Lata Menon is the Country Head - HR, India, and MEA, Equifax. Lata has spent most of her career spanning over two-and-a-half decades in various facets of HR. Prior to joining Equifax, Lata was the Senior Vice-President and Country Head HR, India & Sri Lanka for Startek- Aegis managing a strength of 27,000 employees across two countries and 28 locations.
How has learning at work changed in the last five years?
Workplace learning has transformed in recent times. It has moved away from an instructor-led classroom training to user-friendly online learning systems, enabling learning at your own pace in your own space, the changes have been significant. There is also a shift in responsibilities; the choices today are more participative, informed, and deliberate; the onus of learning is shared, and the value and measurements are more definitive.
What are the critical learning-related challenges that you are facing as a business leader?
From an organizational perspective, learning revolves mostly on the business need and the ROI, whereas, from an employee perspective, the variables include time, relevance, personalization, aspiration, etc. Bringing the two together in an ever-changing and dynamic business environment is always a challenge.
Apart from this, having an awareness of the business we are reinforcing and refreshing employee knowledge around key critical factors and business imperatives is vital; at times, it is tedious.
For example, we have mandatory refresher sessions on security awareness, data protection, cybersecurity, etc. Our technology-enabled global learning management systems play a pivotal role in fostering learning culture by pushing relevant modules and content. Regular monitoring, flexibility, credits and recognition, online scoring and results, continuous teasers and reminders, etc. help us manage the challenges well.
Continuous learning or lifelong learning is the need of the hour; how should HR and business leaders build a culture of learning?
From an organization's perspective, continuous learning has to be part of its DNA, and from an individual's perspective, they need to have a mindset in pursuit of knowledge.
With an ever-changing landscape in business heavily interspersed by disruptive technologies, lifelong learning is the only way to stay relevant for both.
There's a lot of research linking learning to business excellence is compelling, and the one standard inference has been that - "Companies that learn fastest and adapt well to changing environments perform the best over time."
To drive culture change, HR needs to reassess its role in learning and development. That role is no longer passive enablement by providing courses and seminars periodically; it involves supporting active and credible learning all the time.
If developing learning programs result from HR Policies and KPIs are around completing the annually mandated training hours, then that's not what learning cultures are about. In a learning culture, people learn because they want to. Creating such a culture by recognizing the key constraints and removing impediments that prevent people from reaching their full potential as learners, HR has to play a vital role in partnering with the business to make it happen.
There are many modes of formal and informal learning, and the focus is mostly on formal learning models. How do you personalize learning?
That is right; many modes of learning exist, from early childhood, the impressionable learning form we are exposed to is formal learning. It's structured, teacher-led in a classroom setting. But what often gets left out is our learning from grandma's stories, scripture rendition, recitation, etc. So outside the schooling system, exposure to formal, informal, and non-formal learning models always existed.
The learnability, interests, needs, skill gaps, etc. play a significant role in making learning successful. The organizational goals and business expectations mapped to individual needs and aspirations help in personalizing learning programs. Technology has been a massive enabler in making this a reality.
Skill gap analysis helps us identify the gaps, and critical skills required in the near future, etc. This assists in planning and investments in learning programs. We also have a robust Global Learning Platform, where employees have access to mandatory learning modules as well as modules curated as per their interests.
How does Equifax account for informal and shadow learning?
As a concept, I feel the most evolved shadow learning happens in medicine, particularly surgery, the existence too can be traced back to decades. Interns, apprentices, trainees, buffers within a project, project bench, etc. are all forms of job shadowing.
It is an excellent way to train employees on-the-job and get the required finesse for actual job requirements. Equifax also has programs for interns, trainees, project buffers, etc. apart from University partnerships, which enable learning on-the-job and developing the necessary expertise.
Demonstrating the impact of learning and ROI on learning is critical to sustaining learning programs. How do you approach assessing the impact of your learning programs?
Given the importance of learning and development, the efficiency, effectiveness, and the impact of learning and the return on investment, have always been topics of deliberation.
Our learning modules come with tests and self-scoring mechanisms. Shadow learning and on-the-job learning programs have a longer gestation period, and the performance evaluation takes care of the efficiency and effectiveness of the program.
On a parting note, though, it might seem to be a cliché, but similar conversations may have happened across many boardrooms over the years–
"CFO: What happens if we train our people and they leave?
CEO: What happens if we don't, and they stay? "