In this episode of L&D Cafe - Pranav Kale, Senior copywriter at iMocha speaks with Sujit Karpe, Co-founder and CTO at iMocha about the human-centric approach that is important in learning and development programmes and how we can incorporate it.
2:08-3:54 Humans first everything else later
3:54-6:14 Is humanity ROI positive?
6:14-9:07 Business or skill improvement?
9:07-11:07 Greed and Fear
11:07-14:49 The concept of Fun Learning
14:49-16:30 Employee marketing
16:30-21:18 Digitisation Vs Humanity.
21:18-24:17 Creating a learning programme
24:17-28:20 Gamifying assessment
28:20-31:10 Rewarding Achievements
Hey Sujit, welcome to the show. Today, we are going to talk about a topic that
I think I am pretty passionate about, which is bringing humanity into the world of
learning and development.
So even before we jump in, I wanted to ask you like you know, what is personally motivating you about this topic? Why have you been talking about this for quite some time? Andand I think you are one of the few ones who are talking about it. I see a lot of people talking about digitization and bringing in more data, more digitization, more automation. And while you support all of that, you have also been talking about humanity.
What is it that personally motivates you to actually think of bringing humanity into learning and development?
Sujit- First of all, I always feel every organization is of the
people, by the people, and for the people. And I guess everybody believes in that. And many times jobs get
redundant. People don't get redundant. But we think that people get redundant. So we need to have an ideology
thatideology always that people are always great. They have been doing a particular job with the company,
let's say for 5 and 10 years.
Now that job is getting changed because of technology. If you don't upscale or re-skill your people, one day, they will get redundant. So why let that happen? Why not invest in people. Why not invest in humans. Because they have created your company.
So it's human first, everything else later. And that's where I think that and that concept of being more human in learning and development.
Pranav-I can immediately like hear an objection, and
perhaps already we are getting right into it right away. But I think that's okay. I think one of
the objections is that anyone can. BeingThey may have is being human is like a soft skill that
it's not always measurable. Maybe it's measurable in the long run, or I could be wrong. You
could just say that no, it is measurable, but I feel it's a little less tangible as opposed
to other things which are a lot more tangible or we are able to measure them much more
So if someone challenges this and says is it ROI positive. Is bringing humanity into learning and development-ROI positive? Or is it just nice to have a thing? Is it just like a marketing gimmick?
How would you answer that?
Sujit- I would say if, you should just keep on measuring
Your some kind of measurement around the skills of the people. Because there was an era where a person
would work maybe for a company for decades, and then they were known for the years they put it in the
I guess in today's era, people are known mainly for their skills. You will have two people in the company in the same team with the same amount of experience today, one earning maybe 100,000 or like $300,000 salary. And somebody earning maybe a $100,000 salary. Also, what's the difference? The difference is their particular skill set.
How to measure the entire humanity, I would say let's bring measuring humanity in our learning and development and just say, I'm keeping my entire employee skill fit, skill fit with the new trending things, skill fit with the new skills of the current era. And if I can show that employee or to the company overall, that the skilled fitness of an organization every year is improving by 15 to 20%, I guess that's an amazing architect to say yes, you can measure humanity or being more human in learning and development because you are keeping your people always skilled.
Pranav-I think another sort of an objection that comes to this
Sujit is that I believe there is a certain segment or fraternity of learning and development professionals
who are a little frustrated with just being taskmasters or order takers. They want to be strategic
partners. They want to actually sit down with the stakeholders, with the upper management, with the CEOs
or CHROs, or business in its heads. And they first want to identify the problems. And then based on the
problems of the organization after analyzing the problems, they want to actually jump into the process
of developing a training program, if at all.
How do we balance between these two things? Because on one hand you have a business and the learning and development as a team, or any initiatives that we roll out, need to support the organization and need to help the organization achieve the goals that the organization has set for itself.
So that is part A, but on the other hand, you are saying that it should also at the same time the whole process be more human or we should also include the employees in the process Can these two things be aligned? Can the organizational goals and the employee goals be aligned according to you?
Sujit- One thing is definitely, I always believe in one thing is
business should run the technology and every other department. So first there has to be a business goal in
the company, but you need to always, if you are a VP, L&D of a company, or if you're a chief learning officer,
I guess you need to find out and even have a healthy conversation with the business guy saying that, Hey,
while we are talking about the revenue increase of the organization, is our organization also adopting new
technologies. And are we on the cutting edge and are people getting upgraded.
You all know the story of Blackberryversus an iPhone, right? Or what happened to Kodak. If you only focus on business and we don't on the skill improvement in today's world and I guess that's a big onus on the learning and development teams.
