In 2007 I was excited to secure a huge career break at a leading investment bank. I carried very limited knowledge in investment banking however my excitement knew no bounds since the ground was open to a lot of learning. My family was equally happy to have heard this news as they now seemed to see my prospects of retiring from a bank.
After spending almost 5 years learning the ropes, working with international counterparts across time zones and intellectual colleagues, I was bored! Yes, I was. Although I had all the luxuries of working for a foreign bank that included shift allowances, meals at subsidized rates, it didn’t add much to my motivation.
One thing impressive about the bank was its commitment to continuous learning initiatives for its employees. I appreciated all the efforts taken consistently by the internal learning team to make sure each employee sharpened competencies needed to scale up as a leader. They despised complacency. It, therefore, made me explore learning avenues available within my organization. It provided me with possibilities to reach out to knowledge experts and bridge gaps in performance, add more relevance to my role or simply expand my exposure. The perks? It didn’t need any monetary investment from my end! Expanding my domain expertise and developing behavioural aspects of my persona were baby steps towards becoming a core banking professional. By investing in my professional growth, I valued my capabilities more than ever.
My role in investment banking added a lot of brand value to my profile. It opened the gates towards a greater reflection of what I truly wanted to do. I worked with exceptional leadership, talented team members and handled prestigious client portfolios. One thing I was sure of was that I was meant to do something different. It was something that involved exposure to people than spreadsheets. This is where the bank gave me a platform. After participating in countless career development programs and knowing that I was highly curious to know how people learn and progress, I decided to pursue my aspirations in the People Development function. I wanted to show possibilities to people beyond their designated roles and job descriptions. Exactly the way my workplace gave me the platform to reflect on my career journey.
Six years hence, I am a people development professional helping people chalk out their career visions and embrace continuous learning.
Being a part of the people development domain gave me insights into how adults learn and open doors to higher levels of professional and personal capabilities. It brought along many levels of insights including:-
1. Exposure to Senior Leadership
While my role in investment banking exposed me to the highs and lows of the number-crunching business and varied market speculations, people development allowed me to partner with senior leaders who believed and advocated progressive learning initiatives. I was able to penetrate their perspectives and strategies to make continuous learning accessible, beneficial and critical for professional expansion of the workforce. I learned that leadership buy-in is of utmost importance if learning initiatives are to succeed. The exposure allowed me to create learning strategies for the workforce across levels.
2. Design learning journeys versus create content
All individuals process information differently. One size does not fit all. I learned that while diverse programs can be created to fit every learner’s needs, I was primarily interested in curating learning journeys that bring relevance, continuation and real-time application. The objective was for people across learning preferences to evolve in thought and deed and embrace new concepts. I designed programs ranging from a few days to 2 years making it palatable to the learner.
3. Engagement versus Entertainment
Traditional methods of learning have limited influence on learners. In this fast-paced world, people rarely succumb to lecture-based methods. This created the need to craft experiences that engage the audience through multiple learning methodologies including facilitation, individual reflection, self-assessments, role plays, video, audio, webinars, online platforms, games, business simulations, business cases, and constructive debates. I witnessed that when learning is highly engaging, competencies are effortlessly sharpened because it brings out the collaborative spirit that is business-like coupled with opportunities to network with people with whom they wouldn’t otherwise consciously engage.
4. Influence versus Impose
We all carry tendencies of self-righteousness. I learned that while I may have a conceptual understanding of certain learning models and theories, it was imperative to expose the learners’ minds to these concepts. To influence them of concepts developed by great thinkers and tried and tested by some of the best organisations to achieve business results. As adults, we do not appreciate being told and therefore skills to influence were imperative.
5. Return on Investment (ROI) versus Return on Engagement (ROE)
Businesses thrive on results. Similarly, learning initiatives thrive on return on investment. Businesses need to know the needle movement in skills and behaviour for the time invested by their employees. I learned that while there are ways to gauge learning experiences through feedback mechanisms, what worked, in the long run, was the learners’ capacity to sustain learning through conscious effort. Therefore while return on investment was derived for the business landscape, return on engagement was visible through the learners’ intent on keeping the engines running. I learned that curating initiatives that are engaging keeps learners coming back for more and that is the highest possible return businesses can ever derive.
My stint in the learning function exposed me to people, perspectives, diverse methodologies, and business relevance. As individuals, we ought to keep sharpening our skills and become relevant in the ever-changing business climate. I am fortunate to be able to consult organizations to build and sustain continuous learning strategies for their workforce that would make them leaders of tomorrow. And all this stems from my first exposure to investment banking that introduced me to my calling for which I will forever be grateful.