The dramatic impact of digital technologies is disrupting businesses and business models across industries. The “consumerization of IT” ushered in by the five digital forces — social, mobile, big data and analytics, cloud, and AI and robotics — has changed the way we work, interact and learn. What began as a technological change has swiftly transformed into a sociological change that has had an impact on almost all aspects of our lives and work. These digital technologies are revolutionizing the very nature of business processes of enterprises globally, leading them to adopt new business models.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes the technologies powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a range of new technologies that “combine the physical, digital and biological worlds. These new technologies will impact all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human.” According to Deloitte, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is about more than just advanced technologies: It is about the ways in which those technologies are brought together, and how organizations can harness them to drive operations and growth.”
The Business 4.0 framework, conceptualized by our company, Tata Consultancy Services, identifies four critical business behaviors that can help organizations use technology as a foundation to move to the next level:
- Driving mass personalization: Personalizing products and services to a market of one customer, often even of one transaction, and at scale.
- Creating exponential value: Adopting business models that leverage value from transactions at multiple levels and address new markets.
- Leveraging ecosystems: Collaborating with partners inside and outside the supply chain to create new products and services.
- Embracing risk: Moving beyond rigid planning and operational barriers with an agile strategic approach.
Learning in the New World
To be a global organization and drive growth in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, or VUCA, world, it is important to drive a culture of continuous learning. While the technology landscape in the pre-digital era was simple and limited to web technologies, learning was essentially proprietary in nature and restricted to formal classroom training. However, in the post-digital era, the explosion of technology has revolutionized learning. Web technology has now become increasingly more complex and is continuously evolving, impacting the way we learn.
The fundamental technologies behind the digital world can never be definitive because they are evolving every day. Learning has to be continuous in the ultra-competitive world of digital services. Learning design and deployment have to be rich, personalized and persuasive, available anytime, everywhere.
In a world where the shelf life of knowledge and skills is rapidly shrinking, and constant change and flux are the new normal, learning solutions must evolve constantly and rapidly to keep pace with the multigenerational, digital workforce.
Global learning trends point to an increasing focus on machine learning, AI and hands-on embedded experiences through adaptive learning to make mass-customized training available to a diverse and geographically spread workforce. Democratization of content is changing the way we design learning solutions.
In today’s hyperconnected business climate, such tried and trusted methods of the past have given way to a reimagined talent development strategy, which addresses the problems of speed, scale and spread.
To be sure, traditional teaching methods still have a place in learning leaders’ toolbox. To meet the demand of a global workforce, multinational organizations must make learning and development fast, mobile and sensitive to the learning methods, characteristics and capabilities of their workforce. This means adopting an agile and lean model:
- Do more with less: less time, resources and funding.
- Deliver customized, just in time, easily accessible learning and support on a continuous basis.
- Enlist business and customers as learning partners.
Designing a successful learning strategy can be a key enabler in a successful and growing organization.
Getting C-suite buy-in is at the heart of building a successful learning strategy for the digital age. This includes getting sponsorship for renewing and reimagining the learning approach of the organization by supporting the strategic organizational goals and engaging key stakeholders to develop relevant programs and initiatives and strategically map talent development plans to career growth and aspirations of the learners.
In the words of TCS CEO and managing director Rajesh Gopinathan:
In the era of Industry 4.0 that is disrupting businesses and business models, going agile in a machine-first world has been our philosophy that has fueled our Business 4.0 vision. The Business 4.0 framework has been resonating strongly with our customers as they move forward in their Business 4.0 journeys and has clearly positioned us as thought leaders and the preferred growth and transformation partner to our customers globally.
Talent 4.0 enabling Career 4.0 envisioned by our talent development team has become the strategic differentiator in our Business 4.0 strategy, resulting in wide-scale adoption and application of the digital skilling initiative. The rapid progress we are making in the agile transformation journey, both in training our people into agile practitioners and adoption of the location-independent agile methodology into our projects, has helped in organizational transformation and growth. The success stories of our contextual masters and digital champions have motivated our employees to participate whole-heartedly in these programs and has emboldened us to set our sights high and completely reimagine our talent strategy.
Learning strategies for multigenerational and multicultural workforces should incorporate digital approaches and provide intuitive and personalized learning experience that include a number of considerations.
First, embrace learner-centric design. This can build deep engagement with the learner through fluid and flexible design to accommodate continuous changes, including media (video, quiz, games, etc.) based on need and time.
Experiential learning is also a valuable tool — focused, on-the-job learning, expert talks, technology collaboration, peer challenges and other mechanisms can embed practical hands-on skills more than theory.
Learning should be contextual, allowing learning at the point of need, in real time and to the extent desired. It also should be simple and intuitive, revealing only as much as is required in the moment to the user, providing just enough choices to incrementally move ahead.
