In Conversation with Nishchae Suri on L&D Technology

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In an exclusive Conversation, we have Mr. Nishchae Suri, President – Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa at EdCast. He is a senior industry leader, prior to EdCast, Nishchae was a senior Partner with KPMG in India and Head of the KPMG Academy. He has over two decades of rich experience in areas of HR strategy and transformation, leadership & talent management, learning & development and rewards working with clients in over 25 countries. Mr. Suri joined KPMG from Mercer Consulting, where he was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for their India operations. He was also a global partner with Hewitt Associates where he held a number of strategic leadership roles in the consulting business both in India and in other parts of the Asia Pacific region.

Nishchae is an MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune University and holds his Bachelor of Arts (Economics Hons) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University.

Q. Describe today’s landscape of Learning & Development in organizations?

Each organization must become a learning organization if it has to survive, sustain and grow. Today, organizations need to learn more than ever before! The reality, unfortunately, is that most organizations are institutionalizing mediocrity when excellence is a possibility. It is interesting that the words “whole” and “health” come from the same root (the Old English hal, as in “hale and hearty”). So, it should come as no surprise that the unhealthiness of our learning today is in direct proportion to our inability to see it as a ‘whole’.

There is a silver lining –Today, L&D budgets have increased and there is greater executive sponsorship that is paving the way for L&D professionals to play a more strategic role in improving their overall organizational learning health. According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning report (2019) organizations have identified creating a future-ready workforce, bridging the skill gap as their top priority while they continue to deploy learner engagement tactics to inspire the modern learner. 

The increasing use of technology in L&D is another observable trend. There is a distinct shift towards digital learning from the traditional classroom-based ILT’s. Technology is enabling modern learners to upskill and reskill when & where they need to, right in the flow of work. 

Q. With the introduction of LXP’s (Learning eXperience Platforms) how have organizations & learners benefited?

Learning is an intensely personal experience for people. Learner experience is much more than a buzzword; it heralds a paradigm shift. With learner experience, you are not creating a curriculum; you are creating an experience, one that will translate to the single most differentiating factor. Over the last decade, the Internet, social media, and mobile access have become huge factors in our private and working lives, changing how we interact with information. By making personalized content available to learners anytime, anywhere and on multiple devices, L&D departments have a realistic shot at significantly reducing the learning curve.

As you are aware, At EdCast, we offer a full stack learning solution to our clients and LXP forms an integral part of our overall offering.

EdCast’s LXP is AI-powered digital learning platform that is simple, intuitive, & personalized. It allows organizations to proactively upskill their workforce through an entirely new, future-oriented learning experience across devices and channels—one that is customized, dynamic and predictive. 

The experience is tailored to the learning preferences, interests, and needs of learners with easy access to content that is displayed in a familiar, easy-to-navigate pattern that appeals to them. The content is contextual and aggregated from a variety of content repositories internal and external. Our LXP unleashes the power of open source free content and ensures that tacit knowledge from SME’s is used and effectively converted to knowledge assets. The LXP helps you set the foundation for a knowledge network and exchange in the organization promoting peer to peer learning & true collaboration. With Real-time performance support and analytics, our LXP has the ability to track and share past learnings and progress on the learner profile. 

Q. How do you see AI being used in the field of learning?

In today’s workplace, where constant and rapid change is necessary to remain competitive, the best strategy is to create a multi-faceted and flexible learning ecosystem, educate the learner on being a smart consumer, set and maintain context, and get out of the learner’s way.

Just as Netflix learns from user behaviour and starts recommending movies based on multiple factors using AI, our LXPs surfaces relevant content from internal and external sources depending on the business need and learner needs. That makes us the Netflix of knowledge and learning! 

In the field of learning, the use of Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics technologies can offer guidance by understanding employee profiles and then matching a person’s situation to available learning. At EdCast, we are using artificial intelligence to capitalize on the exploding amount of available data to be able to provide personalized, role-based and skill-based learning and performance support in near-real-time, at scale across the organization. 

Using AI we can pull data quickly and easily sort through demographics like age, gender, culture, level in the organization, educational background, previous learning experiences, patterns of employee behavior, learning needs and goals. Using these insights, organizations can create intelligent and smarter positioned content, that’s adaptive, intuitive, responsive to a learner’s personal journey and gives a great learner experience. Learning insights also help develop a wider understanding of learner behavior, leading to predictive capacities. Adaptive learning that is personalized to the individual is a powerful way to engage today’s workforce.

