By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

With organizations diving deeper into digital transformation, upskilling the workforce has moved to the forefront. While digital transformation is creating powerful business opportunities, it is also creating a skills gap. The dynamics of work are also constantly changing and evolving, and organizations have no option but to invest in advanced upskilling strategies to capably respond to market changes and cash on the opportunities. 

The World Economic Forum had predicted that more than 1 billion people globally would have to be reskilled by 2030 to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies. 

In today’s world characterized by a hybrid workplace and remote teams, focusing on ongoing upskilling and employee development has become imperative. 

As the impact of the pandemic, organizations have to not only upgrade technical skill sets but have to work towards developing a workforce that is agile and emotionally & mentally ready to tackle a transforming market. While there are clear advantages that upskilling brings to the table, given the forces of disruption at play, the traditional approach of creating annual training plans no longer remains effective. 

Market dynamics are compelling organizations to add new capabilities on the fly. They demand organizations to be flexible, agile, and resilient. In such a dynamic and constantly evolving market, organizations need to make their training and upskilling initiatives agile as well. 

Given these shifts, how can organizations plan their upskilling initiatives? 

Replace guesswork with data analytics for precision 

Jumping on the next upskilling fad and expecting your upskilling initiatives to work? Initiatives designed from a place of gut feel or trends usually end up in the skills graveyard. This is because training only sticks if it is relevant and contextual to the employee. Why should the employee enthusiastically upskill if they don’t feel the need or understand the role these skills will play in their career development? How will the training stick in the absence of relevance? 

Organizations need to engage their employees and help them identify these skill gaps not from gut feel but from data-backed tests. These tests have become crucial data points to evaluate the technical and power skill needs of the workforce. Behavior Analysis tests or 16 Personality Factor tests, for example, can help organizations and employees self-diagnose and identify their exact skill needs. 

With this information, organizations can create powerful peer coaching plans and leverage a robust, technology-enabled peer coaching platform to drive great results. With such a platform, it becomes easier to make the right coach and learner pairings. A comprehensive platform will also provide actionable insights from rich analytics on skill development, performance, employee engagement, and overall transformational insights. All of these make training outcomes more impactful and positive with lesser effort.    

Remove ambiguity in a hybrid world of work 

Employees across the world are battling challenging times. While the chaos and uncertainty that gripped the world of work in the initial days of the pandemic have mellowed, ambiguity and complexity prevails.. 

As employees and organizations move into the Future of Work, it becomes the organization’s responsibility to help the workforce settle into this hybrid world. 

  • News of work from home burnout, concerns regarding career paths, and work opportunities are on the incline. 
  • Managers have to now move from being bosses to virtual leaders
  • Leaders have to discover new leadership styles to suit this new world. 
  • New employees have to find and build trusted networks and paths for career development. 
  • New and old employees are working out how to augment their career paths while ensuring they remain visible. 

The challenges in this new world of work are aplenty and add to chaos and confusion.

Helping employees and management (leadership) find the right direction in uncertain times assumes strategic importance now. Traditional upskilling initiatives are not designed to be impactful in this new world simply because the rules of engagement have dramatically changed. As such, upskilling initiatives have to account for the unique needs of the workforce and help them contextually resolve their problems. 

Peer coaching networks help a great deal in removing most of the complexity that comes with ambiguity. Since peer coaches come with similar life experiences and work challenges, it becomes easier for the learner to connect with the peer coach, understand the context and implement the actions that need to drive behavioral change. As Peer Coaching is a measurable and contextual process, it can be leveraged to drive learning and upskilling programs and cover up those aspects that typical traditional training programs miss. 

Battle constant change with resilience 

If there is one thing that is set in stone is that ‘change is now constant’. Organizations have to now develop their workforce such that they can contribute to organizational resilience. Digital technologies are assisting organizations in this journey. Cutting-edge technologies such as AI are helping them improve business capabilities and outcomes. 

The key to survival and success in these disruptive times is to remain agile towards the workforce and organizational needs. As such, while organizations cannot completely do away with training planning for the whole year, it is essential to supplement it with peer coaching to address the more immediate needs of the workforce. Peer coaching can also be impactful in reinforcing learnings and driving behavioral change that ensures that new skills stick and are implemented at work.  

This becomes especially relevant in these trying times as employees battle to understand the new rules of engagement and figure out strategies for professional success in a remote, disconnected, and hybrid world. 

Peer coaches, through non-judgmental and informal exchanges, can help learners navigate challenges and hurdles with ease. Employees are also more receptive to feedback when it is presented in a timely, contextual and non-judgmental manner. Strong peer coaching also reaffirms learning by providing personalized and contextual nurture actions that include notifications, reminders, alerts, kudos, and more. These actions, along with contributing to skill enhancement, also aid employee engagement initiatives by delivering enablement to employees when they need it.

Connect with us to see how an AI-powered coaching platform can power up your upskilling initiatives and drive them with deep engagement insights from data analytics and Machine Learning-powered engagement scores.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Research shows that those organizations that establish a culture of continuous learning are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. Given the increasing competition and rising disruption owing to technological developments as well as changes brought about by the pandemic, learning has to extend beyond technical skills and over to critical skills as well. 

For organizations to succeed and emerge from the impact of the pandemic, it is essential to create an environment that supports an open mindset, encourages an independent quest for knowledge, and helps people develop shared purpose – irrespective of whether they are working in-premise, working remotely, or using a hybrid work model. 

While organizations are supposed to provide formal learning opportunities, peer coaching. when encouraged across the organization can be immensely helpful to drive this cultural transformation where learning becomes a part of the organizational DNA. 

