Todayâs learning programs are enabling organizations to navigateÂ business challenges caused by uncertainty, fill skills gaps, and build theÂ leaders of tomorrow.
By Debbie Bolla
For Naveen Bhateja, executive vice president and chief peopleÂ officer for Medidata Solutions, the recent changes to theÂ world of work caused by COVID-19 have only proved the valueÂ of a quality learning program.
âLearning and development are critical to keeping employeesÂ engaged and feeling connected to the company and itsÂ mission,â he explains. âDuring times of uncertainty, theÂ connection employees feel can wane.â
Some of this missing connectedness stems from the need andÂ nature of remote workâespecially for workers who hadnâtÂ experienced it in the past and moved into it abruptly due toÂ the urgency of the global health crisis. But technology hasÂ played a large part in easing the transition.
âMany companies, including Medidata, are investing in moreÂ digital technologies and methodologies to transform theirÂ learning channels and learning management features,â heÂ explains.
Mary Herrmann, managing director of global executiveÂ coaching for BPI group, also understands techâs valueâespecially in todayâs circumstances. âAdvanced technologicalÂ capabilities have enabled nimble organizations to continueÂ L&D programs without a hitch by transitioning them to virtualÂ environments,â she says. âOpportunities for developmentÂ can remain consistent or change with organizational valuesÂ and strategy as long as the platforms are reliable and haveÂ features conducive to learning.â
Virtual work is also shifting the content of training programs,Â Bhateja says, since employee and manager needs haveÂ changed dramatically in the past few months. âFor example,Â weâre seeing companies increase training around how toÂ manage a remote workforce,â he notes. âMore than ever,Â managers must consider how to convey human qualities suchÂ as empathy to support employees through the pandemicÂ and social unrest; they must focus on creating collaborativeÂ scenarios that support employees juggling unique family andÂ personal needs.â
Herrmann agrees. âIn terms of channeling leadership topicsÂ most conducive to todayâs ambiguous work environment,Â there has never been a time when managersâ coachingÂ skills have been more significant and applicable,â she says.Â âIntense focus on developing leadersâ ability to listen withoutÂ judgment, question with curiosity, and challenge deep-seatedÂ beliefs, as well as guiding individual commitment toÂ action, can be applied to any of the various issues distressingÂ employees right now. Additionally, that level of unconditionalÂ support creates an inspired and energized workforce.â
Within the L&D space, pre-COVID-19 challenges still existÂ for organizations. A main consideration: the skills gap, withÂ Deloitte reporting that it could have a $2.5 trillion impact onÂ the U.S. economy over the next 10 years.
âAs this gap widens, businesses that donât take steps toÂ address it might be left behind,â says Bhateja. With thatÂ in mind, Medidata built a specific strategy around cross-functionalÂ projects that help foster a learning culture.Â Bhateja says this strategy is an action close to home in the HRÂ department.
âIn the context of recent dynamic growth for our company, IÂ questioned how the traditional center of excellence (COE) HRÂ model could meet the needs of a rapidly changing business,âÂ he explains. âAt the same time, we wanted to define exactlyÂ what the âPeople Teamâsâ contribution would be and what ourÂ vision for the future would be.â
The solution? A five-pillar strategy that aligns companyÂ objectives to areas not typically covered in the COE modelÂ that can be addressed through project work and come withÂ professional growth opportunities.
Bhateja provides an example: âOne member on my team hadÂ been doing employee engagement events management. SheÂ took on a leading role in building the change managementÂ resources. As a result of that project, she grew an interest inÂ learning and organizational development. A few months ago,Â she accepted a role on that team and now focuses exclusivelyÂ on that work. Itâs a great example of how cross-functionalÂ work can open up career opportunities for team membersÂ and aid in retention of top talent, particularly when budgetsÂ are tight during challenging economic times.â
Another strategy the organization leverages to retain topÂ talent is executive coaching and leadership development.Â âAt Medidata, we have various programs designed toÂ assimilate top talent into the organization and into newÂ leadership positions; transition them into those leadershipÂ roles with an expanding scope that impacts the business;Â and develop those with high potential to increase theirÂ effectiveness,â he explains.
Medidata leverages coaching for three talent transitions:
- assimilation into the organization or into a new leadershipÂ position;
- transition into a new role and/or one with expanding scopeÂ and impact in the business; and
- acceleration and development for high performers withÂ high potential to increase effectiveness in their role.
Bhateja forecasts that technology will continue to driveÂ the future of L&D programs. âLooking ahead, one of theÂ technologies I expect to become more mainstream within L&DÂ is virtual reality (VR),â he explains. âFor example, VR is key toÂ behavior apps that simulate scenarios ranging from runningÂ meetings to performance coaching. We at Medidata wereÂ exploring VR applications prior to the pandemic and haveÂ since accelerated our investments.â
For organizations looking to invest in their employeesÂ through learning and development, a roundup of partnersÂ and some of their services is provided here.