Q. What are the challenges & potential advantages of building a strong learning culture? 

Learning is primarily seen to be a compliance requirement and not driven by a culture of commitment, wherein the stick is used to drive learner behaviors. Such an environment promotes behaviors where people act “out of fear” and not “out of performance”. 

It is not uncommon for an organization to exhibit early warning signs before deteriorating or dying. The key to optimal outcomes is recognition of these warning signs followed by an appropriate and timely response. Here are a few –

  • Learners are not recognized and rewarded for learning new skills and knowledge.
  • Leaders and managers do not show interest to understand and appreciate the concerns, fears or what is most meaningful to an individual. 
  • Leaders and managers do not invest their time in nurturing and developing talent. 
  • The organization operates with a deficit mindset and encourages learning only to fix weaknesses and not build on strengths. 
  • Individuals are not rewarded for their team behaviors wherein they contribute to how the team learns together as a group and helps others grow and develop. 

There are several benefits of a ‘learning organization’:

“The rate at which you and your employees learn may well become your only competitive sustainable advantage.”

Organizations outperforming their competitors are seen to have a healthier learning eco-system and are, therefore:  

  • 11x more likely to improve the capability of the organization to solve problems
  • 3x more likely to achieve benefits related to growth in the competitive climate
  • 7x more likely to respond faster to changing business conditions
  • 3x more likely to achieve overall productivity benefits including improved talent strategies
  • 3x more likely to have improved sustainability and profitability including customer satisfaction

Learning fitness or learning health is your collective ‘abilities’ to perform. Borrowing from the Gestalt school of thought “The whole is, after all, greater than the sum of its parts.”

Q. What are some of the key bottlenecks organizations are facing in furthering their learning agenda?

Measuring Business Impact:

Resources are scarce and ensuring the effectiveness of spend is critical. The one thing I cannot emphasize enough is creating accountability for the money we spend on learning. The L&D budget is at times referred to the “largest unmanaged investment in a company”. Often because of the wasteland of learning that is delivered but not applied on the job- “scrap learning”. Learning which is successfully developed but not applied on the job—comes with high costs. Most of the times there are simple ways to establish the return on investment. Key aspects to address include –learning metrics that should be used to measure efficiency and effectiveness of learning and the extent to which an organization uses data analytics, predictive modeling in taking decisions related to talent and learning. At the end of the day, L&D’s goal is to tie learning to results.

Culture: 

Culture in my view is the number one barrier. 83% of employees believe it is their responsibility to reskill themselves (Edelman Trust Index 2019, Mercer Talent Trends 2019) To create a culture of continuous learning, democratization, and personalization of learning is a pre-requisite. 

L&D Team: 

L&D functions should continue to upgrade the nature and quality of services and solutions that they provide to meet the evolving and rapidly changing needs of the business. In many organizations, L&D is still tactical and operational while a few have raised their game where they continuously reconfigure the learning ecosystem architecture addressing both form and function, enable key performance outcomes through consulting, orchestrate and manage knowledge flows and exchange, drive change of learner behaviors and mindset, design learning experiences suited to the modern-day learner, use instructional design to power specific learning outcomes, gather and mine business and employee data to improve the quality of decision making and curate content which is suited to the context of the organization.

Technology & Tools: 

Organizations require a set of software to deliver a single user interface; build and manage employee journeys, develop apps, create and monitor workflows and add forms of conversational interfaces to the mix to be able to meet business requirements and drive learner engagement. The introduction of Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) is helping them lead, enable, manage and support their L&D agenda and cater to the preferences and needs of the modern-day ‘learner’. Such new-age technologies boost the learning health of the organization. Moreover, the ease of integrating such platforms & tools with enterprise-wide systems is ensuring that learning is at the heart and center of their businesses. 

Q. What are the CHROs & CLOs looking at when they build their learning & development strategy? What is your advice to them?

  • Build a learning agenda that is strongly aligned and tied to business needs and priorities.
  • Keep the learner at the center of everything you do; design learning experiences that are personalized.
  • Build a culture of sharing and caring where knowledge flows are orchestrated most efficiently and effectively.
  • Use technologies that are conversational, mobile-first and aligned to meet the needs of a modern-day learner.
  • Use Analytics to understand your learners and their behaviours to make smart talent decisions

Thank you, Nishchae!

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