in. This is a 4‑step process, starting with gaining knowledge on what you want to do, practicing what you have learnt, getting feedback on what you did, and, lastly, what you learnt from the feedback, and you start all over again. For a manager, there may be several iterations to this loop. If you have a manager or a mentor giving you feedback, its an ideal scenario, but if you do not, there are learning programmes to assess skills and give feedback with a near personal touch.


In Quotes "Learning and career development are becoming a competitive advantage. If people are not investing in people, they are not going to be able to attract or retain the best talent."


Where do you see the confluence of CIOs and CHROs of multinational organisations in delivering learner centricity and better business outcomes? What impact will individual corporate cultures and geographic zones have on this strategy? Where do the Indian enterprises feature on the learning maturity curve?


The one common thing across the board is what type of learning culture do you have at your company at the start and the mindset of the leaders who are either running the company or the CHRO. But, it is all about the mindset of people, regardless of their geographies. It is about building the capacities and skills for the future. This is the biggest thing. Indian enterprises are at different levels in the maturity continuum. Every company we meet is on a different level on the curve. I have met some of the most progressive leaders in India, where learning is matured and built into holistic career growth, and I know there are other organisations that deliver standard models of training. One of our strengths is that we are evolving, the first track of our strategy was to enable people to discover, track and measure all the content and all the learning available, and, now we have moved into tying learning into a career path model so that you can build skills for now and also the future. When we meet clients, we try to understand where they are in terms of their mindset. If the organisation is evolving in the maturity model, we work out a strategy where they introduce their employees to learning in their flow of work. We have other companies who are matured in their mindset, who want to integrate learning into career paths; we consult with them on a whole strategy.


What are the barriers that Degreed needs to break down in India to get the employer buy-in to the career-long learning approach? Since most employees opt for a 4-5 year stint at any organisation why call for career-long investments?


We do know that learning and career development is becoming a competitive advantage. If people are not investing in people, they are not going to be able to attract or retain the best talent. More mature organisations who are thinking about using Degreed for creating career paths and skill building are realizing that by creating opportunities for employees, they, two years down the line, would have built an internal career marketplace for their employees. Companies like Unilever, eBay, are creating internal career marketplaces for their employees. One of the best things at Degreed is that we have pathways sponsored by subject matter experts. As an innovative strategy to enhance the culture of learning and boost employee engagement, MasterCard had put up a contest around creating pathways by subject matter experts, and so, instead of having a small L&D team, everybody got involved in the process. People loved to share their expertise.  As a result, peers were glad to come to the classroom not to lecture through a presentation, instead work through a problem together, and thus, just about everybody was learning in the process. The real value is the data that companies get when large numbers of users get on to the platform since it provides a huge pool of Subject matter experts as well.


“Top four learning trends and skills that L&D professionals need to survive in the future are content Curation, data analytics and talent analytics, keeping skills as the focal point and building a lifelong learning culture.”


What would be the top 4 learning trends that you would suggest every L&D professional to be prepared for as they plan their enterprise learning strategies?


According to me, the top four learning trends and skills that L&D professionals need to survive in the future would be- Firstly, it is very important to have the ability to manage the pool of knowledge. While Instructional design has its importance, content curation is the next big thing. Secondly, hands-on knowledge of data analytics and talent analytics. You can tell so much about your employee population- what skills are they building what sources are they learning from what topics are they learning etc. Thirdly, creating skills as a major focal point, not just in the classroom or e-learning, but also as a career‑long ongoing phenomenon. Finally, building a learning culture by setting up the right attitudes around learning, allowing the rest to flow from that.


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