Learning should be intrinsically motivating, combining several methods to make a paradigm shift from compliance-driven learning to excitement within the learner. Immersive, engaging content (quizzes, assessments, scenarios, hackathons) can create pull factor.
Finally, it should be frictionless. Try to remove hurdles in the way of a successful learning experience.
Leveraging Social Media
Leveraging internal social media platforms for learning is an effective tool to hook learners. Building and supporting learning communities where all employees can connect, query, collaborate and contribute can go a long way in creating learner engagement. Private and public communities within the platform can allow employees across nationalities, business accounts and seniority levels to engage in an exchange of ideas.
Apart from bringing together all employees, an internal platform can be used for issuing announcements of new courses; launching and running communication campaigns; hosting live chats where experts and senior leadership interact directly with all; content co-creation; and collection of qualitative feedback and crowd-sourcing of ideas, as well as sourcing of faculty. Running peripheral and primary activities of a workshop through this platform is an emerging trend.
Finally, leveraging social media enables talent development teams to cut faculty and participant hours.
Learning is best done in groups, especially when associates want to do just-in-time learning specific to an immediate goal. Providing group learning opportunities is a great way to encourage collaboration and foster a culture of continuous learning.
One way this can be done is through group hackathons: teams can form groups and hackathons could be conducted.
Gamifying group learning can also help drive greater accountability in learners. This can be done by setting ambitious targets and milestones, comparing team scores, leaderboards, contests and so on to make it fun and competitive.
You can set multiple levers and strategies to help teams score higher. For example, the larger and more diverse the team, the greater the points. The more complex or ambitious the targets, the greater the points. Participation in hackathons and sharing challenge briefs, as well as articulation and amplification of company stories, could also add points to the team score.
The 5A Learning Strategy — Building a Culture of Continuous Learning
As a global company, TCS has reimagined its learning strategy to build a global workforce through 5A learning — that is, for anyone to learn anytime, anywhere, using any content on any device — to take learning where the learner is and transform learning from “push” to “pull.” This transformational approach has paid rich dividends and become a benchmark globally.
In the continuously emerging complex business and technological environment, organizations (especially IT) face the unique challenge of skilling employees in different geographies in technology areas that are fast changing and diverse. As the speed of change in new technology areas is skyrocketing, employees need to be trained at a faster pace. This calls for a complete reimagination of the way employees learn and operate.
The need of the hour, therefore, is to create a learning management system that is an integrated ecosystem of content, experience, collaborative spaces and different kinds of classrooms and leverage technology to deliver business-aligned targeted learning and outcomes in real time. The focus should be on:
- Access: In a time when learning is democratized, moving away from physical learning spaces to enable anytime, anywhere and any device learning.
- Varied content: A content ecosystem that keeps the content engaging, fresh and relevant at any point.
- Delivery: Where all programs are digitally delivered to a global audience with a rich mix of technology and domain skills.
- Infrastructure: Enabling global collaborative upskilling with virtual labs and connected classrooms provides personalized, immersive learning experiences.
- Continuous innovation: Invest in ongoing innovation and incubate solutions that can result in disruptive transformation for the industry and customers.
Leveraging the experience and expertise of subject matter experts with invaluable contextual knowledge of the customer’s products, services and processes is important in making learning relevant. In large organizations, one of the biggest challenges may be converting this contextual knowledge into a shareable digital format. Enabling the 5As of learning will be the key differentiator in translating the contextual knowledge to reach a larger audience, thereby enabling speed, scale and spread of competency building.
While digital learning can be the key driver of the learning strategy, instructor-led classroom training for behavior science programs, experiential technology learning using labs and activity-based learning enhance learning retention and enrich the learner experience.
Building a learning organization needs a focus on continuously emerging learning trends, an agile approach to learning design and deployment, investment in a robust digital learning framework and an understanding of learner needs.
Therefore, to enable learning across large organizations, it is important to:
- Understand resistance and drive inclusive change by reaching out to all stakeholders.
- Engage learners by providing multiple accessibility platforms and engage them on enterprise social learning platforms in addition to mobile learning.
- Create short learning modules. These are more effective and acceptable to employees.
- Design content in such a way that learners identify opportunities to apply learning to real situations.
- Have strong, visible support of learning initiatives from leadership.
- Put rewards and recognitions in place to help reinforce new behaviors and motivate people to change.
With the digital reimagination of industries from banking to travel and health care, it is important that enterprise learning solutions adopt technology-driven solutions to create a culture of continuous learning. Learning policies need to keep in mind evolving learning requirements and address issues of accessibility to technology-based learning solutions to stay relevant.
Most important, deeply embedded learning solutions must be integrated into every stage of the employee life cycle to help build a successful learning organization.