Sunday, 30 October 2016

What does Future hold for the Training/ Learning and Development Function in India?.

Attending a professional evening meeting on the subject "The Challenges of  workforce training & Development- Are there any Lessons India can learn?" is reward and motivation  enough for any Training/ HR professional to mark his or her presence. The additional bonuses for me  on 26th October, when I attended the program of the Indian Society for Training and Development (ISTD), Bangalore Chapter, was the opportunity to witness two historic events - namely release of the first E newsletter and unveiling of  the Logo of  of one of the oldest chapters of the society in the country.

The auspicious event started with the lighting of the lamp. On the dais were the speaker of the day, Dr Moorthy Uppiluri, CEO,Randstad India, Prof J.Philip, President of XIME ,Ms Meera Venkat, Chairperson of ISTD, Bangalore Chapter, Mr Atul Sharma, Southern regional council member, ISTD and Mr Renukeshwar,CPM, Bangalore Metro transport corporation in whose premises the event was held. The honours of releasing the E newsletter and unveiling the Logo were done by Dr Moorthy and Prof Philips respectively which was followed by the discussion on the topic of the day.- "The Challenges of  workforce training & Development- Are there any Lessons India can learn?"

Right at  the beginning of his talk the speaker Dr Moorthy called attention to the changing scenario and  approach to learning. He predicted that in future there would be less of class room learning and that  the focus would shift to E learning and webinar modes, He opined that this would be more so as there is an attention deficit in today's Gen Y students who would prefer learning at their pace through online courses. The learning courses of top universities are now available through Coursera and other online sites.According to Dr Moorthy  instead of a general syllabus, the future would see students learning in a manner that meets their unique needs. Student  gets to choose his professors and decide the  basket of subjects he would like to learn.

The speaker underscored the importance of customization in the modern times which is likely to become even more in the days to come. He gave the the example of the Starbucks coffee. Customer  who pays Rs 15/ for a cup of coffee is prepared to pay Rs 100/ for Starbucks because of the customization and value creation. He is open to differentiated pricing if he gets to decide whether the milk used is non fat or otherwise, sugar free or the exact number of sugar cubes he likes.  With regard to education however, Dr Moorthy felt that in India, the ability to consume the content is a challenge for the students and this would actually become opportunities for ISTD and other such forums to prepare them for digesting such content .

Dr Moorthy then discussed the problem of skill gap between the expectations of the employers and the actual skill sets of students who pass out from colleges. The corporates find that they are required to spend a lot of time and effort to orient freshers from campuses  to the real work place. At the same time the students are equally frustrated to realize that after having acquired professional degrees, they are still not held competent to have a go at the job straight away. The speaker felt that something needs to be done immediately to address this problem. He suggested that industries adopt community colleges in their area. This would enable them to provide inputs as to the actual requirements of the industry and the students can also be given opportunities to visit and see for themselves how work happens in real time. This would be a Win- Win proposition as students / interns are assured of  ready employment and the employer can look forward to better retention.

My own experience and observation  on the level of appreciation and co operation between industries and educational institutions can at best be termed  as 'dismal'. Educational institutions do not make the effort to find out from customers as to what their 'real needs' are, when drawing up the syllabus nor do they have a  mechanism for continuing interaction with the industry. Professionals are hardly ever  invited to share live experiences with students nor are people with industrial experience preferred as faculty. The stand taken by educationalists is that those from industry do not have a PhD degree and therefore do not 'create knowledge', little appreciating the fact that a few from such a background would give a more realistic and holistic touch to the  knowledge, skill and attitude imparted.

Similarly, executives working in industries  feel that they are 'too busy' to spend time with students who have come to do projects with them. The exercise is seen more as a favour supporting the students in the part fulfillment requirement of their course. The students are not seen as future employees who need to be equipped with practical aspects so that they can contribute effectively on the job later on . Interestingly,  in view of being too busy some line managers decline requests to be members of the campus selection team. Yet, they later complain about the inadequate  competencies of those recruited. I have discussed this  irony in a poem titled "Interview". ( ). Adopting of community colleges by industries, as  suggesed  by the speaker could be a step in the right direction. Yet what is basic and most important is that educational institutions and industries see mutual benefit in promoting closer ties and interaction with each other.

Dr Moorthy stated that work as we know it is likely to change in dramatic ways. The jobs in the market place may not exist in the same way. All repetitive jobs may be  assigned to robots and people would not be  going to designated places to work but work would  come to where they are stationed. Known opportunities could disappear with many new unknown ones emerging. Lot of horizontal movement could  happen with production guys moving into service and those in service getting into production. In such a scenario opportunities would open up for training establishments.   

