Building a Culture of Continuous Learning in the Digital Era

By Damodar Padhi, VP & Global Head – Talent Development, TCS

In the story of Arjuna and Ekalavya from the Indian mythological epic Mahabharata, Ekalavya is the quintessential learner; when he is rejected by Guru Dronacharya, he installs a statue of his Guru and goes on to learn and excel in archery. Long before virtual learning became a reality in the age we live in - Ekalavya proved that anyone can learn any time, anywhere using any device – what is needed is the ignition of passion to learn and excel.

We are in a time of rapid technological transformation. The ‘Consumerization of IT’ ushered in by the five Digital forces, Social, Mobile, Big Data & Analytics, Cloud, and AI & Robotics, have changed the way we work, interact and learn. What began initially 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 in fact revolutionizing the very nature of business processes of enterprises globally, leading them to adopt new business models.

While the technology landscape in the pre-digital era was simple and limited to web technologies, Mainframe, C++, etc., learning was essentially proprietary in nature and restricted to formal, class room training. However, in the post-Digital era - the explosion of technology has revolutionized learning. Web technology has now become increasingly more complex and continuously evolving - impacting the way we interact with the world around us and the way we learn. The fundamental technologies behind the Digital world can never be definitive because they are evolving every day and learning has to be continuous in the ultra-competitive world of apps and digital services - learning design and deployment have be rich, personalized and persuasive – available anytime, anywhere and on any device. In this scenario, the IT Services industry faces the unique challenge of skilling employees working in different geographies in technology areas that are fast changing and diverse. As the speed of change in new technology areas is growing shorter, employees need to be trained at a faster pace. This calls for a complete re-imagination of the way employees learn and operate in the new world.

The need of the hour therefore, is to create a Learning Management System that is an integrated ecosystem of content, experience, collaborative spaces, different kinds of classrooms and leverage technology to deliver business aligned targeted learning and deliver outcomes in the real time, with a focus on:

1. Access –In a time when learning is democratized - moving away from physical learning spaces to enable anytime, anywhere and any device learning.

2. Varied Content – A content ecosystem that keeps the content engaging, fresh and relevant at any point.

3. Delivery – Where all programs are digitally delivered to a global audience with a rich mix of technology and domain skills.

4. Infrastructure –That enables global collaborative up-killing with virtual labs and connected classrooms - that provide personalized, immersive learning experiences.

5. 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 shareable digital format. Enabling the 5As of learning - Anyone to learn Anytime Anywhere using Any content delivered on Any device 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 learner’s experience.

To enable learning across large organizations therefore, it is important to:

• Understand resistance and drive inclusive change by reaching out to all stakeholders

• Engage learners by providing multiple accessibility platforms and engaging learners 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

• Learning initiatives should have strong, visible support from management

• Put rewards and recognitions in place to help reinforce new behaviours and motivate people to change

In conclusion, with the digital re-imagination of industries from Banking to travel and Healthcare, it is important that enterprise learning solutions adapt technology driven solutions to create a culture of continuous learning. Learning policies need to keep in mind the evolving learning requirements and address issues of accessibility and adaption to technology based learning solutions to stay relevant, Most importantly, it is important to integrate deeply embedded learning solutions into every stage of the employee lifecycle to help build a successful learning organization.

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