When 2020 started, never had we imagined that this year will turn out to be the turning point for everything we knew about work. The COVID-19 pandemic has entirely transformed how we looked at work, the workplace, and the workers. Business strategies had to be changed overnight and simultaneously, people strategies too went through an overhaul. In short, it can be rightly said that 2020 has been the most defining year of the century for the world of work.
In order to understand how the pandemic has led to organizations redefining their HR and people strategies and has made them realize the criticality of equipping the workforce with new skills, we spoke to Ruzbeh Irani, President - Group Human Resources & Communications; Member of the Group Executive Board, M&M Ltd. In this exclusive interview, he shares his views on the new workplace learning paradigms that COVID-19 has pushed into the spotlight, how can organizations upskill their workforce at this scale and make them future-ready, and how can business leaders and HR teams work together to create a high-impact learning culture in their organizations.
Ruzbeh joined the Mahindra Group in 2007 as Executive Vice President – Corporate Strategy, heading the Group's Strategy function. He became the Chief Brand Officer of the Group and during that time, he spearheaded Mahindra's entry into racing, and led the development of the Group's brand position and core purpose, 'Rise'. He then moved to head International Operations for the Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors of M&M. Subsequently, he led Group Corporate Brand, PR, and Communications, Ethics as well as Mahindra’s Racing team.
In April 2020, Ruzbeh took over as President – Group Human Resources & Communications. He is now also responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethics, and Corporate Services. He is a member of Mahindra’s Group Executive Board.
Ruzbeh completed his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Bombay University in 1983. He went on to receive his Masters in Management Studies from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, and is an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Post his Master's degree, Ruzbeh worked with Hindustan Lever and Unilever for close to 22 years, across geographies, in marketing, customer management, and general management.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
What are the new workplace learning paradigms that COVID-19 has pushed into the spotlight?
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the dependence on technology. As a result, like other business processes, including learning and development has also shifted to a virtual sphere. Learning has become flexible, convenient, and accessible anytime and anywhere, which our employees have benefitted from over the last six months. Self-paced and need-based learning has come to the forefront. To this end, we have converted several of our flagship programs to virtual-led models in no time.
The pandemic has brought learning & development to the forefront and has opened a plethora of new-age learning opportunities, not only for the employees but also for organizations. How do you see the larger picture of L&D and skilling initiatives across organizations?
The importance of learning and re-skilling was very high even before the pandemic given the constant disruption in the VUCA world. But the COVID-19 enforced pause has only emphasized the criticality of equipping our workforce with new skills. The future of work will be different, and I believe that this crisis has provided us with the opportunity to look at the learning needs holistically. The new-age platforms that businesses have had to adopt amid the pandemic will only accelerate this trend thanks to their on-the-go, anytime, anywhere accessibility.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re-skilling and upskilling. How can organizations upskill their workforce at this scale and make them future-ready?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that we simply cannot foresee what skills our workforces may need to be equipped with 10, 15 or 20 years from now. The nature of work is changing dramatically. The key to coping with so much change is to inculcate a mindset of constant learning in your employees. In today’s fast-changing world, adaptability is a key skill that will be the most valued going forward.
Given that the majority of workers are now working remotely, employees and leaders must focus on their skilling initiatives. What are some of the skills that will play a critical role for businesses to succeed and thrive in a remote work environment?
The following skills across two dimensions will emerge as critical capabilities for senior leaders.
- Digital Literacy
- Strategic Thinking
- Decision making in complex situations
- Business re-modeling
- Redefining trust
- Building resilience
- Ability to engage diverse workforce
- Compassionate and inclusive leadership
- Listening, Empathetic communication
There is a significant cultural shift that organizations are facing after the crisis. How can business leaders and HR teams work together to create a high-impact learning culture in their organizations?
At Mahindra, our culture is guided by our “Rise” philosophy: accepting no limits, alternative thinking, and driving positive change. It has been our endeavor to embed deep learning culture at Mahindra by mapping the career aspiration of our employees with talent development. The three pillars of Rise make us look at our business and roles very differently. That coupled with the contemporary solutions provided by the Mahindra Leadership University, sets our workforce up for relevant and targeted learning opportunities. It makes us challenge conventions and think about the impact we are creating for our workforce.
The biggest challenge is to enable employees to balance core work and personal needs and make time for learning and development. For us, engagement and value focus are the key when it comes to providing learning opportunities. We are not about the number of courses, but the quality, diversity, and value of courses made available to each Mahindra-ite and that’s what sets us apart.
What are some key upskilling and reskilling initiatives that you have implemented in your organization?
Skilling goes hand-in-hand with the needs of the industry. Hence, we don’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to skilling and the development of talent. Guided by our Rise philosophy in tandem with the behavior traits, career aspirations, and the industry needs, we scientifically define skilling opportunities for our talent. Some of the broad areas of focus include: digital skills – AI, data sciences, machine learning, etc.; problem-solving; technical skills; and innovation orientation.