Venkatachalam Subramaniam is the Regional Vice President of APAC at Degreed. He comes with over 2 decades of rich & extensive global exposure in Strategic Business Development & Management, Operations Excellence, Stakeholder Engagement and People Management. Venkat is a People Leader who has successfully led and motivated teams in cross-cultural & geographical environments towards growth and success in the organisation; created a clear & compelling view of the future through coaching and execution.
Before joining Degreed, Venkat was a General Manager, Head of Sales at Oracle NetSuite India. He also had successful stints at ADP and Adrenalin — leading HCM product and services organisations. In conversation with People Matters, Venkat outlines critical trends that will impact L&D strategies moving forward, the urgency of investing in power skills, aligning learning solutions to business outcomes and employee experience and more.
What are those key talent and business trends that will impact how organisations design L&D programs in these turbulent times?
Organisations are dealing with multiple pressures in these turbulent times, including the shift to hybrid and remote work, and the recession impacting some countries (less so in APAC region, but still a factor in the global economy). Understanding the outlook is key for L&D teams planning for 2023, but that ties in with a wider shift — becoming more strategic and aligned with the business. Because everyone in the organisation needs to see, clearly and undoubtedly, that learning is core to business success. That’s the only way you can justify learning budgets and gain buy-in for innovations in learning.
With resilience becoming a core value to all businesses, how does the “Power Skills” economy factor in when empowering a resilient and future-ready workforce? How does Degreed support growing enterprises in building up these “Power Skills”?
Power skills are known by this name because they are relevant to many different roles, departments, and business needs. They are truly powerful skills to cultivate in your organisation as it makes people a lot more deployable to different areas. That builds resilience. With uncertainty on the horizon for every organisation, having a strong collection of different power skills can make your workforce more adaptable as needs change.
Which leaves the question, why aren’t more organisations building power skills? It’s because they cannot be easily taught in a traditional way; you cannot learn them easily in a classroom. They also can’t be assessed as easily as a hard skill like coding. Degreed helps organisations build power skills through several means, including enabling L&D to curate the best learning resources available to teach a power skill in different ways. Whether through an online pathway, videos, podcasts, or peer learning. Then a learner can stretch their skill by practising it on real-world applications like stretch assignments or projects. It allows someone to develop the skill in the best way that suits them and the skill being learned.
Indeed, it’s the practice that really embeds a skill (any skill, but particularly power skills). Degreed can offer learners opportunities like stretch assignments or mentoring, in their learner homepage, based on the skills they’re currently learning. Not only does that make the skill more memorable, but it also provides tangible proof that someone is able to do ‘communication’ or ‘change management’.
With the world of people and work changing in unprecedented ways, what new challenges to designing and implementing L&D programs should leaders be mindful of? What are some best practices you would recommend to overcome them?
A key focus for L&D going into 2023 should be business alignment. For a while L&D leaders have been speaking about becoming more strategic and having more impact in the boardroom. Now is the time to put that into action. Why? Because more business leaders are grappling with challenges, like skills gaps and retention, that learning has a direct impact on.
To achieve this, focusing on business outcomes when designing L&D programs and reporting on success, will help senior stakeholders see how learning is linked to the business. Instead of simply stating the number of courses completed or the learning hours logged, L&D needs to look at onboarding savings, time to productivity, workforce agility (to be able to switch to new roles easily), and so forth.
With quiet quitting and layoffs happening simultaneously, talent retention becomes an urgent priority. How can learning solutions today support businesses in designing the right EX and driving employee engagement for better talent retention?
Business leaders face an interesting time, with layoffs and quiet quitting impacting productivity, morale, and other outcomes. Simultaneously, you cannot ignore the state of the global market. That gives learning leaders an unparalleled opportunity to show how learning isn’t a nice-to-have but essential for resilience, growth, and performance. Retention is a key part of this, and learning can impact this by having a focus on career longevity for each employee. If someone feels like their organisation is invested in their long-term future and that they’re “going somewhere” in the company, they will be less inclined to leave.
Likewise, offering personalised learning opportunities that are tailored to someone’s interests and goals will make the overall experience more engaging. We’ve become used to having content served up seamlessly through Netflix, Spotify, Facebook and others. It’s time for company technology to do the same.
Finally, what would be some words of advice you would like to share with our community on designing L&D programs ‘Built for Disruption’?
It’s important to note that the days of having a rigid three to five-year strategy are gone. Learning leaders, above all, need to be comfortable with change and their strategy needs to be able to pivot as needed. Uncertainty is the only certainty these days and learning is at the forefront of this, one of the first to be impacted, because as a business suddenly changes, so too do the skills that employees need.
To achieve this, having processes and technology that can easily adapt is a must. So too is the ability to understand the market, changing needs, and new trends. Gathering skill data from your various HR and learning systems will help you understand the internal environment for your employees. Simultaneously, gather market data to understand how skills are evolving and where your business needs to be next, in order to thrive.