This is an important point of consideration mainly because culture shifts happen only when people own and drive the learning process. Peer coaching facilitates continuous learning and helps organizations boost employee engagement and experience, drive performance, reduce work-from-home burnout, and develop a healthy leadership pipeline. 

However, taking the right approach to peer coaching determines the likelihood of its success. Having a people-first and a data-driven approach are essential for this. 

‘People-first’ or fail 

Peer coaching has to be, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ 

It is perhaps the most democratized form of coaching and, hence, it experiences a high success rate. This is also because people change or become accepting towards change and growth when it is not forced, is relevant and contextual to their narrative, and is proactive. Since people are creatures of habit, change only takes place when certain actions are reaffirmed regularly. Constant reaffirmation of learnings becomes critical towards driving the behavioral changes needed to bring about a shift in actions. 

But what does a ‘people-first’ approach entail?

Different people, different needs

Not all employees are the same and neither are their coaching needs. As an organization to create a coaching culture to drive continuous learning, it is imperative to identify the exact learning needs of the people. Not all your employees need to improve their communication skills. Not all need coaching on strategic thinking. Get the drift? 

To develop a successful peer coaching program, it thus is essential to identify the different needs of the people at work and pair them with the right coaches and help them achieve their goals. Peer coaching programs have to recognize the different needs of people and capably serve only what is relevant and contextual to individual needs. A new recruit, for example, will have different coaching needs than the seasoned employee. 

Driving contextual peer coaching is important also because now we have more demographic diversity in the workforce than ever before. With Gen Z and millennials overtaking Gen X and baby boomers, accounting for their learning and development needs becomes imperative to drive employee engagement. 

Account for the manager’s ecosystem 

We were delivered to the Future of Work as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. There has been immense pressure on managers to ensure their teams remain high-performing, motivated, and productive. They have had to rework their management strategies to drive remote work while ensuring that the trust barometer and the engagement index remain unaltered. 

For new managers, the challenge has been to build trust bridges without getting the opportunity to leverage everyday physical interactions. And along with this, they have to achieve and deliver everything that the seasoned manager is delivering. 

Peer coaching can address the challenges, both every day and unique, to these managers and give them the tools to lead their teams and themselves efficiently. With constant dialogue, action is more proactive than reactive, building trust bridges with teams (especially remote teams) becomes easier, and decision-making is more confident. Peer coaching also helps new managers immensely as it helps them build their network and make the right connections essential for navigating the organization.  

Diversity and inclusion 

A ‘people-first’ approach also amplifies the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organization. Today, a serious attitude towards diversity and inclusion is not just important for social value and perception, it is essential for profitability too. 

Peer coaching presents the perfect solution to assist diversity and inclusion initiatives as it helps people recognize both conscious and unconscious bias and helps them understand how their actions impact those unlike them. Since peer coaching is a continuous process, it can bring about the shift in behaviors that drive the change in actions. 

With peer coaching, those falling under the diversity and inclusion umbrella also get a fair chance to overcome their fears and perceived notions that impede success. Having a thriving peer coaching environment helps these people develop the networks and bridges they need to navigate their careers successfully without fear or judgment. 

Data-driven peer coaching – what is that?

The ‘gut feel’ and ‘intuition’ are two highly romanticized words in modern life. We hear geniuses of our generation like Einstein saying “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift”. We have Steve Jobs propounding “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you want to become.” In this romanticizing, we tend to forget that intuition can be and is a very valuable ‘tool’. But it would be a mistake to base decisions on intuition or gut alone. 

Things are no different for peer coaching. A successful peer coaching program will be based on data and will try and leverage data wherever it can be employed for better decision-making and improved outcomes. 

But how can we apply a data-driven mindset to peer coaching?

Data to identify the coaching needs 

Identifying what needs to change comes before how it needs to change. Instead of jumping on the next coaching trend, develop the capacity to exactly identify the learning needs of the employees, especially for critical skills like strategic thinking, leadership, communication, etc. 

A people-first approach has to thus be complemented with a data-driven approach to drive contextual and relevant peer coaching programs. Data-backed assessments like Behavioral Assessment tests or 16-Personality Factor Assessments provide accurate insights on the exact learning needs of the employees. This data-backed approach thereby contributes towards creating relevant, contextual, and consequently, successful coaching programs. 

Tracking program impact 

You can only manage what you can measure. Coaching initiatives are no different. 

How can organizations understand the impact of their coaching programs and understand their effectiveness if they do not have access to granular data on the same? How can they assess if their initiatives are bringing about the shift in behaviors that they want? How can they identify if the organizational skill sets have expanded as desired? 

The answer to these and other such associated questions lies in data. Thus, it becomes essential to have the right tracking mechanisms in place. Using an AI-enabled coaching platform, organizations can capture feedback, track the impact of the peer coaching program by measuring the change brought about in organizational skill sets, and improve program structures when needed. 

Data to drive organizational resilience  

A data-driven peer coaching program becomes the enabler of continuous learning in an organization. Using data and technologies such as AI, a peer coaching platform can help people remain on the path of continuous learning. 

AI-powered nudges delivered at the right time can help people proactively identify their learning needs and keep them on the path of continuous learning. This approach also builds organizational resilience as when learning becomes proactive and continuous, people are more prepared to handle and manage change and disruption. All of this contributes towards employee resilience which contributes towards organizational resilience. 

While culture change starts at the top, you know your organization has made a successful transition towards the culture of continuous learning when employees drive their independent quests for knowledge. This will only happen when organizations make it easier for people to connect with the right resources who can help them without judgment, and help them eliminate their reservations against feedback, and provide growth opportunities. Having a thriving peer coaching network within the organization makes this a reality. 

Connect with us to know how NumlyEngage™ can help your organization develop a culture of continuous learning and drive organizational resilience by taking the people-first and data-driven approach.