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.
Prior to joining Degreed, Venkat was a General Manager, Head of Sales Oracle NetSuite India, and he also had successful stints at ADP and Adrenalin — both leading HCM product and services organisations. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, he shares Degreed’s vision for the new-age learning landscape and the innovations that the community of learners and learning organisations can anticipate.
In the age of accelerated and disruptive digital transformation, what are those competencies that will dominate today’s skills economy?
The competencies that we’re seeing come up time and time again among our clients are always either digital or power skills — things that are needed to succeed as all companies digitally transform and navigate disruption. For example, to work effectively as a team when some people are remote and automation takes over mundane tasks, employees need to build a certain level of digital literacy, communication skills, and adaptability.
Given how Degreed is at the forefront of driving organisational change, what is the impact of its learning solutions for the new-age, diversified workforce? How does it empower accessible and inclusive learning formats?
The mission that sparked Degreed is to jailbreak the degree — to reshape the systems of education and skilling, so that people aren’t sorted by where, or if, they went to University. Education is one of the greatest levers that we have to improve lives, so it should be accessible to all. That thinking influences everything at Degreed from the product features that we build, to the deals that we close and the companies we work with.
It is why Degreed is built around the learner, giving them opportunities that are tailored to their interests, career goals, and role needs. It is why Degreed remains an open platform so that L&D teams can invest in the tools that will enable them to deliver personalized learning experiences to their workforces. And it’s also the reason why we are innovating with deskless worker and extended enterprise solutions that enables everyone, including retail and factory workers, contractors, partners, even family members of employees, to continuously learn and ready themselves for the future.
One of the greatest challenges of implementing any L&D agenda is the adoption and engagement gap. How do digitally empowered learning strategies break these artificial barriers in designing engaging learner experiences?
If you don’t understand your learners then engagement will always be an uphill battle. If you collaborate with your learners, they will be more invested in the success of your L&D strategy. In practice, this means understanding each learner’s aspirations and ensuring learning aligns with their career goals and any skill gaps. For instance, Unilever has asked all of its employees to have a future-fit plan, and future-fit skill set by 2025, to give its people a clear direction and reason for their learning.
It also involves knowing what encourages someone to learn. Alongside its future-fit plan, Unilever also held ‘discover your purpose’ workshops for 150,000 employees to help them feel more anchored and have a better learning mindset.
How does Degreed support businesses in rethinking what’s possible in the learning landscape today? What are some of its latest digital innovations in the coming months?
We are proud of being a highly collaborative partner for our customers. It’s a two-fold relationship where our internal experts can offer advice on trends, new thinking, and specific problems a customer might be facing, but we also learn a lot from our customers, what they need, what they’re seeing in the market, their plans, feedback and so on.
Our roadmap for the rest of 2022 is focusing on enabling L&D teams to provide the right training for their people, faster and more efficiently, while empowering individuals to upskill smarter. Therefore, some features we’re working on right now are embedding videos, content unification, plan simplification, and learner usability and engagement.
Of course, I’d be amiss not to mention Degreed’s acquisition of Learn In. Again, this is a move driven by the feedback we’ve had from customers about where the market, and their aspirations, are going. Degreed and Learn In together bring a solution that couples everyday learning with deep skill building. Learners will have the freedom to learn in minutes, hours, or on skill-based, cohort-based programs that they can spend days, months, and years on.
How would you advise L&D leaders to look at their learning strategies and frameworks with fresh eyes? What is the one thing they must start doing and the one thing they must stop doing to unlock the potential of their learners?
The single most effective way for learning to remain ahead of the many changes on the horizon is to be innovative and responsive. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ways of engaging learners and build processes that allow you to quickly change the skills your workforce is building as your business needs evolve. The easiest way to do this on the technology side is to invest in an open platform, that way you can pick the best technologies for your learners, without being limited to a small set of pre-approved vendors.
The one thing to stop doing in order to unlock the potential of your learners is to change the internal culture and perception of learning — it is not about mandatory training or setting a top-down direction of learning. The forward-thinking learning culture now places learners at the centre and it brings learning into the flow of work, every day, however that works for each individual.