Shaping The Future Of Digital Through Learning & Development – Srinivas Kulkarni

Srinivas Kulkarni believes just knowing trends isn't enough for marketers, it is about how well we ‘Train our Workforce’ to derive business results

Digital_Learning_&_Development

Editor’s Note: At LI we are inviting some of the best digital marketing minds of the country to share their opinion on how the market has evolved and the different facets that have attracted or distracted them in 2015. This is the fifth in the series from Srinivas Kulkarni, a communications professional for over 12 years with interests and passion for advertising, social & digital marketing. He now leads the Learning & Development and Analytics wing of Social Kinnect. Srinivas is also a travel blogger (Travel Tales). You can connect with him on twitter @srinistuff.

(Click here to find the entire coverage of this year end series)

2016: Yes, the future is already here.

Or should I say, we actually went ‘Back to the Future’ on October 21, 2015! Movie geeks, get the reference, for those who don’t know, it is the date, when Marty McFly, a popular protagonist of the ‘Back to the Future’ movie jumped to, from 1986 to realize how the world has changed drastically in 2015.

This is just about the time where most thought leaders, marketing experts and futurists go ‘Back to the Future’ & compile a list of predictions, trends and the road ahead on What Next?

While a lot of these predictions and trends are great for marketers, a key aspect of it is the actual execution.

Strong Focus on Training the Digital Natives

If I were to pin point one thing, that is more important for 2016, than just learning about these trends and predictions, it is how well we ‘Train our Workforce’ to derive business results.

The evolving industry and a vast demand for digital in India has already created a serious influx of workforce. One that is eager to understand the ways of the marketing world from scratch, in digital specifically! Today, imparting these learnings have become a key responsibility for all of us early adopters and leaders across agencies.

We’ve always had forums, events, platforms, even companies and leaders such as Pradeep Chopra of Digital Vidya, Sorav Jain of EchovMe who have already taken up the mantle of leading digital media trainings, workshops to help professionals, this year agencies and brands across the country should try and evolve their learning and development practices eventually creating a stronger pedestal to boost growth across agencies.

Coping with Dynamicity

One of the biggest challenges most agencies and brands face is to keep pace with the learning. Digital being the most vulnerable medium of advertising and communication in terms of the Srinivas Kulkarniconsumer connect, being on top of things in the digital industry is an imperative that demands a lot more than just the flair, flamboyance and the word of wit.

The learning process within digital is far more dynamic compared to traditional advertising and marketing. The bell curve there has been far more stable as opposed to digital. With digital, learning goes beyond regular campaigns, ideas and execution. A lot depends on content, nature of the business, processes, case studies, tools, trends and of course understanding changing ways of consumer behaviour especially due to the rapid evolution of technology.

Creating an Ecosystem of Growth and Development

Today, learning the multifaceted skills across diverse verticals and platforms require a lot more than the regular formats of classroom training, presentation based talks, or learnings from peers. As custodians of growth and development within agencies, the wise men and the leaders in organizations must realize the requirement of Learning and Development as a specific investment to drive efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction. How many times we, as ‘Digital Experts’ refer to mistakes/goof-ups and brand failures to share our nuggets of wisdom with our employees, on ‘What Not to Do’ while handling their own brands.

For instance, something that happened recently as a human error during the Miss Universe crowning ceremony. When the dust settled down, many experts talked about how Steve Harvey should have responded via social media, in fact I even read an article that called the error a case of failure on the UI/UX front with the winner’s card he held.

I’m sure we all face crises and challenges for our brands, and we always end up dissecting what should have, could have, and would have happened IF… Eventually, hindsight is always 20/20. However, there’s always room for learning through introspection on how effective our learning process is to begin with.

Hence creating that ecosystem for growth and development is a must. One that helps the future digital media mavens to create their own success story! Inspire them to take the torch forward, build their future to help them create that ‘dent in the universe.’

Way forward for learning and development in Digital

So here’s the final and the most pertinent question? ‘How?’

 Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin.

As profound and old this quote might be, it’s still relevant, especially now that the primitive aspects of learning, right from education to L&D systems in Fortune 500 companies have changed. We all know now, training is not just about presentations, seminars, and webinars. It’s more about Kinesthetic learning models. Agencies now have to challenge their business models and accommodate for investment in learning and development as a separate entity.

Some key elements that’ll help bring about this change:

All-round development and personal grooming of employees by not just training them on ‘Technical’ process driven aspects of the business but also build and develop their personalities to help them mature along with the organization. Opening up avenues of learning beyond just ‘Digital.’ Creating interest and learning programs towards inter-departmental growth, giving specialized trainings to skill sets that’ll be helpful beyond their existing roles or for that matter, inspiring leadership trainings beyond the functional work culture and environment.

Create a growth ecosystem that will allow for employees to be part of Employee Development Programs. Build an ancillary within the agency to allow your employees to reach out to within your organization, rather than just depending on peers, or seniors within the departments. Have a learning and development wing, create specific job roles of leaders who take responsibility to train your work force. Wherever required, create processes and learning systems which allow for the overall training of your employees.

Invest in their learning through internal and external trainings a lot more this year, subsequently to yield in greater returns to the business. What it does, is not only motivates and rewards the employee, but creates ‘Linchpins’ out of them, who go on to become important stakeholders and leaders in the food chain of your organization.

Don’t just look at your staff as drivers of business, but treat them as future entrepreneurs for whom, personal growth and development is as important as professional one.

Empower employees to be part of the decision making process right from the get go and start becoming leaders of tomorrow without having to feel the need for relying on senior resources all the time.  Build processes where you delegate responsibilities, and through on job trainings, hand hold, monitor and evaluate employees to pick up the learning curve faster. Many organizations have in-office mentor programs where various teams compete across the board to achieve certain goals and the mentors are equally involved in this process as the mentees. This helps build the empowerment through team work especially when it comes to grooming them to take on the leadership mantle intuitively later on.

Lastly Knowledge Sharing forms an important aspect of how your employees grow within the organization. Most agencies I know share best practices, learning via e-mails, internal groups etc. Creating a robust internal system, wikis, documentation as well as platforms for employees to share their learning with others in a formal/informal forum helps growth and spreading of knowledge faster. Simple things such as open-mic sessions, a structured system of knowledge sharing, and building opportunities for employees to learn via external resources, agency peers who drop by at office are some really great examples I’ve seen work well for many agencies.

Right now, this article is probably a summary of my New Year’s resolution for 2016, at Social Kinnect and I’d give anything to go ‘Back to the Future’ to see how this pans out, or maybe I’ll just get to work and keep shipping!