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We had the pleasure of speaking with Fiserv’s Dr. Sonal Modi on best practices to implement and champion organization’s upskilling programs in order to thrive in today’s changing work environment. This transcript is a snippet of the conversation and has been edited for clarity. If you’d like to receive the complete recording of the webinar click here 

 Sai: Hello Dr. Sonal, glad to have you on board. Notwithstanding what's going on in the world right now, why do you think upskilling is important at all in an organization at any level? 

Dr. Sonal:   

If you look at it, an organization's success primarily thrives on two fundamental pillars. One is the customer and the client experience delivered. And second is our talent. Your understanding of customers, the domain, the customer base of your customers plays a very pivotal role for an organization because that's the success that you're going to bring 

When it comes to the talent, you will make them happy when you're giving them an upskilling channel to continuously develop themselves. And upskilling primarily is also about future-proofing your task force. If you don't do that, it is very difficult for you to grow as an organization. And therefore, there is no two things to it, upskilling is very important, and it needs to be a continuous process. 

Sai:  

The next thing I would want to ask in the same vein is, are there any best practices at all for identifying existing skill matrix in an organization or skill gap? Once that is done what should be the next steps?  

Dr. Sonal:  

Well, if you look at the sequence, you cannot come to a skill metrics or a skill taxonomy or for that matter a skill heat map directly. It's a very structured process. Upskilling should be ingrained in the DNA of the organization. If the organization possesses or thrives on a learning culture, it becomes easy for implementing upskilling. Upskilling differs from a basic training need identification. It is a strategic initiative that organizations take and needs a detailed understanding of the business domain, it's environment and the future opportunities in store. Basis that, the L&D team has to partner with the business and strategize on an upskilling program.   

Sai:   

Do you think digital transformation and upskilling are integral parts? Do you feel that upskilling can accelerate digital ambitions of organizations? And, how can HR teams champion this sort of initiative? 

Dr. Sonal:  

It’s not that HR is involved – HR is driving it, together with the business. Without HR and L&D, and the partnership with the business, any such initiatives cannot roll out successfully. Coming to the point of digital transformation. Given the situation that we are going through with this pandemic and even before that, it's time that we stopped fooling ourselves into believing we are doing digital by just going online for some time. And the rest of the time we are still comfortable doing classes in-house.  

An organization has full-time employees, contract employees, specialists and some practitioners. In order to ensure that the organization is growing, your taskforce needs a platform to learn. Digital only makes life simpler. In order to have a very systematic approach to this digital learning, and upskilling for that matter, it is the endeavor of the Learning and Development team to ensure that they are very vigilant about how platforms are being used.   

Sai:  

Is there some specific advice, one or two things that you can give to leaders who are attempting to implement a successful program? 

Dr. Sonal:   

What is important for us, for the L&D leaders and teams is the need to understand and get the hang of the business. This is different in product organizations and services organizations. Understand your business very well. That's the first thing. That's the first success mantra. Partner with the business, be a part of their discussions. Second, make yourself intelligent and intellectual. This will increase your credibility and whenever you do any kind of initiatives, not only upskilling, there could be any number of L&D initiatives that you want to run - if you have not established your credibility and rapport with the business, it will be very difficult for you to sail.   

When you look at the L&D framework, there are some organizations which have everything under one bucket, like ours. I manage the entire India, Learning and Development. There are some organizations which have very disparate divisions, leadership or the behavioral to be separate, and maybe the technology. Structures differ from organization to organization. Whatever the type of organization structure, understand your role criticallyBut systematically, there should be a structured process. Because when you have that prudent information, it's easy for you to plan upskilling programs and give them a direction that will motivate them for learning.  

Sai:   

Do you see COVID-19 as an accelerant, or do you think that it will just accelerate things that should have been done already? And if they are trying to implement these things fast, which some organizations are, what are the pitfalls they must avoid?  

