Article: Leaders have to drive the learning culture: Anupam Trehan, Cisco

Learning & Development

Leaders have to drive the learning culture: Anupam Trehan, Cisco

“Look at investments in learning & development as just that - investments and not costs. Investments in learning & development drive impact across business outcomes and employee experience and engagement – even more so now and for the foreseeable future,” says Anupam Trehan, Director, People and Communities, Cisco India & SAARC.
Leaders have to drive the learning culture: Anupam Trehan, Cisco

The pandemic, like many other things, has accelerated the L&D transformation as well. It has surely emphasized on the need for learning. But most importantly it has nudged leaders to re-think: how will the talent learn? Where will they learn? And what will they learn? 

Leaders are forced to reimagine a sustainable future of workplace learning. In a recent interaction with Anupam Trehan, Director, People and Communities, Cisco India & SAARC, we discuss the learning paradigms for the COVID-19 era and beyond. 

The pandemic has brought L&D to the forefront and opened a plethora of new-age learning opportunities, not only for the employees but also for organizations. How do you see the larger picture of L&D and skilling initiatives across organizations, and how have employee L&D strategies evolved in the last few months?

The last eight months have been a journey of learning for individuals, organizations, and industries, as all have had to navigate and adapt to this new normal. Organizations are reimagining how work can be done, be it with the use of technology and automation or through flexible work options, including remote working permanently, and/or exploring a hybrid work environment. 

To cater to increasingly distributed workforces and workplaces, learning and development programs are also being reimagined to offer a cohesive learning experience for both remote and in-office workers. Additionally, the focus is on building functional or technical expertise and building leadership capability and talent engagement. 

As we step into a new world, technology will continue to play a major role in creating personalized, continuous professional development. There will be a continued focus on new and emerging skills and leveraging technology to drive user experience. 

What is your advice for CHROs and people managers who face challenges to skill and re-skill their employees, including cost and other bottlenecks?

It starts with the need to look at investments in learning & development as just that - investments and not costs. Investments in learning & development drive impact across business outcomes and employee experience and engagement – even more so now and for the foreseeable future. There are a few things that we would need to start to do differently or more of in terms of learning & development:

  • Leaders to own building and driving a learning culture vs. being budget providers
  • Use of technology and devices as enablers and accelerators of learning – How do we start a Netflix or Spotify of learning?
  • The need for customer orientation and speed: Agility and cost focus applies to the learning organization just as it applies to any business. Develop learning solutions with the consumer (employees, the business, etc.) in mind. 

As talent leaders reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables? 

As individuals and professionals, we all learn differently. Learner experience will continue to be key and even more so as the lines between virtual and physical spaces start to blur. The need for learning solutions that are cost and time investment optimal will continue. The focus will shift from individuals to teams, and the need to reimagine learning processes with technology as an enabler and experience creator will rise. 

Learning will need to be more automated than hands-on, learning platforms more interactive than static, and learning modules more personalized (no more one-size-fits-all learning modules). 

Lastly, and most importantly, consistent, enhanced employee experience will need to be the top priority for organizations, where leaders will play a critical role. 

Have you revamped your L&D strategy? Or are you looking to? What are the key learning priorities for your organization as you prepare to bounce back from the crisis?

At Cisco, our focus on learning is anchored in our Conscious Culture. For our People & Teams, learning happens through a variety of platforms, be it our learning platform “Degreed”; community learning where one learns from peers or internal experts across a range of topics; learning pathways across roles and skills or learning from leaders, mentors, and coaches. Through various events such as “Lets Talk”, “All Hands”, “Fireside Chats”, etc., employees learn more about our business strategy and our culture and also get to hear and learn from career stories.  

But our focus on learning does not stop there. Rooted in our culture, our focus on learning extends to our customers and the community at large as well. “Cisco Learning Network”, “Partner Training”, “Modeling Labs”, “Learning Library”, etc. are focused on our customers and partners. “Networking Academy”, “Mentor To Go”, “e-Vidyaloka”, etc. are platforms through which we are helping our communities learn as well. 

There is a significant cultural shift organizations are facing after the crisis. How can business leaders and HR teams work together to create a high-impact learning culture in their organizations?

As the pandemic made its way across the globe, the first response across industries was to safeguard lives and ensure employees’ safety. So, while the pandemic crisis has brought several challenges, it has also served as a reminder that employee well-being takes precedence over everything else. I believe that this will continue in the future.  

Learning & Development needs to be seen as an enabler and accelerator of business. Successful businesses competing in a global economy, with a very diverse workforce (which will become more dispersed and distributed in the time to come), have realized that effective L&D solutions must be strategic, engaging, flexible, and digital to enable a productive learning environment, digital or in-person. 

However, while technology and digital solutions help to enable skilling, leaders have a key role in supporting their teams in how they work, learn, unlearn, and relearn. 

Know more about the latest trends in the learning & development landscape at the People Matters L&D Conference 2020 coming to your screens from 21st-22nd October. Click here to register.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ReimagineLearning, #PMLnD

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