Friday, 19 June 2015

L&D Leadership League 2015, Chennai

When I received the invitation from Pranav Gupta of  'People matters' to attend the 2015 L&D Leadership league  on 16th June 2015 at ITC Grand Chola Chennai , I was delighted for more than one reason. I had attended the Leadership league in 2014 and had found it an innovative, fun filled experience with a lot of learning. I had also participated in webinars organized by People Matters and found them  worthwhile exercises.The proceedings of the impressive 2014 league was chronicled  for the benefit of readers in this very forum, in the blog dated 7th December 2014.( I had posted  another blog  " Webinar on corporate story telling"on 16th October 2014 discussing the contents of the webinar organized by People 
Matters (

This year, for me there was an added incentive, an icing on the cake. The event  was happening on my birthday! To be on your birthday amongst people, you are most comfortable with,in the wonderful ambience of Grand Chola, discussing matters that you are most passionate about!What more could one ask for? The hospitality carpet was rolled out  right from the beginning when at the entrance of the conference hall , we were greeted by the young and dynamic team of People matters, Savitha, Pranav and Shashi.

The first session was on " Nurturing the league of extraordinary learners" by Mr  Jacob Jacob, Chief people officer,Appolo hospitals. The speaker drew attention to two important aspects of learning in the current scenario. The participants or learners, today are vastly different from traditional learners meaning class room learning alone cannot keep them engaged or ensure that learning happens. Merely promising training abroad or with top business schools  will not do. The participant is keen to know what's in it for him or her after the learning, whether it is faster growth up the ladder, horizontal movement to  areas of his choice or other concrete benefits. 

The other aspect is that basically there is a divide between Learning culture and Operational culture. The goals of the two may be perceived as opposed to each other.The onus is on us, the L&D professionals to take the initiative and make efforts  to get the buy in from the operation or line managers.Success can be assured only if the line believes in it; otherwise the learning initiatve is doomed to fail!

Jacob Jacob briefly touched upon the Kolb's Learning cycle to underscore the fact that adults learn differently from children, who are like empty vessels and will accept anything that is imparted, The adults, on the other hand, have an experiential learning cycle that involves four phases namely (1) concrete experience (feeling), (2) reflective observation (reflection), (3) abstract conceptualization(thinking) and (4) active experimentation (doing). Hence the training program needs to cater to all these aspects.It is in this context that a lot is being talked, about 'blended learning'. It  seeks to provide a mix of various learning experiences that may include apart from face to face learning, E learning, tests, quizes, role plays, learning as you work in  live situations, using the mobile and social media as tools of learning etc. It may mean just   short bursts of learning in a  two hour session instead of a whole day program and the program itself happening not in the L&D center but on the shopfloor.Learning also needs to be measured and rewarded if it is to be taken seriously.

The speaker gave instances of how measurement of the training is done in his organization, Appolo Hospitals. After training is imparted to the nurses, the medication errors before and after the training is measured. Similarly the "The voice of patient", the feedback mechanism is analysed to ascertain whether patients feel more positively about the services rendered by the nurses after the program.

The first session also focused on the importance of building a learning culture, integrated with the business model of the company.This would involve building a knowledge sharing culture, studying the linkage of learning to performance, looking  at ways the knowledge is captured and shared across the organization, encouraging  a culture of exchanging ideas and learning from each other, reverse mentoring through which seniors learn the latest trends from juniors, encouraging calculated risks and  expansive learning that assimilates cross functional competencies. 

The presentation was followed by a  lively discussion during which it was reiterated that innovation and flexibility would be the hallmark of new age training and that selling the concept of ' blended training' to other stakeholders is a challenge.

The second session " L&D 2020: Defining the modes of delivery" was facilitated by Ms Sabita. J, Associate Vice President, HR, Steria India. She split the entire population of the participants into five groups.The groups were given a hypothetical situation of a 100 employee strong company which has been alloted a  budget of 15 lacs for the year. The groups were required to discuss among themselves about innovative ideas already practised in their individual companies and then come out with a training plan for the fictitious company.

The training plan of each group was to be written on chart paper and presented before the the whole group.what followed was group dynamics that included discussions, arguements and consensus. There was some element of nonclarity among team members as to how to go about it, whether to focus more on the budgetting or on the content.Time alloted for discussion, assimilation and preparing the chart was also  very less.
Some of the focus areas that came out in the presentations were

I  Developing  a holistic picture and  view of the training  needs of the year

(a) Looking out for the critical customer outcomes for the year
(b) the financial goals for the year
(c) Systems and processes required for the above
(d)What skills will contribute to this  and how L&D can  provide this

II  More than the content of learning programs, the context is important and these need to be addressed such as 

(a)  the learning environment- If program is held inside the factory and participants are frequently disturbed over telephone,  a more secluded place could be the solution

(b) The participant's interest- If participant is not responding to the traditional tools of training, flexible methods may have to be resorted to including learning through podcasts, what's up, Elearning

(c) Support of Line managers-  If this is lacking, lot of time is to be devoted to obtain this before embarking on a major initiative.

III  Almost all the presentations  included a 'Future Leaders' Program to equip people with the required competencies for leadership roles.Similarly programs for fresh GETs to acclimatize them from campus to the corporate was recommended in the presentations.

IV  Strech  assigments involving cross functional roles

V  Human Lab for senior executives( 7 days ) with external experts' support- To understand   their leadership style visavis the organizational goals.Later they can  serve as mentors and coaches in the organization.

