Learning & Talent Development – A Case Study


When I started my profession as Learning and Talent Development Consultant in 2003, one of the earliest lessons for me was ‘watch out how you write your emails’; from using CAPS to choosing your language and tone.

And as I progressed in my career, I realized that an email reflects lot more than just that. An email also reflects much about how you think and reflect; one even ends up expressing what they could not express in person. I have seen thousands of unpleasant emails that show zero emotional intelligence and their top traits were didactic, such as – ‘this is what you got to do…’, ‘this is how it is done…’, ‘you should have been doing this…’, ‘you did not do that…’ etc.

Critically thinking, there’s nothing wrong with such traits as “one got to tell what’s to be done or what’s not been done”. But a human has two important parts to their brain – left and right brain, logical and emotional side respectively. And such traits fail to cater to the right side of it. Now this can be so very fatal to any leader!

This post is not going to be about email writing, I want to address what happened at Zomato and the recent email exchange by the top leader to his employees.

The link leads you to a recent email sent by the top management to share their concerns regarding severe under-performance of the Sales Staff. Am sure that before they sent a stern mail such as this, they must have tried to handle and guide the team.

This email exhumes the lack of methodical approaches adopted by the management to handle and guide the team, and this actually is part of Learning and Talent Development.

For me, Learning and Talent Development is not a field or a division in a company, it actually is a life-style and thought-process adopted by the company.

Clearly, the top management is aghast at the sales team at so many levels, such as – under-performance, lack of vision, disoriented goals and missing team-spirit. They are so unhappy that they are not only clueless about what to do but also end up doing what shouldn’t have been done (hint, not hit the ‘send’ button for that email!)

The biggest asset to any leader is the people and the people not only need care (towards their aspirations and well-being) but also concrete steps as guidelines. Everybody loves inspiration, something that makes them ‘want to do’; not everybody is essentially ‘self-motivated’ (a very subjective term). And this is where a leader plays an extremely important role.

Here are a few things that the management at Zomato must adopt as Learning and Talent Development measures:

1- Coaching and Mentoring Systems

A leader must always be vigilant and aware about the developmental needs his/her people have.

And effective coaching and mentoring systems always keep a few factors in mind – learner’s readiness to learn and ongoing agreements to progression and the foundation of this is solid trust of the learner on the coach/mentor. While trust is gradual, the coach /mentor can expedite the process by displaying not only positive behavior but also demonstrating what they have done in that area or in those concerns.

Zomato’s management must train the leaders on ‘being an effective coach and a mentor’.

Additionally, the coaching and mentoring systems must have a mix of qualitative and quantitative aspects with regular documentation as a key feature.

2- Survey

A survey always helps gauge the pulse and the aspects that are causing the drain and the pain to all the stake-holders. They must conduct a survey that focuses on gaining a 360 Degree feedback and deeply analyzing the environment in a certain context. For Zomato the contexts could be about gauging Employee Motivation and Engagement, Leadership Effectiveness, or Work Culture. This survey will help them create robust plans for developing the people and the company’s future!

Doing a survey is especially important for Zomato because right now it may be very daunting to know where to begin. Survey will help identify priorities!

3- Career Paths

As mentioned in the mail, there does exist a 5 year Career Path and people may be fairly aware about this. But apparently, this is clearly not working for them, not as a motivating factor at least.

The foremost important qualities of good and successful Career Paths are:

– clear listing of competency-based behavioral and skill-based indicators

– openness to flexibility and change to let people explore their potential and interests

– regular feedback and guidance to people as they tread their paths

Zomato must re-look into their Career Paths and see how they can best guide their people. They must also train the management on ‘how to give and receive feedback’.

4- Knowledge Sharing Forums

It is a common myth that people don’t like to share their knowledge.

In reality, people love to share their knowledge; it’s just that they don’t get the right forum and acknowledgement for the knowledge they possess.

Zomato’s management should enable multiple channels where people come together and learn from each other, including their mistakes. Such forums could be in the range of Buddy Systems, Focused Sessions etc. Additionally, these must always be backed by acknowledgements and appreciations.

