Rebooting first-time managers program – InMobi's journey in partnership with Skills Café
In 2018, InMobi's L&D team launched a first-time managers program after identifying an opportunity to bridge leadership development. It was rebranded as the "I Lead" program. In 2019, three new programs were launched – a Milestone program for first-time managers, a Capstone program for seasoned managers and a Keystone program for high potential employees.
The company faced new challenges along the way.
While impactful classroom sessions were designed for two to five days, it wasn't easy to engage participants over six months, post the live classroom sessions. It was also challenging to engage with learners spread across different time zones globally. Participation was not at the optimal levels.
In 2020, as the world navigated the pandemic, there was a pause on the program. By 2021, there was an opportunity to reboot the program for the remote work context. The company focused on addressing three areas:
- A standardized learning experience across the globe.
- Creating a pull factor in a remote work context.
- Content that was easy to absorb and motivating.
As part of the reboot journey, the company assessed multiple vendors. It zeroed down on Skills Café.
Speaking about the choice of the partner, Veena Sethuraman, Vice President – Learning & Organisational Development at InMobi said, "Skills Café spent time listening to us and understood our needs. They weren't pushing a classic customization route. And they were open to ambiguity, comfortable with a lack of clarity."
Learner experience and interventions
Along with Skills Café, the L&D team spent time understanding the audience, the learner's learning journey, and other challenges. Following a design thinking approach, the L&D team engaged employees to understand their primary challenges. "It's always an ongoing and iterative process," Veena noted.
"We just didn't want to solve for learning at the cognitive level; it needed to touch people's feelings and make a real impact from an emotional intelligence standpoint," she added.
To make the most of the program, InMobi and Skills Café introduced several changes with the learner in mind.
"Adult learners are only going to learn if they find the learning valuable and relevant to them," Veena noted. "We wanted to make sure that learning was conversational, fun and engaging. There was a need to create a psychologically safe environment. And learning didn't need to be preachy or just theory centred," she added.
It was essential to ensure that participants did not feel the pressure of going through the program. "Learners needed to feel that the program was designed for them, in a way they would like to learn," Haider Jasdan, Learning and Organizational Development Manager, InMobi said.
"The InMobians have a choice to opt-out of the program if they do not find it useful.," Veena added.
The leadership program was built around the four leadership attributes central to InMobi's philosophy of building managerial and leadership abilities across all levels. These are namely;
- Being Bold and Ambitious: Focussed around charting out bold strategic goals
- Making it Happen: Execution focus
- Inspiring not Managing: People leadership
- Customer Obsessession: Inculcating customer-centric approach
The program was designed after mapping the learner’s profile, leadership attributes, and values. "A lot of the work Skills Café did was from scratch," Haider said. "It was a meaningful exercise that made every element of the learning journey valuable."
The learning design ensured that learners had the space to learn, reflect and apply.
"Participants had access to learning journals, action plans and simulation exercises that ensured that they had the opportunity to apply what they had learned," Haider noted.
The program design also ensured that the participants' managers were part of the process. Each month, a report was shared with the manager that opened up an opportunity for line managers to engage in meaningful coaching conversations as needed.
Impact and metrics
Leadership programs, by nature, have a long-term impact.
"When it comes to human behavioural change, we have to be practical," Veena said. "We think about the impact from three perspectives –coverage, experience, and business. And not everything will lead to a business impact."
While the coverage impact reflects learner adoption, the experience impact is about whether the program was relevant and meaningful. Two weeks after the sessions are done, participants are encouraged to join a reflection circle to share what worked and what didn't. This gathering also helped create a space for them to connect with peers to learn from each other. "It has made the workplace intimate," Veena said.
The company tracked attendance, engagement, and proficiency scores of over 70 percent. Apart from assignments, pre-work, and participation in the learning forums.
Overall Score (Engagement and Proficiency): 70%
Overall Rating Out of 5 Rating Scale
- Virtual Live Session Experience - 4.47
- Relevance of Concepts as People Manager - 4.63
- Facilitator Contribution to the Learning - 4.57
- Facilitator's ability to answer questions - 4.59
There have been many intangible benefits along the way.
Many participants in the program volunteered to mentor participants in the next edition. More managers participated in 360-degree feedback. Senior leaders who have experienced change working with these younger colleagues are interested to know about the program. "It's a validation of the program," Veena said.
"None of the participants who are part of the ongoing team chat channel has left," Haider noted. "It's a sign they're invested in the journey."
This article is part of a content partnership with Skills Café. Find out more details about "Rise: The First Time Manager Program."