The speaker next turned to the subject of managers being outdated in their approach( two or three generations behind according to him). Today, they are required to deal with a generation of employees who have a mind of their own and may not be enthused to work merely on instructions being given to them. 'Standardization', while dealing with employees is no longer valid. Each person has to be dealt with as individuals. To highlight the fact that the present generation is different, he gave the example of his own son who in spite of having  option to work for branded companies  prefers to work for start ups. It is cutting edge and innovation than the Gen Y seeks over stability. Under the circumstances managers require training to unlearn and relearn management approaches to cope with the new scenario. This  is a challenge as there would be resistance in view of the fact they have become successful thus far with existing skill sets.

Training/ Learning and development needs to shift focus to customization and branding. It would not do to offer your standard training package for everyone. Customization for specific teams and individuals would be the key. As a lot of relearning is involved, reskilling 45 million people working  in the organized sector in India  is a big opportunity for the training organizations/ service providers. Dr Moorthy cited the example of the Apple smart phone to draw attention to the importance of branding. people are prepared to pay Rs 60 to 70 thousand every three months to get hold of the higher version simply because of the brand name.

The speaker said that Learning and Development needs to be flexible like trapeze artists in the circus  to contribute to a  work scenario in which the  way people learn are changing drastically. This would mean not only using more of E learning platforms like Coursera and planet Ganges but coming out with more local solutions, relevant to the country. As of now Indians have been very good in adapting Western solutions effectively; more of customized solutions addressing local needs is the need of the hour. He gave the example of Alibaba in China, a home grown initiative that has given global companies like Amazon a run for their money.

Elaborating further, Dr Moorthy stated that indigenisation  and changing  the outlook of people towards innovation (as against just execution), is what will make an  economic impact.Innovative ideas, would enable  access to a wide range of solutions for the same problem. The learning & Development function can contribute to developing learning platforms and help corporates move from knowledge retention to  knowledge creation . Rules of learning has changed and this needs to be highlighted. In the classrooms students giving a wrong answer or asking a 'silly'question is no longer punished. similarly in the industries, a climate where mistakes can be made without fear of punishment needs to be created, This would facilitate innovation. The speaker pointed out that those playing video games today do not give up on losing.They are motivated to treat it as a challenge and  try again and again until they win.

Dr Moorthy concluded his thought provoking and engaging discussion with the following observation. The challenges and priorities of work force training would no longer be limited to enhancing skill sets but would  also include  aspects of cultural fit and style fit to the organization.

After the talk by Dr Moorthy, prof Philip briefly shared his own thoughts on the subject. He said that in a university education students get inputs on three areas namely knowing, doing and being. While online courses can satisfy the requirements in respect of knowing, they would fall short in the areas of doing and being. These days students engage in a number of activities other than academic to develop their personality. Prof  Philip said that Harvard University  after 100 years of its existence had undertaken a study on this subject and came to the above  conclusion .

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, attending this program was for me a very memorable and rewarding experience. Apart from listening to the speakers I got to exchange notes with members including  Mr Prakhar, who was honoured on the occasion as  the architect of the E News letter. After moving from Chennai to Bangalore, this was the first meeting of ISTD  that I was attending . While  In Chennai I had the privilege and  pleasure of speaking to  ISTD  members on the subject "Palace of Possibilities",participation in Bangalore had somehow eluded me. When I finally did, it was like a triple blast before the Deepavali festival !

Note: Deepavali is a festival of lights celebrated in India and fireworks are an important part of the celebration. Dhamaka is the sound or blast that emanates from the fire cracker.     


  1. As a trainer myself, I relate to most of what has been discussed in this post.

  2. Thank you Sujatha! Your feedback is all the more valuable,given your background in training.

  3. Wow! Indeed a Triple Diwali Dhamaka for you Rajeev! What an opportunity and what a learning experience! If I am not mistakened, Dr. Moorthy Uppiluri is a former Microsoft HR boss whom I have met here in Hyd'bad briefly some years back at the Microsoft office ..Then too, meeting him was quite an interesting experience and so the name rang a bell!

    Excellent reporting on the event as usual, Rajeev by you! And yes, you have so well brought out the importance of training and development through what was delivered at the talk by Dr. Moorthy Uppiluri and your own observations from your rich HR experience. Thanks for sharing yet another great piece of learning and reportage!

  4. Thank you so much Padmaja. Your feedback is like music to the ears! From his inked in profile, I guess the speaker is the same Dr Moorthy Uppiluri you met when he was CEO Microsoft.It is a small world isn't it?