We Move or Get Moved – Our Purpose is not ‘Gap’ Fulfillment but to Facilitate ‘Evolution’

During the last few weeks I have been spending considerable time with my friends from Learning and Development domain and during the course of our discussions many topics arose; the most fundamental and critical one being – what is our purpose in this new age?

The new age is more than ever challenging because internet and technology have made knowledge accessibility a non-competitive or non-strategic leveller. Today anybody with a smart phone and internet access can reach any depths of knowledge and doesn’t necessarily require a classroom and teacher to acquire knowledge. In this new age where the economy is slow and every penny matters, the organizations and managers are equally not excited to nominate folks to programs. In this age of instant gratification wherein participants believe that by merely attending a course nirvana is granted, fundamentals are to be revisited and that includes relooking at what is the PURPOSE of the LEARNING FUNCTION.

Learning & Development as a function has evolved with times and is again at cross roads today. Traditionally it was seen as a function which simply facilitated ‘Fulfilling GAPS’, in terms of skills / competencies and thereby enabled the overall development of capability building both at the individual and organizational level. Then came a phase where it became a strategic function by enabling the business to identify its future leaders and groom them. In time, now it has again reached a threshold of evolution.

Learning as a function is poised to enable Organizations and its employees to ‘EVOLVE’.

‘Evolution’ is drastically different from ‘Fulfilling Gaps’ in many ways, starting from the fact where Fulfilling Gaps is perceived more as ‘near’ term and transactional in nature; whereas Evolution is more Futuristic and Strategic in purpose. Fulfilling Gaps is seen more as a responsibility of Learning Function whereas Evolution is a co-creation process between the various stakeholders. The biggest difference is Evolution thrives to make the organizations and its stakeholders Future Ready in a more comprehensive fashion than we do now.

Evolution is not possible to achieve if the following fundamentals are not in place. The Learning function has to ensure that foundations for these fundamentals are established:

We will Focus to make Organizations Future Ready

Fundamentally the Learning function should focus on making the organization future ready. It could be in terms of making it more flexible to adopt to change, or having a leadership pipeline in place, or Institutionalizing Values as cultural ethos and thereby creating a unique DNA for retention or attraction of Talent and so on. This doesn’t mean Learning should not focus on the daily bread & butter issues of gap fulfilment of immediate needs, but it also needs to draw a line on how much do we invest in today and how much for tomorrow?

We are not responsible to make Employees Resume Sexy

Knowingly or unknowingly Learning function has made needs identification from Performance Appraisals as the Primary and only source. More than often it has been observed that the needs identified during this process are more aligned to the individual personal aspirations rather than business requirements. It is no wonder that at the end of the year we often realize that much of the budget could have better utilized or optimized if we gave up the responsibility of making employees resumes future ready.

We will focus on those who are geared up to make a difference

Learning is a two-way process. We can’t force adults into rooms and expect them to learn, absorb and implement if they are not ready or keen to do so. So why do we invest equal amount of time and energy on those who are keen to learn and those who are there only to warm the seats? It is imperative that we focus only on those who are geared up to make a difference as that would be a winner for all the stakeholders.

We are not responsible for food & sanitation

In the quest for evolution, we can’t be held ransom on issues like food or sanitation of the training facilities etc. We should refocus our energy on issues like the alignment of learning programs and aspirations, the applicability of the learning’s at the workplace and so on. It’s time to dump the existing measuring parameters of our learning interventions and focus on issues which would truly reflect the spirit of evolution.

We are ready to Risk it

As a true business partner, we should be accountable for some measurements which we strive for and should be ready to risk our reputation on the same in a similar fashion in which business does. Our measurements should focus on how much more businesses we could generate, how much the productivity and profitability grew, how ready are we for future in terms of a leadership pipeline, how ready are we in terms of organizations overall capability, what is our build v/s buy ratio and so on. Evolution isn’t easy, but it is the top priority in all the CEO agenda. Evolution is the opportunity for us to recast ourselves from being perceived as a reactive support function to being projected as a futuristic business partner. It is up to us now that how we make the move and move on…