Jerry Abey Chittooran would like to call himself a humble Human Resources Management practitioner who believes in the principle of “Bringing Human back to Human Resources”. After completing his Bachelors in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering, he pursued his studies in Management from a coveted Business school in Canada and made HR Management a profession.
Apart from this, he is an aficionado of projects and holds a Diploma in Project Management in line with PMI standards. He is also a Certified COACH with Harrison Assessments International.
He comes with more than a decade of experience in a variety of industries including IT, EdTech, Manufacturing, Hospitality, and Healthcare. In his present capacity, he leads Organizational Development (OD) at one of the most leading Footwear manufacturing companies in India overseeing, culture, transformation, change, and talent development.
He is also an active volunteer with NIPM Kerala Chapter and is a key stakeholder for Digilearning and HR Tech Committees.
In a recent interaction with benefigo.in, he shared his opinions on ‘Learning and Development, a topic close to his heart.
How do you define ‘Learning and Development’ and why is it important?
Firstly, by definition is – “In an organizational context, Learning & Development can be attributed as all activities that encompass to aid the organization and employee to garner and improve the competencies required to excel and develop the employee, career & organizational life cycle.”
Secondly, on the significance of L&D, there are two aspects here – Learning and Development. And both these are synergistic, mostly operating as “necessary & sufficient” conditions. Learning is inevitable for one to grow in one’s career and for the development of the organization as a whole.
Likewise, a development mindset is required for the organization at large and the employee specifically for learning to happen. As they say, mindsets can be changed, but not set minds. So, an open and reflective development focus only enables learning. Organizations need to develop a learning culture if either of these aspects can take off.
According to you, what are some of the best strategies to incorporate into ‘Learning and development?
I have been talking on multifarious occasions about a strategy I have coined. It’s called the CLEAR strategy and can work wonders if implemented in the right manner. CLEAR stands for C-Content, L-Learning Cohorts, E-Environment, A-Assessments, R-Rewards. If organizations can ensure that all the above are fulfilled, that shall cut the ice of the LEARNING problem.
Here’s how it works – identify the learning groups (L) to gauge the learnings they require, leverage on multi-pronged agenda of creating, curating, and crowdsourcing learning content (C), creating a platform and habitat for organizational learning (E) so that it’s not a compliance activity, making assessments (A) of learning mandatory while tying it to performance goals and lastly, rewarding (R) your learners.
If you can adopt this, success is yours!
How do you perceive the 70:20:10 learning framework?
I think the concept remains but the percentages might have changed a bit. The original concept said that 70% has to happen through on-the-job learning, 20% through informal learning, and 10% through formal learning.
I think with the availability of a lot of learning content these days, on job learning has suffered a dent. Ideally, it should be something like 50:30:20 now. With a lot of learning opportunities up for grabs, people are investing their learning time in areas outside their functional area as well. This is happening through both formal and informal means.
Also, social learning powered by digital learning platforms has been an enabler on that front. However, job learning through experiential learning, heuristic learning, or action learning still rules the roost.
Is ‘Learning and Development’ aimed at individual growth or collective growth?
It takes two to tango. So the benefits also should go for both is what I feel. Jokes apart, as organizations are constituted by people and they control the harness in making or breaking a firm’s future, they should be at the front end of learning with the organizational need playing the background dynamics.
Gone are the days employees looked at a fat paycheck as the only benefit. It’s the space of “Employee Experience (EX)” these days and they are looking at career growth and individual development more than ever. So, the organization has to play a balancing act by creating learning opportunities that will offer dividends to the employees, teams, and organization at large in one shot.
What suggestions would you like to give to companies to make ‘Learning and Development’ more effective?
First and foremost, learning has always been seen as a piecemeal activity. The accountability was always vested with the HR department in general and the L&D sub-function in particular. This silo approach has to be broken if we are to create a learning organization.
Organizational DNA should have a learning culture embedded in it. Functional leaders and teams need to take ownership of learning and have to work closely with HR business partners in creating this momentum and taking this forward.
Second, measuring the impact of learning has been more qualitative based on feedback responses, smile sheets, etc. This needs to change. The success of learning initiatives needs to be measured through business results. Also, how learning impacts the bottom line needs to be systematically measured, reported, and communicated so that there is more embracing of learning opportunities.
Third, at the budgeting table itself, there should be funding dedicatedly made available for L&D. This makes sure that there is a dedicated resource that is available for mapping organizational learning.
How is ‘Learning and Development’ in large companies different from that in small businesses?
It is the scale and budgets I would say. A Multi-National Corporation (MNC) would have the luxury of a dedicated L&D budget. This would automatically allow them to map key learning opportunities to the workforce.
However, the thing is at the other end of the continuum for a small/medium enterprise or a startup where existence itself is a challenge, and learning through frugal means is all that can afford.
With the advent of digital learning, this is also changing. Usually expensive content is now available at an affordable price tag on MOOC platforms, catalogue providers, and course aggregators. Also, post Covid-19, small/medium companies, and startups have understood the need for staying relevant through upskilling and reskilling.
Though the needle hasn’t moved much in allocating a dedicated L&D budget in such companies, the organizational ecosystem now allows employees to partake in learning initiatives through hassle-free approvals.
Do you think companies have ignored or not given adequate importance to ‘Learning and Development?
From time immemorial, L&D has always been seen as a cost center. Though there had been early evangelists like Peter Drucker who quipped, “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance”, organizations had been giving a cold shoulder to L&D due to the cost involved.
When the set-up costs of creating an academy, hiring trainers, running evaluations, etc. were not mapped to ROI, learning and development became a sitting duck. Coupled with this is the attitude shown by business function, drubbing learning time as a waste of productive business time.
However, now things are slightly improving. Organizations are embracing the reskilling and upskilling revolution. Availability of learning content anytime, anywhere on handheld devices through digital learning has been a game-changer. Costs have also slashed enabling organizations to invest in learning opportunities without bleeding their wallets. Thanks to Covid-19, by the way!
To what extent do you think digitization can help the process of ‘Learning and Development?
Digitization has tilted the learning focus from the organization towards the learner. The transgression from Learning Management System (LMS) to the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) has enabled to bring the learner to the center stage. These platforms help learners to view their content anytime, anywhere and that too on any device they fancy; be it a laptop, tablet, or mobile.
More often than not, a reason cited for not embracing learning opportunities is time constraints. This is now becoming a thing of the past through microlearning or bite-sized learning content. Some platforms offer offline viewing of content to cast away the tyranny of internet connectivity. Also, AI-enabled nudges through notifications about course completion missed learning goals, similar courses, etc. to keep the learners engaged.
There has been a paradigm shift in the way organizational learning has been looked at post-Covid-19. Concepts like learning in the flow of work as suggested by world-renowned analyst Josh Bersin would be something that digital learning will catapult in the times to come.