Article: 'L&D function is still slow to respond to business needs'

Learning & Development

'L&D function is still slow to respond to business needs'

Companies are constantly stuck in a conundrum where when the economy is doing well, companies have no time to train; yet, when the economy is not doing so well, there’s no money to train, says Samir Bedi, EY ASEAN Workforce Advisory Leader.
'L&D function is still slow to respond to business needs'

Samir has extensive consulting experience in the areas of business strategies linked to people-organization dynamics across Southeast Asia. His experience includes all areas of human resources, particularly in organization structuring, manpower planning and optimization, integration of performance, reward and talent programs, and HR process review and audit.

Here are the excerpts of the interview.

How can L&D function enable organizations to reinvent for tomorrow? What has changed in L&D over the last few years?

The issue with L&D functions is that many are still slow to respond to business needs. In the fast-changing environment that companies operate in today, this means that learning programs may be outdated and need to play “catch up”. Hence, the most critical thing that L&D functions need to focus on is reskilling themselves. As well, L&D functions need to ensure that the learning objective and resulting programs are better integrated with the business –-even if this means that training modules that are deeply ingrained within the organization may be shelved if they are outdated and no longer bring value to the organization. Amid the busy schedules of employees, L&D may also wish to explore new and more agile approaches to deliver learning programs, so that learning can take place more easily and flexibly.  

Traditionally, the L&D function reports to human resources. While this ensures good governance of the program and that the learning programs will benefit the entire organization, such approach may mean that the L&D function is missing out on updates of any new strategic directions that the organization is going for

Lack of planning and commitment from the C-suite seems to be a major hurdle that keeps an organization's learning and development efforts from reaching its full potential. What's your take on this?

Indeed, L&D functions can benefit from establishing a stronger connection with the C-suite. Learning now happens in byte-sized modular programs that allow for quick deployment and thus create immediate business value. This new form of learning works to the advantage of L&D teams to operate more nimbly and deliver value faster.

One of the top areas that talent developers expect to focus on through 2019 is identifying, assessing, and addressing skills gaps, according to a study. How do you view this?

Different generations bring different value and capabilities with them. For example, Gen Z employees are more creative, able to multitask better and are definitely more tech-savvy (i.e., they adapt to and adopt new technologies much faster), while Gen X employees have deeper experience. Hence, to manage a multigenerational workforce, it is important for business leaders to bring together employees of the different generations so they can learn from one another and create a strong connection that allows the sharing of experience and new ideas and perspectives to benefit the organization and workplace culture as a whole.

A study finds that the biggest challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning. In such a scenario, what's the way forward for organizations and how can they deliver training on multiple platforms?

When the economy is doing well, companies have no time to train. Yet, when the economy is not doing so well, there’s no money to train. Companies are constantly stuck in this conundrum. Organizations and L&D functions must recognize that learning and training is not about the number of hours. Instead, there should be a clear understanding about the abilities that the training or reskilling will develop and the value it delivers.

Lifelong learning is a culture that needs to be embedded within the entire workplace ecosystem. For example, employers need to measure the effectiveness of the training – how the reskilling works and whether it enhances business value and employees productivity. From the government perspective, the availability of nation-wide programs such as SkillsFuture indicates the commitment to drive the initiative. For the education system, which includes educational institutions and training providers, how do they level up their programs to remain relevant and address market demands for new skills and new methods of delivery? And lastly for employees, there needs to be recognition that continual learning and upskilling will lead to better growth and career prospects as they increase their productivity and deliver higher value to their employers.

How can technology and analytics be leveraged for L&D to power reinvention and make an organization-wide impact?

Technology is already being used by many L&D teams and training providers to allow the delivery of learning in a more flexible and accessible manner. As well, technology can also allow learning to be more interactive and effective. As learning is increasingly being delivered via varied platforms, technology can gather relevant data and information for better insights into user behavior for more effective learning programs to be developed. E.g., what types of programs generate more end-user interaction and interest, what training platforms yield better results.

What is one thing the L&D function needs to change about itself to be relevant in the changing future?

A question that L&D teams should be answering is “how is the L&D function and team reskilling themselves?” The L&D function needs to be a position where they understand the business requirements and organization transformation so as to recommend appropriate learning programs for the talent.

To manage a multigenerational workforce, it is important for business leaders to bring together employees of the different generations so they can learn from one another and create a strong connection that allows the sharing of experience and new ideas and perspectives to benefit the organization as a whole

What does the L&D team of tomorrow need to look like in order to prepare organizations for a digital future?

There is no simple answer to this. However, for a start, L&D teams need to consider how they are structured and who they report to. Traditionally, the L&D function reports to Human Resources. While this ensures good governance of the program and that the learning programs will benefit the entire organization, such approach may mean that the L&D function is missing out on updates of any new strategic directions that the organization is going for, and will need to play catch up in time. While reporting to the corporate transformation or strategy office will mean that the L&D team is kept updated on the organization’s strategic direction and can direct more resources to train employees accordingly (e.g., in digital), this may come at the cost of undermining the mainstay of the business. Perhaps the L&D team of tomorrow will see a dual reporting line, where L&D teams are plugged into both the transformation office while keeping a close connection with the Human Resources function so that the right training programs are considered and delivered.

 

Topics: Learning & Development, Employee Relations

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