These are a few thoughts I had to ReWire Zomato’s Learning and Talent Development Culture and these were based as per my study of the article published in Economic Times.

For more, approach me at shweta.consult@gmail.com | Twitter: @consultshweta


Twitter Chat – Businesss Excellence Through L&D

Chat 2 

Twitter is a great medium to reach out to people be it your area of interest or the industry that you work in. You get to meet and interact with so many people that it just constantly keeps you up and motivated!

On Aug 30th 2015, I conducted another twitter chat on ‘How to Achieve Business Excellence through L&D’. The last chat – How to Design Learning – gave me much indication that leaders across the industries and verticals are actively looking for solutions to develop their team-members; and so I chose to host another one on this topic.

Once again, the response was overwhelming. Got loaded with questions and all had to be answered quickly and in bite-sized thoughts!

The credit for enabling this forum again goes to Surya P Mohapatra, India Leader – Head Knowledge and Capability at Hewlett Packard Global Business Services, and L&D Global – Learning and Development Group.

So what did we discuss? Here’s an excerpt of some of the questions:

Divya: How can L&D help and support the business to drive innovation?

Me: Innovation is a way of life, a habit and that can be inculcated through constant drills and/or open forum discussions.

Innovation comes naturally to some and not so naturally to some but it’s innovation that helps us move forward, evolve. So it’s important that personnel constantly look for ways to improve processes, methods, efficiency etc. Additionally, they must also know how to gain confidence of stake-holders as ‘innovation, seemingly random, too needs channelization’.

Sunny: Share your advice for NGOs as there are little resources in technology. We are working in slums – L&D for community workers?

Me: Technology is not the answer, it’s only new – L&D has been there since earth. Use basics to let them express & learn.

True learning happens when there’s a need, the concepts and content are aligned with the need and most importantly, when the learner is motivated to learn, and finds value in it. So in that, technology is just one of the enablers, not end all.

Abhipsha: Considering the fact that orgs have started outsourcing L&D, how can it play a crucial role in driving business excellence?

Me: It’s about right solutions – outsource or in-house – don’t look at costs, they cover up!

I believe that learning and education are not business; every business is an off-shoot of learning and education and not the other way round. Every business emerges from a certain learning and to sustain it we need learning. So the focus should never be on costs, the focus should always be getting the right and appropriate solutions which come through – extensive need analysis; and innovative & relevant solutions.

Benita: Is 360 degree feedback a must for Business Excellence?

Me: Feedback is an opportunity to become better & strengthen – just the forum should be right & mind should be open, so yes!

Generally speaking, we don’t have an appetite for 360 degree feedback, and so we operate in very closed communication channels, this further leads to a closed heart and mind. What this does? This shuns the path to a pool of possibilities and a sea of opportunities. And business is just about this – becoming more open to horizons, in fact creating more horizons!

Abhipsha: L&D is treated as only a support function and not strategic enablers. How to bridge this gap?

Me: L&D folks need to be Amitabh Bachhan of Zanjeer movie! Revolutionary, confident, believer and insightful.

I have seen so many times when personnel from L&D, OD or Core HR don’t express their perspective clearly enough and this happens primarily because they deal with emotions and psychology of the team-members, something that can’t be easily quantified. So I constantly feel that if they could create systems to quantify their side of data and present it with stronger conviction, situations could be much better!

Rishi: Talking of business excellence, what parameters or domains of biz can we look at to excel through LnD?

Me: Biz is Biz, L&D needs to adapt to Biz not the other way. On hindsight, biz needs constant L&D to prosper!

This question implies ‘what are the areas that can be developed in business’. And it’s just super important to consider that all areas of a business need development, only then can the business achieve an organic growth.

Surya: How can L&D practitioners keep pace with disruptive changes in industry & business?

Me: Read, talk to people, seek opinions, think critically, study patterns.

If one is a professional of L&D then that person must truly understand the profession to the core, i.e., it’s about learning and development. Which means, this personnel must not only be aware of what’s happening at the market-place but also design plans for future and then align the stake-holders to implement them!

Benita: Can LnD show ROI? How?

Me: Yes, include evaluations not only for the learners but also their managers!

