5 Ways L&D Can Step Up

Growing in the New World | Part 1 | 5 Ways L&D Can Step Up

As companies the world over undergo transformations, rework their business models and supply chains to be more resilient and anti-fragile, the successful organizations will be those that have people that adapt and grow. In this three-part series, we examine how organizations can systemically and quickly build new capabilities and encourage a growth mindset. We will visit the role people managers can play and how business leaders can drive the growth agenda. Let us kick-off with our recommendations for the custodian of capability development, the Learning & Development (L&D) professional.

If you are a typical L&D professional, you would have carried out a detailed learning needs analysis and have a carefully constructed calendar of training & learning activities all mapped out and budgeted for.  The relevance of even the best laid L&D plans are brought into question with the very premise that these are based on undergoing significant changes. However, we advocate that L&D can be pivotal in facilitating change and learning, and now more than ever you can strategically partner your business. Here are five ways how L&D professionals can step up and make a difference:

Stay in-step with business changes

Many businesses are changing in part or in whole, supply chains are being reworked and sources of procurement relocated, business models are being modified even overhauled, and ways of working are getting altered. How can L&D professionals stay on top of these changes and align learning needs and outcomes to evolving business realities, especially when operating remotely?

Our recommendation is to listen, listen, listen! Invite yourself to business meetings, to those Monday morning virtual huddles, those leadership meetings and be a fly on the wall. Talk to your network of business managers, front line personnel, and listen deeply. What are the shifts in the requirements and needs of your organization’s customers/consumers, how is the business evolving and what are the challenges involved and the new ways of working? What are the new mindsets and capabilities required, and which are the ones that need to be turbocharged?

Go beyond learning programs to build learners

As the definitions of ‘normal’ and ‘business as usual’ evolve, so will the workforce. Adults derive joy from learning and adept learners shall quickly scale the learning curve. Now more than ever, people will learn in unexpected ways and unexpected people will have insights and lessons to share. The new hierarchies will be determined by the power differentials of learning, innovation, and adaptability.

L&D professionals can play a vital role in accelerating and disseminating such learning. Encourage team leaders and managers to surface such learnings in their teams. Questions such as ‘what is our top new insight this week’ can be powerful ways of sharing tacit learning. Bubble such lessons up in wider forums, with a special focus on inter-team knowledge shares, in the form of virtual brown bags and the likes. Identify and recognize the learning Ninjas – those who are not only learning swiftly but also applying their insights and sharing them with others. By build learners, you build a culture of learning, the positive effects of which will long outlast uncertain times.

Support managers to be facilitative coaches

The role of the manager has been evolving such that he/she needs to do much more than managing tasks and jobs. The ask of the modern-day manager is that they coach and mentor their team members and be their safety net at work. Like never before, managers need to rise and play these roles, and that too through online and virtual means. Remote is here to stay and so are emotions like anxiety. Jobs are no longer secure and there are no guaranteed paychecks. There may be instances of team members dealing with loss and sickness of loved ones and even colleagues. Today’s manager needs to balance across these emotions and priorities and take mature decisions on how they engage with team members and ensure that the team feels inspired and is productive.

We recommend making managerial programs a priority and leveraging a variety of channels – classroom sessions (virtual or otherwise) of varying lengths, self-paced learning through curated reading, podcasts and the likes. Flip the classroom and help managers practice role-plays and discuss scenarios and real-life situations that they are dealing with. Self-paced learning will work well when you need to disseminate information, e.g. do’s and don’ts of an on-line meeting while practice sessions will help in building skills. Identify, through formal/informal feedback mechanisms, managers who need additional support and leverage psychometric tools to uncover behavioral and managerial styles. Pay extra attention to managers who will benefit from extra support and coach them closely.

Partner managers and leaders on managing themselves

Grappling with business uncertainties, balancing the needs of various stakeholders and keeping teams engaged and productive is taking a toll on leaders and managers, on their physical and emotional health. World over the focus is shifting to well-being and the irony lies in the fact that those working to ensure others’ well-being may end up not having the bandwidth or ability to take care of their own.

L&D professionals can step up to remind leaders that they need to put on their oxygen masks even as they help others with theirs. Coach leaders to give themselves permission to take care of themselves and to lean on others as required. Many of us have suffered personal losses during these times or know close friends or family who have. Handing someone the pink slip for factors outside their control is bound to take a toll. Our role as L&D professionals is to systemically put in place psychological safety-nets that protect the vulnerable, including leaders and managers.

Role-model a growth mindset

Change can be tricky, more so when accompanied by an atmosphere of anxiety and in the absence of our usual safety outlets and any precedence to go by. The L&D’s professional’s role becomes more critical, but that much more difficult. Our suggestion is the best way to navigate the choppy waters is by demonstrating a growth mindset.

As L&D professionals, we need to believe that we can adapt to the changing realities quickly, that we can upgrade our skills – be it learning how to maintain our personal connection with audiences even when facilitating on-line, or be it rapidly coming up to speed with business needs. We need to monitor our internal script and coach ourselves to be positive and to view constraints as opportunities.

To echo Carol Dweck’s sentiment, ‘becoming is better than being.’ We believe that in our journey to becoming, and as we aid others in their journeys, there can be a significant opportunity and great joy.

Author: Ekta Poddar