Cultivating a learning organization in the new reality

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Today, emerging technologies are getting assimilated into our personal as well as business environments at high speed and frequency.

Clients expect us to be a trusted partner in their journey towards adopting these technologies to help them stay competitive. The IT service industry is currently abuzz with terms such as automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, internet of things, analytics, and cloud. It is imperative that we follow a structured approach to internalizing these technology enablers, and create a skilled workforce that can deliver on these at scale. Our extensive experience working with leading brands and organizations across the world, as well as our own research1 shows that the ability to learn, evolve, and adapt in pace with the changes is more important than having people with specific expertise.2 In this context, it is useful to revisit the concept of a learning organization as proposed by Peter Senge.3  Learning organizations develop as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations and enable them to remain competitive in the business environment. One of the characteristics of a learning organization is personal mastery. There is a competitive advantage for an organization whose workforce can learn more quickly than the workforce of other organizations.4 In this context, we have identified a few essential steps that will enable your organization to become more effective in its journey to becoming a learning organization. Here we go:

What are the areas we need to provide training on?
Faced with the onslaught of so many different emerging technologies, the first challenge is to figure out which technologies to place a bet on, and create a training curriculum that addresses the organization’s needs. In today’s market, some of the key technology enablers that are being hyped up in the media by influencers include automation, artificial intelligence/ machine learning, internet of things, analytics, and cloud. None of these technologies are truly new on the horizon, and some, such as AI/ML have been around for decades. However, the ecosystem for adopting these technologies has reached a tipping point. For example, the availability of vast quantities of data, the democratization of AI algorithms, and the affordability of computing power over cloud have ensured that AI/ML is a key enabler for automation. Such convergence of technologies results in a virtuous cycle of uptake and is often a leading indicator of the technologies that need to be focused on. Also, focus of the senior management and market data help in identifying the key focus areas where training to enable personal mastery must be provided.

What is the best approach?

  1. The go-to concept: The contemporary approach of providing people within the organization with learning opportunities is to ensure that the learning module “goes to” or “is accessible to” the talents, irrespective of location/ time constraints. Expecting our talent to go to a specified location (i.e, a. classroom) to undergo training at a specified time is a constraint that cannot be fulfilled due to various business pressures. Further, the classroom model of training is not scalable, especially when the workforce is global. Leveraging e-learning modules provided by partner vendors to supplement your core curriculum is another way of making sure that the workforce is always exposed to the latest and greatest tools.
  2. Hands-on, real-world experience: In emerging technology areas, it is no longer enough to provide just classroom training on the concepts. It is imperative that the participants gain hands-on experience by implementing what they learn through some practical implementations. For this, a structured approach of enabling the learners to get mentored by more experienced individuals as they work on capstone projects, will bring out the best of the “apprentice” culture of learning.
  3. Organizational learning: Knowledge repositories that collate all the practical experiences gained by the workforce should be formally created and made accessible across the organization. Specifically, the learners should be encouraged to contribute to this organizational learning by mandating that they contribute to such repositories, especially as they work through their capstone projects. Such repositories instill confidence in clients about how such assets can enable them to adopt these faster, better, and cheaper.
  4. Continual upgrading: With such rapid changes in technology, features of products also go through major revisions at a greater frequency. While getting the workforce to go through refresher courses is one way of helping them stay abreast with the upgrades, focused community events that enable peer-to-peer learning of best practices through organizaton-wide webinars is a more effective way of achieving this at scale.

Enabling governance:
The above steps would seem to indicate that a learning organization can be created with a significant push from the training department of an organization. While it does play a lion’s role in establishing such a learning organization, other aspects that play a vital role are as follows:

  • Executive focus: Top management must recognize the key technological trends that are playing out in the market and actively push for upskilling the workforce. A few metrics that provide actionable information to the management about the health of the learning organization must be established and reviewed periodicals.
  • Business alignment: Every business unit must be aligned to the executive vision of being a vibrant, learning organization. They must commit to get their teams trained and participate in the learning outcomes. Further, silos should be broken down and organizational learning should be tapped into for the collective progress.
  • HR: The training department takes the onus of upskilling the workforce formally. Additionally, the HR department should actively work with the business units to ensure that individuals who undergo such upskilling are deployed in projects that can utilize their skills more effectively. Establishing an accelerated career path for such individuals will also help in managing the attrition of skilled employees.

Walk-the-talk:
Capgemini has taken a significant lead in its journey towards becoming a learning organization. The Capgemini University, in collaboration with the Learning & Development teams in each of the geographies, has been at the forefront of designing curricula that help in upskilling our workforce. Further, the Automation Drive Academy and AI Academy are examples of how market forces and executive focus have enabled us to create a thriving pool of highly skilled resources to meet the demands of our clients in such emerging areas of technologies. In each of these areas, organizational learning is also enabled through the creation of knowledge repositories (e.g., Automation Drive Store, Automation Drive Library) that are accessible to the entire workforce. Lastly, there is a governance around these initiatives as senior management periodically reviews the accomplishments of these academies and the outcomes to ensure that they are aligned with organizational vision and mission. It’s not only about applying the right technology to the right processes; equal focus must be given to an organization’s people and this balance can be achieved with large-scale upskilling that boosts employee morale and output.

Read more about how upskilling is integral to the success of adopting emerging technologies such as automation in our report titled “Upskilling your people in the age of the machine”.1.

References:

  1. Upskilling your people for the age of the machine, Capgemini Research Institute, (https://www.capgemini.com/research/upskilling-your-people-for-the-age-of-the-machine/), accessed on 12-Jul-2019
  2. https://www.infoq.com/articles/cultivating-learning-organisation/, accessed on Jun 21, 2019.
  3. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_organization, accessed on Jun 21, 2019.
  4. Wang, C.L. and Ahmed, P.K. 2003. Organizational learning: a critical review. The learning organization, 10 (1) pp. 8–17.

 

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