If you go to a temple or an equivalent place of peace and serenity, many times you tend to lose that atmosphere outside because the atmosphere is not sustained. Same goes for a learning intervention, i.e., once learners go through a learning intervention, many times they don’t get a supportive atmosphere back on the floor/field. Here, the immediate manager plays an extremely crucial role to sustain and promote that learning and so generate the ROI.

Hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt and found value in it. Do share your thoughts.

For more discussions, refer to #LnDTalk on Twitter.

My Twitter Handle: @consultshweta

Twitter Chat – How to Design Learning

Chat 1

On July 15, 2015, I conducted a tweet chat session to address questions on ‘How to Design Learning for Professionals’.

I addressed questions not only of HR and L&D professionals but also of managers and leaders in operations. Personnel from small to large sized organizations tweeted their questions about how to create effective learning environments.

It was a great to converse with people from across the boundaries and from multiple designs of work culture. Listening to them, posing their challenges, confirmed that they all are finding solutions for the seemingly similar yet very different operational and strategic challenges. In fact, it was heartening to note that they are eager and excited to find answers.

While twitter is a wonderful medium to express bite-size messages, it can be very limiting at times too. Had so many profound questions but regrettably had to crunch my answers only to a few characters in about just a few seconds as the volume of questions too was high. So I constantly hoped that I am able to provide a satisfactory answer!

Nevertheless, it indeed was a great experience and I thank Mr. Surya P Mohapatra, India Leader – Head Knowledge and Capability at Hewlett Packard Global Business Services, and L&D Global – Learning and Development Group – for enabling this forum.

Here is an excerpt from the chat session:

Mr. Mohapatra’s question – “How important is formal qualification for a learning designer?” – needs much attention from organizations and governments world-wide. And so my quick answer to that was “Humans have existed for over a millions of yrs & so far learning has been very scattered, so very very important”

In fact I totally believe that we could and would progress faster if we just very well know what to learn (customized needs per person/group) and when even the learning method is very attractive and appealing.

Mr. Shobhit’s first question – “I am a team lead. My team has different requirements as compared to other teams at my firm. How should I take forward the L&D” and my answer – “Have focused group and personal discussions to identify aspirations and vision. Create a learning model that appeals all” – referred to very simple ideology that says ‘connect and grow’. For we are dealing with beings who have different back-grounds and belief systems, and you can only channelize them when you take efforts to connect with them.

His second question – “Can we ensure via L&D that the candidates we hire are shaped according to the needs of the team” and my answer – “Yes, design and conduct value based learning forums” – meant that run multiple pre-designed discussions to inculcate the vision and respective values that your organization wishes to establish.

Ms Divya Nambiar’s question – “How much time should we invest in designing learning?” and my answer – “Depends upon the goals and the scope.” – essentially hinted at the foremost aspect of designing learning, i.e., Learning Needs Analysis.

Worldwide, every time a learning-design fails to achieve its desired objectives, mostly points to extremely loosely or negligibly done needs analysis. Ironically, many times even today a learning workshop is conducted without any blue-prints/objectives. And this leads to multiple losses such as – time, efforts, learner’s trust in learning itself etc.

Shenode’s question – “What should the focus be, content delivery or the jazz and jargons of content delivery” and my answer – “ARCS – Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction – build on this.” – is pointing back to my answer to Ms Divya Nambiar’s question above.

Let’s say it’s important to grab the learner’s Attention, make sure the content is Relevant, ensure higher Confidence levels of the learner post the learning intervention and at least aim at achieving their Satisfaction.

Ms Rajat Setia’s question – “How can a start-up ensure that the right skills are being passed onto the new members, since time is limited?” – and my answer – “Identify your goals and define knowledge, skills and attitudes you are looking for. Calibrate and motivate!” – is primarily directed to creating a foundation of Competency Frameworks that specifically detail key-indicators of ‘how to do your job competently and successfully’.

There were many more interesting conversations that took place for about 1.5 hours over the tweets and overall, it was a wonderful experience!

For more discussions, refer to #LnDTalk on Twitter.

My Twitter Handle: @consultshweta