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2021 Best Practices
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TD Magazine

Achieving Equilibrium

CU
Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Cognizant Academy team balances accelerated but effective training for associates across varying subject areas and career stages.

As a global professional services company, Cognizant has its success rooted in continuous learning. Clients trust its nearly 290,000 associates to know about their industries, businesses, and technology environments; readily acquire new insights; and rapidly apply knowledge to help them improve everyday life. At the center of how the company achieves its continuous learning goals is Cognizant Academy, an in-house, digital learning ecosystem that provides development programs for all employees, from entry-level associates to professional practitioners. It is a gargantuan task, because the digital space rapidly evolves—and the team must tailor training solutions to different client, industry, and skilling needs.

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"Learning effectiveness and training cycle time are critical to onboard, assimilate, and train associates to help ensure operational resilience," explains Pratyusha Sharma, assistant vice president of human resources. "It's a delicate balance."

The academy team continually enhances and optimizes its programs to deliver the most effective training possible in a streamlined fashion. Several recent award-winning initiatives demonstrate the academy's dexterity in tailoring learning options.

A must-know focus for new hires

The Revenue Cycle Management Capability Development Program focuses on improving the training of entry-level associates who help track transactions and revenue for healthcare providers. After assessing the program, the academy team determined the training solution was too complex, resulting in delays to new-hire deployment. The team engaged with stakeholders, conducted online surveys, and focused on group discussions to devise a solution.

"We were training our new hires about every possible scenario and transaction," Sharma says. "But through our research, we recognized that most new hires need not know every scenario right at the start. We shifted our focus to training on the must-know, rather than the good-to-know, information."

Sharma and her team revamped the curriculum, streamlined the content, reduced the training duration, brought in tenured associates as mentors, and introduced multiple assessments. That drove more autonomy in learning via interactive, self-paced e-learning modules, followed by group sessions to further explore complex concepts, ask questions, and reinforce the learning.

The academy team has focused on providing personalized, agile, bite-size training solutions and has seen a notable improvement in trainees' quality scores. That success has led the team to expand the program to diverse accounts and processes.

Customized solutions to fill skills gaps

In another award-winning initiative, the Cognizant Academy team developed a training program geared toward the company's life sciences business unit, which includes several thousand associates. The unit works on specialized medical services such as pharmacovigilance, clinical data management, medical writing, and medical device complaints management. The company recruits life sciences graduates to fill jobs in this complex working environment, and new hires in this niche field must learn to adhere to a broad range of industry-specific regulatory requirements and standard corporate governance.

To better educate associates, the Life Sciences Digital Nexgen Academy unveiled the Performance Improvement Projects Practice. The program went beyond a singular offering and instead identified skills gaps among associates to provide customized solutions. Upon the discovery of a performance gap, the training team conducts a needs assessment, determines areas where additional training is required, and develops a tailored learning strategy. Life sciences trainees take part in real-life case studies that subject matter experts create, and the learners participate in gamified activities with interim knowledge checks and competitive leaderboards.

As a result of the Performance Improvement Projects Practice, Cognizant has addressed the skills gaps. In addition, the academy team has seen a boost in performance, efficiency, and service delivery. Ultimately, by building a culture of proactive and efficient performance improvement consultation, the program has enhanced the life sciences unit's credibility and has helped to fuel growth.

Redesigned programs for better results

The Cognizant Academy team achieved another training-focused success in redesigning its Contact Center Training Program for associates who work as customer service representatives for an insurance client. CSRs answer calls in a fast-paced environment and need extensive industry knowledge and product-specific acumen. After a thorough analysis of existing training for this audience, the academy team determined nonessential content was distracting from more critical learning priorities.

Thus, the team modified the training program, integrating scenario-rich training delivery. "We reduced training time in the classroom but added more hands-on training," Sharma explains. The new program integrates interactivity, trivia games, and assessments and facilitates swifter exposure to simulated job experiences.

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Since the program's launch in 2018, CSRs have been completing their training in less time. Customer satisfaction scores have risen, "and we're not overwhelming our CSRs with too much information as they're starting their role," Sharma notes.

In a comprehensive effort to quickly train new hires across many verticals, the Cognizant Academy team also recently redesigned its Campus to Corporate Learning Program. Realizing that modern campus hires expect a blended learning approach integrating new technologies, the team reworked the learning process to promote the company's image as a preferred employer of choice.

The program begins training as new hires are completing their university experience and extends through the participants' first year. The intent is to prepare them for their new career and enable a smooth transition from the campus to the corporate world. New hires kick-start their training with interactive, self-paced learning featuring immersive and gamified instruction, mindfulness training, and holistic development initiatives. The academy team devised a unique business readiness index to indicate learners' readiness to become billable in the skills acquired, based on both performance and potential.

Since implementation, the Campus to Corporate Learning Program has reduced required lead time and time to train, helped to increase the offer acceptance-to-joining ratio, and achieved an extremely high satisfaction level among associates who complete the training.

In updating Cognizant's training programs, the academy team continues to successfully walk a fine line—ensuring associates have all the information they need to perform at their best while reducing the time it takes to prepare them to do their jobs.

View the entire list of 2021 Excellence in Practice Award winners.

CU
About the Author

Christine Umbrell is an editorial associate at Content Communicators in Purcellville, Virginia.

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