If you talk to a chief learning officer, and if he is just going with, what business is saying, that is good for two years, three years, five years, but he needs to keep on challenging, Hey, while we are in this business, see the competitive analysis, they are doing different things. That people are getting equipped with different skills. We also need to invest in that. And then I guess that's where the value and chief learning office or VP, L&Dcan get on the table for the business saying that we need to invest in the skills because today, if you don't invest, you may get outdated down the line. It's not only about today's revenue. What business is focusing on, you also need to be a little bit futuristic.
Pranav-Understood and do you think that once we identify
where the organization should be in terms of skills, how do we get the employee buy-in because they might,
so just to give you like a very, very cripes example for this, maybe the learning and development team
identifies that there is a skill X that needs to be developed so that the organization can meet its goal,
so that the organization can actually, transform to where it wants to be and so on and so forth.
But maybe the employees want, to develop skill Y, so there is a difference between X and Y, how do we actually bridge that gap? How do we actually convince the employees? that no this is also what you need or what you should work on.
Sujit-One thing I'm happy, at least an employer is ready to go
for a skill Y instead of skill X because they're ready. Many organizations, when I talk to the chief
learning officer, they say the employees many times don't want to learn. They're, into their comfort
zone. And getting them out of their comfort zone is very difficult. As a company is in its comfort zone.
Sometimes the employees are also in a comfort zone.
I would say there are only two things where people do change. One is greed and the second is fear. Greed can be more salary, If you can attach some of your learning towards the salary increments, it's really going to impact. And second is fear, fear of being getting outdated. If an employee gets that fear and he knows I'm going to get outdated, if I don't learn, then he is going to listen to you. And he is going to be on the learning path, what you recommend or what you suggest. If he has a learning path and is available with him, great, I would say, at least he has taken that initiative, but now 80% of the employees you'll find they don't have their own learning paths. So you have to create for them. How do you make them follow that learning path? So, as I said, either fear or second is greed. Only these two things.
Pranav- You bring up a very interesting point Sujit because the
learning and development community, they do have this concern that, initially when we roll out, let's say
an upskilling program, or maybe we launch a new portal or an LMS or whatever that is, there's a lot of
enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm continues for maybe 7, 10 or 15 days after which it kind of fizzles out
and the participation actually starts reducing. And then it obviously then reflects poorly on the
performance of the L&D team, you know, themselves, even though they have done everything in their power to
bring together great quality content and like, you know, put together an exciting learning path and have
the best LMS that they can, but still the participation is fading.
Is that one of the reasons why you're pushing for bringing humanity into learning and development, do you think bringing this humanity will help avoid the problem of, you know low adoption by the employees?
Sujit-Everybody hates learning, when I was a kid, My mother would be
behind me to do my studies. And I would really never study till the last day of the exam. The exam was pressure
or a fear that I have to study now. And I guess each one of us when we're a kid, we always wanted to play.
Learning was always the last thing but then we had a nice education system. We have to go through that. Then
undergrad graduation, and you end up achieving your certification or a degree in a particular discipline, but
people like learning never comes very naturally to many people. It has to be forced.
Keeping that in mind, I would say whenever these learning programs are created or learning portals are being developed. There's a lot of enthusiasm initially and later on, that fades out. You need to find out a couple of ways. One, if you can pressurize it, as I said, with some kind of agreement where you attach learning exactly to the performance appraisals, that's what many companies do. Does it work? And then I would say it works. Because it's attached to a performance appraisal.
The second can be fear. If there's a fear for an employee that I'm getting outdated, to some extent, my knowledge is going to, because of that fear adopt learning. And I would say the third thing is, can you make the entire thing gamified? Can you get a fun element into it? If you can get a more fun element and gamification into it. If you can tell the employee, this is for you, this is for your future, your career. It's more than the company it's for you because we know there's been a great resignation era going on right now. So the people who are more skill fit, they're the people who are getting more good jobs, so this is for you. And I guess if that message is really passed on from the company more than the company, this is for you. And if any L&D department is able to do that messaging very properly. Then I would say the adoption could be more because they get to know it's for them.
So I guess it's not about launching great portals and getting new technology. Sometimes it's about getting that human touch in the communication with them, sometimes it's about scheduling something at the periodic level, something monthly, something quarterly. It's not like there is everything. Everything is available like somebody just gets a UW license and there are like some 50,000 courses in that. But which person when to do it, if somebody's going to help me with that, that's going to be super amazing.
Pranav- I think what I'm hearing you say is that it's not just about doing the work or creating content. It's also about the story that you're telling the employees and the way you're packaging this whole initiative, it has got to be packaged in a way that, it says that, okay, this is more for you than it is for us. And only when we are able to get their buy-in.
