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AI will allow hyper-customisation of trainings: Jonathan Vehar
Lipi Agrawal | HRKatha | New Delhi | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

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Jonathan Vehar & Pallavi Jha Jonathan Vehar & Pallavi Jha

Jonathan Vehar, global VP-products, Dale Carnegie & Associates was in town. Vehar has worked with organisations to develop leadership and innovation solutions necessary for growth. He is considered to be an innovation thought leader. In an exclusive interview with Lipi Agrawal of HRKatha, he, along with his colleague Pallavi Jha, chairperson & managing director - ‎Dale Carnegie Training India, share the future of training and the role technology will play in making training a measurable exercise. Excerpts…

In 2016, 104-year old brand, Dale Carnegie went for a re-branding exercise. How has this changed the Company’s philosophy and culture? What are the new brand attributes?
Vehar: The rebranding is fundamentally about putting a modern face on the work we do. Everything that we have done for the past 104 years has been focused on bringing out the greatness in people, and the rebranding is about articulating how we really do it, and ensuring that they shine. It’s about helping people do the things that they feel are important and help them see themselves in a new light, finding more power within.

The rebranding also reflects this transformation —in the images of inner greatness and in unveiling its potential. The power of what Dale Carnegie brings out in people has remained consistent and timeless through these years, only the methods of doing it have evolved over time.

Generation Z is characterised by their emotional intelligence and media-awareness. They would not only want to know the purpose of the training, but also how their development in their respective roles helps the organisation to achieve a mission that serves society. What are few things to keep in mind while designing a training module for this generation?
Vehar: Be it Gen Z or millennials, what they seek in a training is, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and so, it’s important for the training to help people see how it fits into their lives. A training programme should ultimately be able to help people find meaning in what they do, and the fundamental building block of our trainings is to make it relevant to the individual.

A training programme should help people find meaning in what they do, and be relevant to the individual.

Jha: In addition to the extraordinary emotional intelligence Gen Z brings, it also needs to have a lot more empathy and the ability to relate to others, which should constitute the core of a training programme for the generation. We may have advanced tremendously, in terms of our working models and lifestyles, however, we all still need to talk to people, persuade them, understand their context, and at the same time ensure we’re not being understood less. This means the need for the ability to ensure efficient people interactions never fades out.

What kind of leadership development training do millennials need to succeed at the workplace?
Vehar: What is true for all generations including millennials and Gen Z is that at one point of time in their lives, they all need to have specific skills to adapt to the new role or the new world they’re entering into. Whether it’s the Gen Z entering into college from high school or from college into the workforce, all one needs to understand during this transition is to be able to deal with people in the new environment.

Our education systems have always focussed more on imparting technical skills. However, the ability to connect with people and communicate effectively is the most important skill that one requires at the workplace. It is also why even great leaders are sometimes rendered ineffective communicators or incapable of getting work done.

Human beings are the ultimate variable, and human interactions will remain very subjective and contextual. With the context shifting continuously, it will not be long before AI is able to replace humans for trainings.

What are the leadership qualities that a Gen Y CEO can learn from a millennial or an iGen subordinate?
Vehar: Every generation has something to learn from the previous generation; something the the previous generation would have learnt the hard way. Despite that, although the technologies have advanced, tools have changed, computers have become smaller and so on, the central processing unit in the human brain has remained the same. This means, we all still need the ability to deal with people.

Even great leaders are sometimes rendered ineffective communicators or incapable of getting work done.

That said, a Gen Y CEO needs to be adept with critical skills, such as communication, conflict management, ensuring a sense of empathy and collaboration.

Jha: In times when change has become constant, and the pace of these changes is also increasing with every passing day, the key skills any CEO needs to have is the agility to change, resilience and an ability to anticipate and understand the change to be able to work with it. In addition, one needs to be able to influence the team to work effectively within the changing environment.

Vehar: It is extremely crucial for a CEO to be able to lead the team to think creatively and be able to adapt to the changes. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to ensure the 3 Cs — communication, creative leadership and building the right culture. Great leaders create a culture that enables people to understand the customer, ensures empathy and allows people to create and adapt to this world of unprecedented change.

What do you mean by creative leadership? Why is it important to a business?

Vehar: The output of creative leadership is an effective culture. Creative leaders allow innovation to flourish by building a culture, where people can collaborate and have the freedom to share ideas, pursue those ideas and implement them to build value for the organisation. These have a long-lasting effect on both organisational culture and business performance.

Each person has a different learning style, and an adaptive programme would be able to adjust a training programme to those learning styles on the fly. Will we see AI replace the human in training programmes? Will that lead to a complete transformation for the training industry?
Vehar: I don’t think AI will replace the humans in trainings. I believe AI enables us to do things better. It gives us an opportunity to identify learning needs and customise trainings to individuals. Learning has always been a social process — we learn from each other and from the generations gone by. As the cave man used to do it around the campfire, these days we do it in the cafes or at roundtables, but the learning process more or less hasn’t changed. How AI has helped enhance it, is that it makes learning faster and smarter and more tailored to individual needs.

Human beings are the ultimate variable, and human interactions will remain very subjective and contextual. With the context shifting continuously, it will not be long before AI is able to replace humans for trainings.

AI will be able to identify the initiatives that are really contributing to the business, which in turn, will provide L&D a more prominent seat at the table.

AI is also expected to bring in measurability metric to training, and organisations will be able to get an RoI measurement and yardstick to measure its effectiveness. Will that help the training industry in a big way?

What John Wanamaker said for advertising, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half’. This stands true for training as well. But, with AI allowing us to measure training effectiveness, we’ll be able to identify what’s more useful and focus more on that in our trainings and not on the aspects that may not be working.

Vehar: Two big things will happen. One, it will allow us to focus our trainings better on the relevant areas. What John Wanamaker said for advertising, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half’. This stands true for training as well. But, with AI allowing us to measure training effectiveness, we’ll be able to identify what’s more useful and focus more on that in our trainings and not on the aspects that may not be working.

The second thing is that it will make learning & development a more important agenda for organisations, as then we will be able to identify the initiatives that are really contributing to the business, which in turn, will provide L&D a more prominent seat at the table.

Please share the most prominent upcoming global trends in the learning & development space. How will these impact workplaces?
Vehar: Most importantly, AI will allow hyper-customisation of trainings, which will certainly increase training relevance and effectiveness. It will help us cater to specific needs and focus on individual requirements.

In addition, we will see a whole new world of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the training initiatives. Currently, the two may still be developing and the adoption may not be really significant as most people still see it as a fun element. However, in the coming times, it is sure to bring in significant disruption in the training and development space as more and more people begin to realise its usefulness.

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Tuesday, 14 November 2017

1 comment

  • Comment Link Alfonso Canales Wednesday, 22 November 2017 posted by Alfonso Canales

    Hello, Jonathan Vehar seems like an influential innovation speaker. I would like to contact him to know if hes interested in a 2 day training course in Mexico city.

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