Lean into Learning: India

May 24, 2021 | Activate Learning | 5 min read

With remote work, the new normal for millions of employees, organizations have been forced to keep pace by rethinking their digital learning strategies. To stay competitive, establishing a workplace culture of lifelong learning is crucial.

Skillsoft's recent Lean into Learning report offered a global overview of the state of learning before, during, and after 2020. While businesses everywhere share many of the same challenges, we noticed unique approaches to learning based on region and decided to explore these further in a series of Lean Into Learning blogs.

Today, we're taking a closer look at how India leans into learning and how employers are helping their people build the skills and competencies required to meet the future with confidence.

What was the state of learning in India prior to 2020?

Traditionally, India has always placed a high value on learning, with parents across socio-economic classes allocating huge portions of their income to their children’s education. Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services (IT and ITES) constitute two of the largest industry verticals in India, so continuous learning was already seen as necessary to stay on the leading edge of digital transformation. In fact, according to a recent Statista report, there were 4.36 million Information Technology Business Process Management (IT-BPM) employees in India in 2020, an increase of almost 2 million since 2011. Paradoxically, advances in artificial intelligence have also led to employee lay-offs as automation makes certain jobs obsolete. So, even before the pandemic, there was a growing demand for training that could reskill workers for a digital-first world. We continue to also see huge talent availability and gaps in areas like Big Data and AI. Further, there continues to be a huge skill gap both in hard skills and in power skills between industry expectations and skills gained by university graduates.

That being said, although organizations did prioritize corporate and individual learning, only about 20% of their overall L&D spend was allocated to learning online. Their main focus was in-person training with traditionally curated leadership courses and programmatic curriculums. When the nation went into its first lockdown — one of the strictest in the world — all of that stopped overnight.

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How has learning in the region changed as the pandemic has evolved?

We recently conducted a research study with People Matters: "Learning Trends India 2020: Reimagining Learning for a Hybrid Workplace." Most strikingly, we've seen employees themselves drive demand for online learning — both formal and informal — as they explore new ways to become future-fit. In turn, organizations recognize that offering access to learning is a powerful incentive to retaining a skilled and driven workforce. We've seen a 20% increase in funds allocated to online learning and employee development since the pandemic struck.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our report:

  • Digital learning is now the most preferred aspirational mode of learning
  • Future-focused skills and capabilities are a top priority
  • Informal learning is as important as formal learning to 95% percent of respondents, but 58% say that they don’t track it
  • Learning must change from disconnected and decentralized to engaging, accessible, and scalable
  • Leadership involvement and 360-degree feedback are critical impact measures

As Emmanuel David, Director of Group Human Resources for TMTC, says,

"The L&D function is evolving; it can no longer serve as the gatekeeper for learning. Knowledge and learning content is omnipresent and easily accessible to all. With growing technology prowess, there is a need to adapt to the changing needs of the learner. Moreover, L&D needs to adapt to the role of a learning facilitator who creates superior engagement and accountability for learning rather than just a provider."

Due to the meteoric rise of informal learning and an increasingly younger workforce, we see widespread interest in customizing fresh, exciting learning content to better drive employee engagement. And while certification continues to be the benchmark for hard IT skills, badging for soft skills offered by platforms such as Precipio can enhance peer-to-peer recognition along with healthy competition. Suryakant Pandey, Senior Director and Head of Learning & Development for Cipla, highlights these trends:
"With an ever-expanding millennial and Gen Z employee base, who live by the motto of instant gratification and mobile learning, it became evident that our learning philosophy and systems were anachronistic and needed a complete overhaul to make learning more exciting, engaging, and empowering. Learners who demonstrate learning implementation and go the extra mile to adopt new ways of working are recognized at organization-wide forums by senior leaders."

What does the future of learning in India look like?

In a word, "opportunity." Eight out of 10 L&D leaders we surveyed said that their main priority over the next 12 to 18 months is to focus on building skills and capabilities required for the future. But despite the desire to adopt digital learning tools, about 43% of the respondents surveyed said they aren’t yet using new-age digital learning experience platforms, and many organizations don't have the means to track informal learning at all. That presents a huge opportunity for Skillsoft to help organizations not only upgrade their L&D strategies and curriculums but ensure they align to business objectives and can demonstrate clear ROI. We have been working with hundreds of learning managers to refine and define a framework that measures the KPIs and baselines them based on industry verticals. We continue to see ROI and Value realization, lack of budget and resources as key challenges for organizations to accelerate learning and thereby impeding the digital transformation and acceleration of innovation. This further impacts talent retention and talent sourcing apart from the overall long-term competitive advantage. The positive news is that we have solved these and more for most of our customers and we know the road ahead.

Even as India endures a second terrible wave of the pandemic, the question we hear most from leaders is, "How can we build resilience into our organizations, so we are better prepared for the next crisis?"

At Skillsoft, we believe that learning lies at the heart of hope and resilience.