Although groups were formed in an ad hoc manner with instructions to select a leader who would  make the  presentation of the group view  before the full house , it was found that one team which had also received the same instructions had better focus and  excelled in team working. They had given themselves the name of 'Glow' ( no other group gave itself a name) and the presentation was made by all the members which included all age groups, each complimenting what the other had said.They had a clear structure for the whole presentation- the level of employee in the organization, type of training intervention, mode of delivery and the impact in terms of output, quality, cost and delivery. It was a treat to witness  excellence at such short notice!

The third session was  "Technology blended learning solution" and the speaker Mr Mohan Srinivasan, Head, Centre for behavioural excellence,Wipro Technologies.    In this interesting session the speaker took us through the  practical application of technology for L&D initiatives. At the outset, he outlined the changing challenges of recruitment for the IT sector. Initially software companies were recruiting employees only from the metros and A class cities. However, the high demand vis a vis the supply of manpower prompted them to recruit software engineers from smaller towns and cities. Although competent technically, these candidates have a problem of communicating in English confidently and without grammatical errors. On account of communication issues, only 25% of the 50 lac students who have  passed out are employable.

In order to address this problem, Wipro has included in its induction program for fresh engineers, a ‘Fluency Program’ for a period of 8 days devoted exclusively to improving the language fluency of young recruits from the smaller towns. What is special  about this initiative is that technology is used effectively to help the participants get feedback at every stage on how they are doing, correcting them on the pronunciation and enhancing their confidence levels.

Mohan revealed that for this initiative Wipro tied up with a Canadian partner who customized the tool for imparting a neutral accent that can be understood by anyone, anywhere in the world. The tool gives inputs on the place where stress needs to be given while pronouncing a word as also inputs on grammar, listening and retention.( Alerts are given in the form of colours Green if 43% or more of what the candidate spoke is comprehendible, Yellow if it is between 33% and 42%, Red if the comprehendible level is 22% or less).

There is  a faculty admin zone which facilitates interaction with faculty and for providing  reports on the progress of  the participants  over a period of time  and how they fare in comparison to the other participants.    Measurement is a very important component of the program and the  CEFR (Common European frame of reference) is used as the tool to assess the effectiveness of the program At the end, the speaker showed videos of the participants who underwent the program speaking before and after the program. The improvement in fluency and confidence levels were clearly visible in the videos.This session was indeed very informative and it throws up exciting possibilities of how we can use technology in the coming years for L&D initiatives.

The last session of the conclave was on “ Redefining the Learning Metrics” which was facilitated by Mr Anupam Sirbhaiya, country manager, Center for creative leadership.The speaker gave the participants a brief account of the history and the activities of his organization, Center for creative Leadership.CCL was  founded in the year 1970 when Leadership development was a novel  concept..  Today CCL has served the cause of leadership development for over 40 years with focus on solid research foundation and practical business application.

 Anupam underscored the point that today learning needs to be approached proactively and it is not " I am responsible for learning transfer”, versus  “ I am  evaluating a training program “ statements. Both are important. He said that the linkage between the preparation, engagement and application of learning should firmly be in place. The inputs of the participant and his supervisors in the department should be taken at the  preparation stage before rolling out the program. During the program various means are  to be looked at for guided practice and skill development. After the program, at work, opportunities to use and continue new learning is to be ensured.

The speaker then discussed the measurement model of Kirkpatrik for  measuring the impact of training at levels of (1) Reaction, (2) Learning(3) Behaviour and (4) Results. As done in the second session, the participants were divided into groups. They were required to  write the manner they would assess programs at the three levels (excluding the reaction level)  on three charts. Later the charts were shared in the big group. For the learning level most of the suggestions were about conducting test before a program and comparing score on the same test after the program.

During the discussions, it was pointed out that the appropriate metrics to be used would depend on the intent of the measurement ( All programs may not be measured at the results level. Major programs involving huge expenditure alone could be measured at this level).Another suggestion that came up from a group was that line managers can be kept in the loop in advance of what would be covered in the program and also take their inputs for finalizing the contents.Similarly after the program the participant's boss  is informed about the inputs given and the areas that he may observe and support for implementation of the learning.

The impact of the program could be measured against productivity & revenue generation. In fact during the course of the conclave one participant Mr Bhat of Sundaram Finance shared instances of measuring the impact of sales training by imparting the training to only one unit and comparing its performance with other units, not extended the training. The unit that was given training showed substantial increase in sales. 

Another way of measuring impact is to assess the monetary impact of action learning projects (ALP) taken up as part of the training. Anupam indicated that monetising as many aspects as possible is the key to effective  learning metrics.How many more people have you made ready for succession management?  What is the monetary impact of this vis a vis costs of external recruitment annd acclimatization of the new people?

As we thanked the organisers and left the venue  after a sumptuous lunch, there was this feeling inside of having had a worthwhile experience, a half day well spent! 


  1. First things first dear Rajeev. Wish you a belated Happy Birthday :)

    As usual, you have superbly documented the proceedings of the L & D Leadership League 2015 organized by People Matters. 'Blended Learning' is such a wonderful concept! Also impressive and useful are the other aspects of Learning & Development initiatives at the seminar especially the outcome of the group activities. Thanks for s haring. Kudos and respects to your excellent documentation and reporting skills.

  2. Thank you Padmaja! Your feedback is ever so motivating!

  3. A lovely ambience, people you like, and doing what you love- a great way to spend your birthday. Belated Happy birthday!
    A wonderful post. You have very well documented the sessions.
    Have a great week!

  4. Thank you Kiran both for the greetings and appreciation for the post!