Sujit- I would say that L&D teams need to think about it in this
There are so many products which are created in the world. Do you ever go and buy the product on its own? Without an advertisement, I would say, not even an iPhone.iPhone also needs an advertisement. And when you see the advertisement, it never talks about the features. It first talks about the benefits. I just got a new iPhone, so they talk about a great camera so that I can have capture beautiful moments of life. They talk about better battery life so that I can run longer, with one charge. so there are a lot of benefits in that talk.
So I would say L&D teams also need to think that they need to advertise their programs. They need to talk about the benefits to the employees. It's not only that era has gone right. Where you just create something and expect people to adopt. Now, people, you need to be advertising. You need to advertise everything. You need to communicate the benefits. I guess every L&D team needs to think about employee marketing when it comes to L&D now.
Pranav-I like the term employee marketing. I do want to double
click or get a little deeper into the actual maybe strategies or tactics that we can use to bring more
But before that I kind of have this question that I'm very keen on getting your views on, which is there's this whole thing of digitization or automation or I would just stick to the word digitization for now that just seems like the exact opposite of bringing humanity, I guess in my head. Of course, I've thought about this and I have a few ideas, but you know, first I would like to know, do you consider them as like, enemies of each other, do you think they lie on the opposite end of the spectrum?
Sujit-No, I don't think they lie on the opposite end of
the spectrum. It's not about thinking about digitization versus being more human it's about, you
can think about to be more human, with my employees. What can I use technology? That's the
perspective you have to put in.
So example, it's a simple process of employee onboarding. Today, everybody's working in a remote world and there are thousands of employees joining an organization on the day one or from the one month there are so any small queries, Hey, what is the holiday list for my company? What is the holiday plan for my company? What different benefits do I have as a travel plan, what different health benefits I'm having, what is covered in my health benefits are dental insurance covered. So there can be a number of queries. Now you can give me a big document to read very difficultly. It's not really convenient. If you ask me to write an email to someone, if I'm not going to get a response from my new buddy in the company, it's very difficult. So if you can have a chatbot. An AI chatbot, which is nowadays very famous. And if the chatbot helps me to answer simple questions, I would always be more satisfied. So it's a personal touch on something which I require, and somebody is responding to me very quickly if that's going to give an amazing employee onboarding experience in the first one month. That's going to be super cool. At least small, small queries are getting addressed.
Now you're saying for giving amazing onboarding experience to my employees at a scale right around the world, rather than having something kind of a call centre, where they call someone and a lot of commission may not go healthy, can have a chatbot where personalized, immediate help is available. Now that's like, you're digitizing some process, at the same time you're doing at scale and you are providing more personal touches to your employees. And this is one example. I would say another example can be from the skill perspective. An employer is learning something on his own, what is a way if I learn some particular skill on my own, how do I go and tell in my company that I know this, that I'm certified on this, give me an opportunity for internal mobility. Now, if there is an internal mobility portal available, and if there is a different job, internal job opportunities, and if I learn a particular skill. And if there's a mechanism done, when if I can prove that I know a new skill, a company can recommend me an internal job, then you are promoting internal mobility in a company amazingly.
Now all these things you cannot do without digitizing, or without using technology. You have to think, what can I provide employees? Some more happy moments better comfort within the organization. So do that, what does digitization have to do. And then you'll always feel digitization is following the steps of being more human and not being the opposite of your job.
Pranav- I think that's brilliant. There is one quote, by some
spiritual leader and again, I'm paraphrasing here, but he said that if you give a knife to a thief,
then that knife is a bad thing. But if you give the same knife to a surgeon, who's actually using it
for the good, so I could relate that quote to this because what they're essentially saying is that we
need to remove that lens of good or bad, or good versus evil, technology is or digitalization is a
tool and we can use it for good, or we can misuse it and make the whole process extremely, devoid
of humanity or make it extremely robotic. I think that distinction is quite brilliant, so thank
you for that.
I think maybe, we should talk a little bit about maybe, so let's, lay down a scenario, let's say that, you know, someone listens to this podcast, let's say he could be someone who is a VP of L&D, or maybe he's a manager, who's on the ground and doing these things. So, you know, when he hears Pranav and Sujit talking about, bringing more humanity, the next question that they might have is what are the avenues where I could actually bring this humanity? You have touched upon that a little bit in parts, you spoke about gamification, you spoke about chatbot.
So how to think about this strategically, how do I, as an L&D professional take what is teaching me and apply it to what I am going to do tomorrow? Where do I actually start?
Sujit- So I would say that one easiest thing should be to
take down a list of tasks, which as a department as a learning and development department, you do
throughout the year. Maybe I can also create a checklist and share with you every weekend, put it
with this podcast. And the list, and with that list, you have to think, okay, for this every task
which the learning and development department does in a particular quarter, what things, it would
really relate to being more human, or give a more personalized experience.
