Learning never stops, in fact L&D is ‘exceptionally relevant’ to Societe Generale currently. In this exclusive, Priya Veeriah interviews Mukta Arya, Head of HR, Southeast Asia and Head of Talent Development and Inclusion, Asia Pacific, Societe Generale, on the recent launch of digital learning.
Q What is the current business need for L&D, in your organisational context? Why is it so important for the future workforce?
Learning and development has always been a priority for Societe Generale and in Asia Pacific, we have consistently run a diverse and comprehensive L&D programme, using a wide variety of methods and tools to develop our employees’ professional, managerial and personal skills and competencies.
Similar to other organisations, L&D has been exceptionally relevant to the bank now with unexpected and sudden changes everywhere. We believe that we all know what we need to do to be prepared for the future. It is imperative to move quickly and test with a shorter turnaround time.
Q Talk us through your recent big initiative around the learning framework and how that was rolled out.
For our L&D initiatives in Asia Pacific, digitalisation has been on our agenda for the last four years. We took steps in the past to introduce new digital platforms gradually, and last year, we decided to go big in this aspect in line with our global commitment to digital transformation.
We worked with our global learning team to test some of the platforms that were launched globally and looked at some APAC platforms to make sure our L&D offer is comprehensive. In total, we launched 14 digital platforms for learning after detailed testing early this year as planned.
The aim of choosing these platforms and curating quality content was to ensure they fulfil the development needs of employees to a large extent and cater to the different learning styles of employees as per Kolb’s model of learning styles and with a strong emphasis on experiential learning. The platforms are a mix of e-learning, virtual live training, MOOCs, app-based learning, AI-based learning, bite-size learning and full-length programmes through blended learning.
We believe that through a process of innovative ‘trial and error’ over the past few years and learning from user experience, we have built a robust offering delivered through digital modes. I would like to emphasise that we will continue with face-to face training depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves, as for us that remains a strong mode of delivery for several important topics.
Q Since your online learning courses focus on developing today the skills you’ll need tomorrow, how do you help employees prioritise the skills essential for tomorrow?
For some of the platforms, we have curated paths, which employee can create for themselves based on their needs. As an organisation, we have already identified some platforms and made available to the employees topics which we believe are required for our employees in the future. In our awareness mailers and sessions, we have classified them based on pertinent topics like sustainability and diversity and provided direct links.
Our HR business partners are learning partners for the employees and play an important role in guiding employees towards these future skills.
Also important are the tools to navigate through these platforms and other offers, which we have tried to make easy via digital catalogue, AI-based learning management system, and support from the APAC learning team.
Q What support did your HR team offer to the various business units to execute this comprehensive learning outline?
HR plays a very important role in discussing the needs, experimenting with platforms before they are launched and finally in raising awareness about the offers to employees from different business units. Our HR business partners discuss development initiatives in their meetings with managers and they helped a lot by highlighting the main points to our time-starved business heads and managers.
It was also critical to test these platforms as we wanted to make sure that the offers are relevant and meaningful to our employees. The learning team helped in raising awareness of the L&D offering through mailers, newsletters and employee information sessions.
Q What happens behind the scenes when creating these programmes?
Our HR business partners helped in understanding the needs of the business and articulating them to make it more specific. The talent development team did a lot of research on platforms and applications available in the market, testing and checking what will work the best for our organisation. In APAC, we worked very closely with the learning team in Paris to test and implement global learning offers.
Since the learning community is quite cohesive in Societe Generale, we made sure not to reinvent the wheel but leverage available global resources. The combination of global and regional offering ensured our L&D offering to employees remains comprehensive and timely as employees are now able to use these offers remotely and can continually develop themselves from anywhere.
Q What are some issues your employees face with regards to digital learning?
With digital learning, one of the issues is engaging employees for a longer period. There could be monotony or the content may be dry.
In addition, the attention span for most human beings is very limited. Based on the learning styles of employees, digital learning may or may not work for them.
In our L&D offering, we have looked at “experiential” learning model, i.e. looked at mix of deliveries which can help cater to people with the 9 styles (initiating, experiencing, imagining, reflecting, analysing, thinking, deciding, acting and balancing).
This mix through MOOCs, gamified learning, curated content, video learning, bite-sized modules, live webinars, AI based application learning and classroom training helps to engage employees while helping them learn via digital modes. The learning platforms these days are very interactive and have social elements which help in connecting learners together through communities.
Q What is your long-term vision for the online learning courses prepared?
Our long-term vision remains to ensure that our employees get the best out of the L&D offering and apply this in their day-to-day work (Societe Generale’s commitment to employees’ L&D). We believe that online learning is the present and future of keeping employees engaged and giving the freedom to employees to curate their own learning path (based on their skills, capabilities and ambitions) while providing them with the right tools is the way to go.
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