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October 2018
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TD Magazine

To Foster Learning, Don't Underestimate Digital

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To Foster Learning, Don't Underestimate Digital

Tata Consultancy Services: 2018 BEST Award Winner, #2

An IT services company shows the power of digital technology to enable continuous learning.

In January 2018, the CEO of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an Indian IT services firm, addressed a virtual audience of the company's nearly 400,000 employees. "I'm speaking to you on the eve of the Global Learning Week, when we announced more than 4 billion USD in digital transformative deals ... and the reason we are able to do this is because we are able to stitch together our domain knowledge and contextual knowledge to stay relevant to our customers."

The remark not only set the tone for a week of special learning activities; it directly linked learning to business success.

Domain and contextual knowledge are two key requirements for success in the IT industry. Every learning initiative—big and small—created by TCS's talent development team is designed to address those two knowledge areas. This deep approach to skill-building helps employees understand clients' unique needs (even if they don't interact directly with clients) and contributes to solutions that set TCS apart from competitors.

It also has provided a solid foundation for the company's "Business 4.0" thought leadership framework—a strong force behind driving growth and transformation for its customers—as well as an organization-wide shift to becoming digital-first.

Digital tools for digital upskilling

The shift to digital means upskilling employees in digital competencies, as well as the TD team leveraging digital technologies for talent acquisition, development, and engagement. The team has so far partnered successfully with HR and other departments to drive digital learning that is flexible, fosters innovation, and motivates employees to develop themselves personally and professionally.

Since the push to digital began, the TD team has made 90 percent of all the company's learning content available online. Part of the reason for this successful transition is a virtual learning platform that has enabled the TD team to scale training globally. The team invested in creating the right digital infrastructure—including the internally developed iQlass virtual classroom platform, mobile-based learning, and social platforms—that enables learners from across the world to collaborate in real time. Combined with a robust webinar delivery system, self-paced training modules, and the in-house learning management system, iQlass in particular has helped TCS's "digital reimagining" become a reality. In the 2018 fiscal year, the company delivered more than 700 virtual sessions through the LMS, translating to 6.1 total hours of usage per day.

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To maintain this momentum and ensure that employees continue taking part in online learning, each TCS business unit has "digital champion councils" that work with competency development managers, digital experts, and the TD team. Experts identify the digital technology topics that employees need training on, and the TD team designs, develops, and deploys the content.

"Given the scale and spread of TCS, providing access to a variety of learning platforms has helped us upskill a large number of associates in digital technologies rapidly, creating a true competitive advantage in the industry," says Damodar Padhi, vice president and global head of TD.

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A social collaboration platform also has made the transition to digital learning more effective—and enjoyable. One community on the platform, "Learning and Sharing," has more than 91,000 members and is one of the most active. In addition, the TD team hosts a blog and quiz series called "Culture Shots" through the platform, which highlights the many cultures represented by TCS employees across the globe as well as employees' experiences as they travel to work in other parts of the world.

The chief learning officer also uses the social collaboration platform to blog about learning initiatives, leadership updates, and key organizational priorities; and employees are encouraged to use the tool to share personal stories and experiences related to the company's mission, such as data privacy and cybersecurity issues. This has proved to be a powerful usage of the platform for learning, says Nivedita Kuruvilla, head of branding and communication for the TD team.

"Loved the fervor"

Although it lasts only a week, the initiative that is probably most effective in promoting continuous learning at TCS is Global Learning Week. The annual company-wide event, designed to foster a "spirit of learning and sharing," is bursting with daily activities and resources that range from serious and thoughtful in tone to downright quirky. In 2018, there was a Harry Potter-themed learning event map, digital and nondigital hackathons, personality assessments, leadership podcasts, a photoblog contest, and a "fastest learner" contest.

However, most significant for the TD team is that the event represents a chance to raise awareness of the company's existing learning programs. With more than 20,000 courses (and countless other informal resources) on offer to employees, Global Learning Week enables the team to point employees toward the right learning opportunities. It did this through cleverly engaging means, such as personality assessments, gamified quizzes, a TD-themed virtual tour, and five-minute video explainers on major learning programs.

In an opinion poll conducted after Global Learning Week 2018, employees submitted 22,000 responses, with 58 percent saying that the event not only made them better aware of the learning opportunities at TCS; it also helped them connect with leaders and understand the importance of contextual knowledge. In another "pulse survey," when asked what the best part of the week was, many employees responded that it was the chance to interact with leadership. "Variety of contests, jam-packed schedule. Loved the fervor," one employee wrote.

Overall, the event generated more than 20,000 hours of learning and resulted in a visible increase in self-paced learning, with 84 percent of learning occurring through self-paced channels in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, compared with 73 percent in the same time the year prior. That indicates that "associates moved closer to owning their learning by participating in the week's various competitions and activities," says Kuruvilla.

View the entire list of 2018 BEST Award winners.

About the Author
Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer.
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