The other interesting facet of the L&D profession in India is the prestige that instructional design has among the practitioners. Again, this may be quite common in the US as well as in the UK, among the practitioners of Corporate Learning. But, as in the other example, I gather that the importance of instructional design is perhaps for a different reason than one would assume. The behaviourist focus, when the whole profession is driven by compliance training, is perhaps easily explained, but instructional design is feted, I suspect, because it is an American thing, a true marker for a professionals' exposure to cutting edge. It is therefore not one of the skill sets that an Learning and Development Professional would aim to have: Often, this is the only one. The other competencies, if one must speak that language, may lie in someone else's territory: Competency mapping may be handled by the HR, Strategy may remain firmly in the hands of business heads, knowledge management may oddly sit with the IT.
If this gives the picture of quite an industrial discipline, it is. Which is quite paradoxical, because the Learning and Development profession in Indian companies (or training for that matter) is relatively new, arising perhaps almost entirely in the last twenty years. One could indeed say that this is in line with India's late industrialisation, but professions are expected to evolve in lock-step with global advances. The real reason perhaps is that Learning and Development in India has not yet found its professional identity, its ability to contribute to corporate strategy, its champions and thinkers and its doctrine, so to say. There are some odd attempts to improve marketing through yoga and get better sales through Bhagvad Gita, but these efforts are too random, too idiosyncratic and has little mainstream acceptance.
However, it is not that Indian businesses don't train their staff: They do, and they do a lot of it. Large Indian IT services companies recognise the limitations of Higher Education systems and often run elaborate months-long induction programmes. And, the greater the crisis of manpower, the failure of the Learning and Development professionals to contribute to corporate development, though this may be hardly be their brief, is even more apparent.
My engagements is an opportunity for me to get back into the conversation - something I dropped out of since 2011, after my brother's death - and work with the few people I know to find opportunities for a shift. There is serious work to be done, of establishing the professional identity (which is somewhat addressed by a body called ISTD, but its impact is still limited and its even hard to find its website) and more importantly, shifting the agenda to innovation. Learning and Development in companies across the developed world is moving, well mostly, in that direction. Certain mindsets, the 'Jugaad' being one of them (I did write about The Limits of Jugaad before) come in the way of establishing innovation cultures in the Indian companies; there is also the approach of throwing people to the problem rather than working with a handful of highly skilled people. However, skilled personnel is as scarce in India as they would be in the West, and there is no reason to take a cavalier approach to L&D therefore. Some CEOs I get to talk to know this, and a vast majority is getting there. In that sense, Learning and Development in India is a profession which will be transformed again soon, and there may be exciting, innovative times ahead.