To build thriving businesses, continuous learning is a key ingredient for success. But when organisations invest in upskilling today, what are some innovative approaches they can explore?
In this exclusive interview with Abhay Gandotra, Associate Director and the Head of Projects, Resources and Operations at BTS India, we find answers. Abhay leads several strategic client initiatives for BTS India across all BTS Centres of Excellence with a focus on Strategy Alignment and Business Acumen.
BTS is a human-centred consulting firm that helps the world’s leading companies bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Through this conversation, we explore the dynamic realm of L&D through the lens of BTS's innovative approach of designing customised, fun, powerful learning experiences that profoundly shift people’s mindsets and build their capabilities at every stage of the employee’s lifecycle, to deliver actual business results.
In today's dynamic business landscape, strategic alignment is crucial for the success of L&D programmes. How does BTS ensure that training initiatives are directly contributing to the broader strategic objectives of your clients and how has this alignment been a key factor in the success of your programmes?
Strategic alignment is about ensuring that the learning strategy is aligned with today’s business priorities. It’s about asking why these skills and why now. Learning leaders today are working hard to ensure that the training programmes and the plans for the business are closely connected. And if your people’s skills match what the company’s strategy needs, you have the right ingredients for success.
We facilitate and monitor this connection using an Impact Map, which helps answer two crucial questions: "How does this programme help your business?" and "Why should participants care?"The impact map helps us draw a line of sight between the experiences and organisational goals. The key is to begin with the end goal in mind, figuring out how to deliver what the client organisation wants first and then tailoring the experience for the employees.
And because we’re able to articulate the what’s in it for them for all stakeholders, we have engaged business sponsors and committed participants.
The incorporation of design tools like impact mapping is becoming increasingly vital in contemporary L&D. Could you share some best practices to integrate such tools into training programmes?
We work with HR and Business Leaders to co-create the impact map during the design phase, that’s where it all starts. This informs the program design, delivery, and results measurement.
The Impact map when used effectively acts as a toolkit that allows us to look at the problem from a systems lens and build alignment between all stakeholders in the ecosystem. For example, we want to build psychologically safe teams and we know what behaviours lead to these safe spaces, but then why isn’t it happening today? What does the group not get about the concept? What’s in it for them and the business? What are the incentives and reinforcement mechanisms needed to help drive this shift? The impact map helps bring this to life.
When using the impact map, you want to ensure the cause-and-effect relationship starts with the end goal in mind. When we’re designing the programme we focus on what’s essential - ensure that the skills they’re going to learn allow them to display the desired behaviours which when displayed lead to the business results we’re going to measure and the right support mechanisms exist to foster this change.
The effectiveness of training often hinges on fostering mindset shifts within an organisation. How can HR leaders cultivate these shifts, and how can these strategies influence the corporate learning culture?
Great question! Most training interventions fail because learners seem unable to bridge the learning–doing gap. One of the most important things that come in the way of applying learnings when they are back at work is their ‘mindset’ - the established set of the thoughts/ feelings/ beliefs/ opinions that you hold.
BTS tapped into its unique data set of over 100,000 coaching conversations and created a map of 33 mindsets that we believe have the biggest impact on a leader’s career.
For each mindset, we identify it, define it, highlight the best way to change it and then spend a lot of time during our interactions with the group on this. For example, all organisations today want to become customer-centric. Now, that’s a mindset of curiosity and the best salespeople are curious about their customers’ problems. And that’s what we come in to shift when working with our clients.
Without clarity on what mindset shifts we intend to make and why, any programme is going to be like shooting in the dark – not very effective. Organisations need to ensure that the right systems and reinforcements are in place to help drive shifts in mindset and behaviour throughout - before, during and after their programs. This must be a top-down approach. Your organisation’s top leaders are the torchbearers and the ones your teams are looking up to.
Every success story offers valuable insights. Could you share a specific example from BTS's experience where an L&D initiative directly contributed to a significant business impact? What critical elements led to this success, and how did you measure and demonstrate the resulting impact?
We recently worked with an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company to implement an initiative enabling 25 of their Country Managers to assess, strategise, and act—winning in their country’s unique business landscape.
The solution was an intensive, 10-month journey with 3 phases:
- Virtual Individual Assessment: Leaders experienced a 'day-in-the-life' as a country manager, and received a personalised report on skills in business acumen, portfolio management, financial planning, data analysis, and decision-making.
- Strategy Lab: Leaders dived into a hyper-realistic business simulation and collaborated with CFOs, Heads of Medical Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, and Business Development and created a playbook of strategies for their countries.
- Execution: Supported by BTS experts, leaders received regular check-ins for guidance. Progress and impact were tracked, with leaders making their final presentations to the executive leadership.
The results were impressive:
- Leaders identified and executed 102 actions, driving top-line growth, profitability, portfolio management, and market access.
- 25% more new products were introduced across geographies than planned that year.
- Brand new products were successfully launched at speed in three countries.
- Gross Contribution Margin improved by over 2% in 10 countries.
Because we started with the Impact Map, both BTS and the client knew what results we were aiming for; we were able to successfully work backwards to drive the right behaviours and elements of the journey.
Given the constant evolution of workplace dynamics, what emerging trends do you foresee in L&D? How is BTS preparing to leverage these trends to continue delivering innovative and impactful learning solutions to your clients?
We are seeing an increase in co-ownership between business units and HR. When senior leadership actively participates and champions the initiative then you know they view the work HR and L&D teams do as strategic levers to the success of their strategy. And we’ve seen it first hand, where the leaders provide sponsorship not just in budgets but also with their time, we’re able to drive great results together.
Another trend we are seeing is Learning in the Flow of Work which is really translating into organisations making learning available and accessible to all when they need it and allowing for practice through on-the-job application. So, you’re learning and then immediately applying, and learning through that process as well. It’s a potent feedback loop that’s working with the right systems in place.