Dr. Sonal:   

You can take COVID-19 as a boon or bane for n number of reasons. Bane certainly because there are so many mishaps happening and people are losing their life. But boon because look at the revolution that we have brought in terms of the adoption rate, in terms of agility, the way we are getting accustomed to new challenges etc. Today virtual hangouts with colleagues, people investing in interests and hobbies and looking at upskilling themselves has become the norm. I can't tell you how much L&D is completely occupied during this phase. And you can ask my team members, the way they are rolling out numerous programs to aid learning. Nothing stops us from learning. Nothing stops us from livingLearning is an integral part of the employee lifecycle. And they deserve to get this opportunity. No COVID can stop this. 

Sai:  

Razina has a question that ties into what we were going to ask you. How are we going to measure success with upskilling? And what Razina did ask is an example of an upskilling program that you designed and how you went about doing it?

Dr. Sonal:   

I believe in the same philosophy of Peter Drucker – anything that cannot be measured cannot be improved. If you really want to succeed with such initiatives, the first thing to understand is why you want to do this, the objectives of the program and the desired result. How can you measure the success of it? For us at Fiserv we have taken a KPI - that 100% of the target audience identified for particular upskilling program will go through the base skill assessment by year 2020 and 15% out of that, primarily will go to the next level. Let's also be very realistic. Getting people assessed at their as-is skill level is doable. This will help us identify the strength of our people, identify the skill gaps, give them an opportunity to work on those skill gaps, strengthen those skills and move forward to the next step. In this way, you're giving them an advancement option kind of learning path, which is very focused.  

When you define a measuring parameter, it should be a partnered approach. L&D is responsible for making the framework, facilitating the process, ensuring the ecosystem is ready, understanding the business need and mapping. L&D will also be responsible for driving these programs and giving updates to the business. But the business has to equally partner with you to see whether people are upskilling or not, whether they're going from one level to the other 

Sai:  

Diving into some of our audience’s questions - Neha is from the healthcare organization. She wants to know about designing upskilling programs for their consultants. And there's Aman who's in microfinance institution, and wants to know what should be the changes should L&D make in this tough time? 

Dr. Sonal:   

Going back to the point that I made earlier, you could be a product, pharma organization, or from the manufacturing, services sector, upskilling still is the fundamental thing when it comes to talent. So, to Aman and also Neha, as much as you know that you want to do upskilling or have a learning path for the people, understand what are their current roles, what is the current job that they're doing. Talk to their respective leaders to understand the holistic picture of the roles, what the project entails and how can the organization grow, what skills will help them to grow. You can research or talk to the fraternity - your ecosystem must be very strong. Understand what's happening in the industry and take inputs from across sectors. And then see how that can be fitted in your organization.  

Sai:  

A question from Neha, which is something that's close to us at interview mocha, because we are a company that don't just have tech skills, we cater to a lot of business skills, including something that we just released and are very proud of - English Pro, which is a  Business English proficiency test, something that most organizations now look for. And so how do you think about this differently when the focus changes from Tech to more business skills right 

Dr. Sonal:   

In tech services and product organizations, technology is the bread and butter. First talk to them about technology, the behavioral, the soft skills, and business skills always take the secondary stage. First help the business to reach the low hanging fruits, partner with them and observe how this is operating then start pushing in smaller models of behavioral skills.  

Basically, people are afraid of behavioral skills for two, three reasons. One is that many of them say that we can do the training, but how much will it change the behavior of the person, they don’t realize the larger loss if this is skipped. And, you can't just be technically sound, and this is primarily why L&D talks about holistic development.  

 

The above transcript has been edited for better readabilityAccess the complete discussion here. 

Damin Babu
Damin Babu
Damin Babu is the Senior Marketing Manager at Interview Mocha. A passionate marketer, Damin handles the partner marketing initiatives at Interview Mocha. A stickler for detail, she believes in the power of content to amplify the voice of a brand. Her exposure to the martech landscape at MarTech Advisor and previous stint in a digital transformation-focussed publication, The Digital Enterprise has helped her gain a stronger grip on the exponential HR Tech ecosytem. An avid reader, she loves poring into fiction novels, traveling and chasing her hyperactive Labrador when she is not delving into customer challenges and understanding the recruitment ecosystem.

Topics: Upskill

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