Interview With Nishchae Suri, President – Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa , EdCast
In an exclusive interaction with Human Capital, Nishchae Suri, President – Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa at EdCast, pragmatically explores the current and future opportunities for corporate learning, how new technologies can form pathways to transformative shifts in the learning & development (L&D) space, and how to align L&D initiatives for organisationwide impact by making them learner-led. Learn all of these and much more from the learning leader himself!
“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer
You have over two decades of rich experience in globally dynamic organisations like EdCast, KPMG, Mercer Consulting, and Hewitt Associates. Take us through your journey and the key learnings. Also, what makes you passionate about what you do?
Twenty years and counting! It’s been a beautiful journey, and I’m grateful to my mentors, from whom I’ve learned the true meaning of meritocracy, the importance of relationships, and the role of culture and values in institution-building. I’m grateful to have always worked with teams of exceptionally talented, fiercely competitive professionals who are ambitious and hungry for growth, united by a common goal of serving our clients. I learned the “art of tough love”. I received all the love in the world from team members, but when it came to performance, there were no exceptions at all. My colleagues at work, mentors, and my teacher reinforced the importance of being an everyday learner, investing in yourself to do better, to be better!
The work I do is in the service of every learner and the broader business community. At EdCast, we are powering the journey of every learner, giving meaning to their work, and the means to a rewarding livelihood. I love what I do.
“Learn, Live, Love” is my mantra.
• Always help others. There is greater honour in giving than in receiving.
• Always work like an owner. Fall in love with your work.
• Always set yourself to high standards. Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity
Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” What’s your take on this quip?
If you are not learning, you are not living. Today, everyone needs to learn more than ever before—to survive, sustain, and grow. To remain relevant and to be at the top of your game, one needs to reinvent and invest in oneself continuously. Technology is enabling modern learners to upskill and reskill when and where they need to, right in the flow of work. With disruption due to technology, learning has become hyperpersonalised; quality content and user experience have become the focus.
Today’s learners expect the same experience as Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Just as Netflix learns from user behaviours and starts recommending movies based on multiple factors using AI, LXPs (Learning Experience Platforms) do something similar for learning.
HR practitioners know that a culture of learning is vital for organisational survival and success, but many find it hard to define and even harder to create an effective learning culture. What, according to you, is a learning culture? Also, what are a few trademarks of a learning enterprise?
Unfortunately, in most organisations today, learning is primarily seen to be a compliance-driven requirement rather than a culture-driven commitment. Organisations must build an ecosystem where individuals feel empowered and responsible for their own development. It is essential to create an everyday learning culture, rather than an isolated training-oriented one.
A learning enterprise is one that encourages, celebrates, and recognises learning. To create a culture of continuous learning, ‘democratisation’ and ‘personalisation’ of learning is a prerequisite. Driving cultural change requires us to create an environment where individuals experience work as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Learning plays a central role in talent development; through learning, you can impact all facets of talent management, be it engagement, attraction, or retention.
In a rapidly changing world where the rules of business evolve very quickly, we need to have learning systems that adapt and align to changing business needs in real-time, and support scale with speed. Organisations should leverage technology in both the identification of learning needs and in the creation and curation of knowledge assets.
To remain competitive, the best strategy is to create multi-faceted and flexible learning ecosystems, educate the learner on being a smart consumer, set and maintain context, and get out of the learner’s way.
When it comes to L&D challenges, there is no shortage of research on the widening skills gap, decreasing shelf-life of skills, lack of learner motivation, etc. The new business imperative in L&D is ‘democratisation of learning’. What is its importance and how can businesses enable it?
We live in a world in which change is the only constant. How do we equip our people to deliver today and be resourced to deliver in a changing tomorrow?
The “democratisation of learning” is about giving people the opportunity to develop themselves. When companies make it easy for people to share knowledge by acting as a network that facilitates the digitisation of the informal learning process, they make it more tangible, shareable, and effective.
What are some of the common mistakes that you see large organisations repeatedly make in understanding the new learning dynamics?
Fundamentally, the way employees view and drive learning has changed. We have known for a while now that learning is one of the top engagement drivers for employees. However, with the pace at which skills are being rendered redundant today, learning has moved from being a preference to being an absolute imperative.
Organisations often falter in their legacy view of how learning experiences are delivered. Some still talk about static training plans and structured learning interventions, which offer little scalability, let alone impact.
Learning today has evolved. It is an experience and a mindset, not merely a series of isolated interventions. Empowering employees to articulate their own learning goals and action them with self-directed learning paths is the need of the hour. There is a hunger to learn amongst employees. Organisations that are able to tap into this paradigm effectively will be the ones that will emerge as industry leaders of tomorrow.
What would your piece of advice be to HR leaders who want to build a strong L&D business case for technology investments?
We are currently witnessing a learning revolution in which technology is an integral part. Organisations require a plethora of tools and platforms 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 LXPs is helping organisations lead, enable, manage and support their L&D agenda while catering to the preferences and needs of the ‘modern-day learner’. Such new-age technologies boost the learning health of the organisation. Moreover, the ease of integrating such platforms and tools with enterprise-wide systems is ensuring that learning is at the heart and centre of their businesses.
As we step into the 2020s decade, what top trends are you tracking in the L&D space? Also, are there any that concern you?
• We see that L&D budgets have increased. L&D professionals will play a more strategic role in improving the overall organisational learning health to mitigate capability risks.
• There is greater executive sponsorship in upskilling & reskilling the workforce.
• The increasing use of technology in L&D is another observable trend. There is a distinct shift away from the traditional classroom-based ILT (Instructor-Led Training) and towards blended and digitised platforms which empower learners to leverage a range of resources at their own discretion and on their own terms. These platforms put learners in the driver’s seat of their own growth, and that, to me, is a powerful paradigm shift. Technology is enabling modern learners to upskill and reskill when and where they need to, right in the flow of work.
Do you look forward to permanently working from home after the pandemic subsides?
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