May Spotlight Shruti Verma Learning and OD Specialist Sharaf DG Dubai

1) Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East?

I am a passionate and free-spirited individual. Having been raised in a multi-cultural environment during my entire education and work life, Dubai felt like home when I arrived almost 1.5 years back and joined the Learning and Organization Development Team of Sharaf Dg. I was quite impressed with the co-existence of nationality mix, multicultural exposure in one space. Coming from a diverse & populated country, I would be amazed when I would find myself as the only Indian in a metro compartment. First 6 months, I was definitely on a roller-coaster ride getting myself acquainted with Rules and Regulations, getting a driving Licence (never thought it was such a big deal) and selecting a car a bigger challenge! All because of the choices one gets in the country.

Similar to the personal experience, it was quite a journey when I moved into the HR Field, after having worked as a Software Engineer for 3 years. The codes were built on complete logic whereas it was said once HR is more qualitative than quantitative. I struggled to find logic behind HR Interventions and how to create those simple balancing equations of efforts vs Impact. The latest advancements into the digital world is a relief. If one can identify the right gaps in the organization, identify the right technology, applying the right algorithms in HR interventions, quantitative results which link to the Business Goals are achievable.

Following the same logic, in the last 1 year at Sharaf DG, we are focusing on moving from a conventional, one size fits all – classroom form of learning, to building a culture of self-learning. Have been successfully able to implement an Artificial Intelligence based Knowledge Management System which supports the latest concepts like Micro-learning, Gamification, Leader boards and Rewards. It’s fun to watch the staff taking their learning while they are on the go, challenge each other and compete for the awards through their learning points. Through the fun based learning, we are able to map their knowledge growth to the productivity and bring out analysis to prove the ROI of investment.

2) What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

“Increasing Digitization & managing expectations of the Multigenerational Workforce”

With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning being introduced in most systems today, organizations now have to learn “how to be digital” and just not “buy digital products” therefore
ensuring that their teams are fully up to date with the latest digital trends in the field, or they risk falling behind competing organizations.

The current workplace will typically be comprised of three different generations: baby boomers, generation X and millennials. Though, it is predicted that over next 5 years 75% of our workforce will be Millennials. While Baby Boomers & Gen X is at an age where they are moving into more senior management positions and looking to consolidate their preferred style of working, matching benefits, job security, advancement within the company and opportunities for work-life balance”. On the other hand Millennials is the first generation that has experienced a workforce where they must spend four to six years in college to even be qualified for a job that they might not even get. Whereas previous generations could rely on some job security and a comfortable salary, the concept of “job security” is a pie in the sky, “maybe someday”, term for the millennial generation. Millennials are the effect of more insecurity and instability in the workforce than any generation that came before them, all the way back to the Great Depression. They are looking for “benefits choices, paid time off, ability to work remotely, control over their schedules and a great deal of flexibility”

Catering to the demands and aspirations of the multigenerational workforce will have an impact on company culture and leadership style as different generations look for different elements in an employer.

3) How is has role of a Learner & Learning & Development evolved ?

In the modern competitive environment, employees need to replenish their knowledge and acquire new skills to do their jobs better and prepare for their future. They are likely to stay with the organizations which invest into their development and growth. Gone are the days, when L&D Department was solely responsible for the development of the employees. Technology is changing fast and so are the ways of learning, it is difficult to impose any sort of learning intervention especially if it is in the conventional classroom format.

Today’s Modern learner is overwhelmed & distracted. They want personalized, timely and quality content which help them to do a job better or prepare for future. In fact, 70% of people will look elsewhere after 5-10 seconds if the content isn’t obviously personalized & engaging. Likewise where a lot of organizations are adopting to the newer forms of learning – implementing new systems etc. trend is shifting towards self- development and owning up your development journey through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are readily available and relatively inexpensive on platforms such as Coursera, EDX or LinkedIn. These platforms offer wide range of relevant courses to acquire professional skills and improve their own career prospects. Though many people now are using these forms of self- directed development, they often do so without the knowledge or support of their employers. Companies are missing an opportunity to offset the steep decline in formal training and boost worker engagement—with minimal investment. By encouraging people to enrol in MOOCs, providing study time, and even serving as surrogate instructors, managers can enhance team members’ development organizations can enhance their retention and development strategies with minimum investment.

4) How would Technology impact the workforce strategies of an organization?

According to the latest studies, with the rise of Technology, Automation & AI strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments one can make in the career, as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate for e.g. Creativity, Emotional Intelligence, Collaboration, Adaptability & People Management could be on the top of the list. At the same time as Technology is seeping into every function Sales, Marketing, HR or Finance, organizations will have to re-skill/up-skill their current staff or update their human capital strategies to create a technology driven workforce who is able to understand algorithms behind the implemented Technology and bring in innovation.

5) What is your Philosophy?

As an individual – “Live and Let live”, as an HR Professional – “Have an empathic approach to ensure that the work I do will add value to my customers – Business/Employees”

I believe in creating matrices /frameworks which are aligned with the intrinsic motivation of employees, stirs their maximum potential to impact business results rather than following the pre-created models blindly. Every organization is different with its own culture and values. As HR professionals, we have a strong responsibility to be observant, empathic, develop a strong business acumen to be able to align people with the Business Goals. If we are not able to fix this link with the appropriate intervention and the right impact, we fail as a whole.

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