Learning & Development is going through a lot of changes, especially when the world of knowledge is just a click away. From traditional set-up, say the classrooms, we have come to a point where learning is experiential. It has also evolved in such a manner, that now people prefer to learn anywhere and anytime. Virtual realities, Augmented realities, and byte-sized learning are creating a storm in the new learning culture. And organizations are also adopting these new technological tools to make sure the learner (ie. their employees) are motivated and upskilling them at regular intervals.
Such is the story of Mahindra Finance. One of the leading providers of financial services in rural and semi-urban India with over two decades of expertise and presence across 2.8 lakh villages in India, the company’s objective has always been to help transform the lives of semi-urban and rural India by providing affordable customer-centric solutions. The organization recruits employees locally to enhance familiarity with the local geography and demographics.
Mahindra Finance which employ over 15,000 people has adopted diverse innovative measures to enhance leadership skills among employees, one of such initiatives was where they developed a Soap opera style learning podcasts program for field executives. Such initiatives have an outstanding impact on the employees and make learning engaging and enjoyable. Mahindra Finance scores well on parameters such as mature people practices; focus on building a lot in-house and low attrition.
Suketu Kohli - Associate VP – Mahindra Finance, Learning & Development shared his views on the Soap Opera Style Learning with People Matters.
People Challenges (what led to the creation of the soap opera learning module)
The need to provide learning to the Field executives who were diverse, and located throughout India is a business imperative - Reaching out to them who are in 1200+ locations. The challenges or the trigger rose with the need to have a uniform and ongoing skill building for business performance. Due to business priorities, classroom training was not the solution. Also, engaging the GEN-Y learners in a different way was a challenge, as there is a high penetration of mobile phones and messengers among the field-staff. The age group of the field executives were 20-25 years, and they are on their 2-wheelers for almost 100-150 kms daily.
The need for new-age learning was also because Mahindra Finance realised the need to revamp the existing learning and pave the way for the possible future of learning.
The HR Research
An ethnographic study was undertaken. HR went to each of the locations to find out the lifestyle, interests, engagements etc. When they connected the dots, some facts emerged. 80% had access to smartphones, and almost all of them are on WhatsApp. They like movies, music and are extremely fond of short videos. And they are emotionally connected to their 2-wheelers.
The HR L&D team cracked the code by developing small audio files which can be shared on WhatsApp, on the lines of a regular TV series, and the protagonist is a Bike.
Soap opera style learning - Podcasts programs
Byte sized podcasts are specifically designed programs for the Field Executives which can be delivered through social media platforms on their mobile phones like WhatsApp. The program is designed as an engaging story which is weaved in a series of two-minute podcasts/ audio files. The program uses the concept of anthropomorphism (the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a God, animal, or object) to engage the participants. The program allows participants to access the learning anywhere and anytime through their mobile phones. Such a program design ensures that participants scattered in different geographies get consistent learning at their finger tip. The design also ensures the Gen Y learning style & hence becomes an effective way of learning.
It is artistic, engaging, a human-centered approach with emphasis on the executives’ lifestyle, and personal drivers.
As of now Mahindra Finance has launched 2 programs in this format- Recovery Excellence & Sales Effectiveness. The programs have been measured on the parameters of Engagement, Accessibility & Learning Transfer.
The Learning module characteristics
- Soap Opera Style Learning Program - 40 episodes over 3 weeks through WhatsApp
- Byte sized learning-Short Learning Spaced out over time
- Short - Under 3 minutes Audio Files
- Infographics to reinforce Learning
- Dubbed in Regional Languages for Learners convenience and connect
- On Demand Learning in a Fun & Engaging Style
Challenges in implementing the Soap Opera Learning Module
The challenge was to ensure the podcasts are sent to people at specific time and in specific order. It was also a challenge to track whether people have listened to the podcasts. Ensure that the engagement is created while the podcasts are given out by facilitating group discussion and then finally, tracking success and business impact.
The ROI was mind-blowing. While the classroom training would have trained 1700 people at one go, this model or the new format could engage 8000 people which is 5 times the original number. Due to the digital format, the company saved Rs 1.6 crore on the cost of developing a new process. The project also helped the company beat attrition, as the retention rate increased 11%. And 71% preferred the digital format of learning over classroom training. Not to mention the sense of empowerment, motivation which came along.
- Business Impact – 8% through classroom training, 14% through Digital platform
- Application of learning - 56% through classroom training, 72 % through digital platform
- Reach - 82 on 100 through classroom training, 94 on 100 through digital format
- Reaction of the learners - 4.08 on 5 through classroom training, 4.49 on 5 through digital format
- Based on the Jack Philip Model of ROI, the return on investment was 12% for classroom Training, 34% for Digital platform.
Tapping the interests of the field executives, knowing what they do and like, were the success factors for Mahindra Finance. A process can only become successful if the leaders engage in a thorough research of what their employees want. And that is exactly where Mahindra Finance scored!