Sunday, 7 December 2014

L & D Leadership League

I had the privilege of attending the L & D leadership league for learning & development professionals organized by 'People matters' at Chennai in hotel ITC Chola  on 16th September 2014 . The half day conclave was  attended by around 150 professionals representing various industries and service sectors.

Normally, in HR conclaves the focus gets diluted as L&D is seen only as a segment of the big umbrella of HR.One may  also  not get the opportunity to meet so many L&D professionals under one roof. These two aspects by themselves can be described as a major achievement of the conclave.

In the first session  Mr Muthu Kumar Thanu, CHRO of Tractors & farm equipment ( TAFE ), set the tone for the proceedings in his plain speaking unambiguous language as to what is expected from L&D professionals. He pointed out that learning by itself would not be meaningful unless it is applied on the job. Similarly learning is not just for one level of employees but should include all levels of employees. when we look at best practices for replicating, we need to keep in mind that the same is contextual. Hence the need to pick up those practices that are relevant & practical in your context or to modify it suitably to make it relevant.

Mr Thanu also spoke about the distinction between leadership learning & behavioural learning. In respect of  the former, the participant after training. should exhibit business attributes such as achievement orientation, be thorough with the business process and have exposure/ experience of what actually happens at the shop floor. The latter should result in a change in behaviour while interacting with  customers & colleagues  at the work place. Behavioural learning should contribute to building the desired culture by reiterating the values expected from employees.

Mr Thanu stated that it is a myth to assume that learning is a solution for all ills. You need to first find out the actual problem & examine whether learning is the solution & then provide it. As for example a disciplinary problem cannot be solved by a training intervention. There is a need to measure the impact of training. Today, learning is an important means of engaging employees. He signed off with the observation that the challenge is for learning to happen at a faster rate than change.

The next session was what the organizers called 'Table host discussions' which was planned for about an hour. As per this format, in a span of one hour, five topics would be discussed led by a distinguished HR practitioner at 5 points/tables in the conference hall.Every 15 minutes, participants will move from one point to the other to listen to the discussion on a new topic. Finally, the leaders who led the discussions would give a summary of the topic based on the results of discussions.
The five subjects for the table host discussion were the following:-
1) What are the design interventions required to build a learning culture?
2)  What are the ways of developing leadership attributes in an organization to foster a learning  culture?
3) How can culture encourage innovation in an organization?
4) What is the ROI of training and what does it mean in terms of a learning organization?
5)  How can organization leverage technology to inbibe pervasive learning in an organization?

Although the table host discussion appeared to be an interesting & novel cocept, during execution, it was found that people spend a lot more time at the first table they went to, meaning sufficient time was not available for the other tables.I myself managed to attend only two and half  of the five topics for the discussion.A stricter implimentation limiting the topics to only two or three would have been more effective, given the fact that only an hour was alloted for the exercise.
When the leaders of the five groups presnted the summary, I found the one on designing interventions for building learning culture (Sl no 1) made by Ms Smitha Murthy, AVP & head OD,Infosys BPO, most   impressive for its clarity & innovative suggestions. The suggestions included the following:-

a) L&D needs to do its own marketing and convince participants as to what is in it for them.
b) Reach out to the influencing  20% key people for spreading the advantages of learning resulting in reaching out to 80% of the population (on the lines of the Pareto principle).
c) Form a learning council having representatives of various levels of employees.Individual development plans for each employee can be implimented imediately  with the clearance of the council
d) Let learning be linked to the personal vision of employees

The next session was facilitated by Ms Meena Surie Wilson,Senior enterprize associate of the centre for creative leadership during which  she underscored the role of experiential games & experiences for driving home leadership lessons to participants.The experiential exercise involved cards being distributed to participants with various scenrio from the work life out of  which they were required to select 3  in an order of priority, based on which their leadership style & inclination was predicted.This was refered to as a 3D approach for balanced leadership development.

The half a day league had two more sessions before we wound up for lunch.This included a session on "Critical thinking capabilities" by Shashir Shetty,national sales manager of Pearson talent lens and another on "Gamified engagement" by Mr K.Ganesan,VP-HR of Tata consultancy services.Of the two, the presentation by the latter was very impressive.Mr Ganesan, at the outset outlined the challenges faced by TCS, an organization employing 3,50000 employees, in attracting talent and retaining their interest.It involves letting prospective employees know how the company is different from others.

One of the most important initiatives in this regard is engaging with students long before they have become employees of the organization.In a software company like TCS, recruitments are made in large numbers but the actual placement on the job could take much longer time.Even after physically reporting  for the job, they could be on the bench for long periods before being assigned a project.It is here that TCS has developed the concept of 'Campus commune', the largest campus portel in the world. Through the portel, the company keeps in touch with students right from their first year of engineering.The portal provides opportunities to participate in technical  quizes, gaming, certifications in terms of technology. The preference, likes,dislikes  & inclination of students are known right from the first year and it is like obtaining their digital footprints for a period of five years.

As for example the company found that students from a textile background are very good in computer designing.In the education-exposure-experience model, participation index in the various activities and the scores is a criteria for success. A person's batching will be delayed if he doesn't get a minimum acceptable score & mileage points in the moving speedometer.Engaging students & employees yet to be posted to assignments and retaining their interest in the company and  & in maintaining technical sharpness are all achieved through this initative which has proved to be very effective & fruitful.

Overall for me, the L&D leadership league was a good opportunity to stimulate the brain, gain some new knowledge and exchange notes with fellow L&D  professionals.Perhaps, a whole day program or less sessions with more focus in a half day program could have made it even more effective. The organizors, however deserve all appeciation for a wonderful initiative that is certainly different from the usual conferences.


  1. I love the concept of behavioral learning and organizational behaviour in a team. It is very interesting to see how management has developed over the years and has slowly started becoming human centric over the age old factory model of management :)

  2. Thank you Vinay! Yes, HR has moved considerably from its traditional role. There is still a long way to go & the journey continues...

  3. Yet another interesting write up from you Rajeev that for non HR people like me requires several readings to understand and absorb the learning. That so much could be discussed and strategies too arrived at in a half day conclave is highly commendable. May be this was possible because the participants and those driving the various sessions were top notch HR professionals. I found the TCS model of Campus Commune quite interesting. A good "Catch Them Young" strategy!

    Thanks for sharing this interesting write. Of course I would be surely revisiting it sometime in future to gain better understanding and insight. Once again, kudos and my compliments on your documentation skills that you were able to present the proceedings of the Conclave so well. Thanks for sharing this interesting and enlightening write.

  4. Thank you so much Padmaja.It is readers like you who make the process and effort of writing articles worthwhile.Your words are so motivating as always!

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  6. Thank you Research fox.Happy that you found the post useful!