So the same task you say, have to kind of being more human and give a better experience and you challenge yourself. And then when you say, I have to do this with a better experience to my employees. How can I do it? Do I deploy more people, that's one solution. Can I use some digital tools, that's another solution, And I guess once you do this exercise, you will get to know what all 10 things you're doing. If you have to do it in a different way, or you have to get a better ROI of this. Maybe you'll have to automate this with some kind of technology.
It can be, I've heard about a tool called a degree, It's LMS, which talks about a recommended bite-size learning. Can that be a solution? Having E-learning courses for my employees across the spectrum. There are so many E-Learning companies, Like a site or a U dummy, or I would say LinkedIn learning. And today Microsoft has got something called Microsoft UI learning. So can that be utilized? For employees to measure their knowledge, in a gamified way of some skill assessment tools. One of them is like an IMO, can that be utilized?
So there can be a number of ways, which you have to think that how that entire thing can be done better. And I can up come with those list of things and maybe share it with you, which you can add to the podcast
Pranav- That'll be super helpful. Sujit, thank you for that. One small
thing that you spoke about, I kind of want to zoom in on that a little bit. You gave a few examples about,
introducing more humanity to the whole learning path. You gave an example of having bite-size content, so
you can maybe, firstly, you can consume it anywhere if you want.
So maybe, having good access to all the devices could be a part of that. Consuming content is one, but then you also spoke about, getting assessed through gamification, maybe chatbot is one way, have you personally thought about this as to how you can actually gamify the assessment experience, so to speak.
Sujit- We are building something right now with Microsoft,
where we are building an upskilling bot. IMocap scaling bot on Microsoft Teams, where there would
be based on the competency in our job role offer an employee. There would be one question per day
asked to him. And then a gamified version. Like if he asks answers like three questions on three
days, and if he scores 100% in that, then telling him that wow, these questions were maybe
administered to thousands of employees and you are among the top 10 people who have got all of
So you're doing something really great giving him a wow card at the end of a week. Or if this thing goes on for 10 days or 15 days, and he answers every question with 90, 80% accuracy, maybe give him a certificate that itself on a team chat. And also collecting all this data back in, through in a nice dashboard and sharing it with the L&D department as a lot of people analytics. But that is more offers ourselves business and a process side, but see that employee, he's getting this automated wow card. He's getting these automated badges. Badges, which are embedded through a kind of delivered through NFT. So it's like a blockchain badge where wow this is a unique kind of. I carry this badge with me toward my life. or giving him a nice certificate where he can share it on LinkedIn or he can like, kind of be proud about it. So there are a lot of things we can even do in a small piece of assessment, definitely, you need to have a nice platform.
So we are thinking about using Microsoft Teams because a lot of employees today spend a majority of their time on Microsoft Teams as everybody's working. Like a lot of people are today, working in a hybrid model are working remotely. So they need a collaboration tool and they're on Teams. And if you can do anything on Microsoft Teams, I guess that's going to be super cool.
Pranav- So you said that you personally, or most of us don't like
learning. I would say that is one thing that I perhaps don't like even more than I don't like learning, which
is getting assessed or you getting tested on the learning that I have done. And what I think, you are doing
with this approach is that you're solving a few problems or the first problem being that the employee now
does not need to need to leave the comfort of the existing platform, which in this case is Teams, but it
could be something else, but for now if you had to stick to this example, then the employee does not have
to leave the Team's application.
So that is like advantage number one, advantage number two is obviously the gamification part of it, which makes it more enjoyable and advantage number three would again, be the fact that you can get to boast about this, you can get, you can post this on different platforms and where you get the recognition about what you're doing, which, you know acts an opposite force, it actually suppresses my fear of getting assessed. I think that is pretty cool.
So as you are wrapping up Sujit, I'm just, so maybe I'm going a little bit back and forth here, but going back to the checklist. It's quite possible that we are talking about a change in approach altogether, which can be a little overwhelming because you're actually telling, you're asking the whole process to be, maybe revamped in a certain way.
So for someone who is maybe a little overwhelmed with this, what would be like a small win? Where could they actually start implementing, take this approach of introducing humanity, but make one small tweak, which gives them the reward, which they can also show to their bosses and the upper management okay that this is something that works? It's not just a wishy-washy thing. So what could that, one small step that they could take tomorrow to be in this giant L&D world.
Sujit- I would say one small thing can be, if they can run any one program, I would say a simple thing can be if you want to do it at a scale, I'm talking about something which would be really impacting a company more than 5,000 plus employees If you do it at scale, And really want to get a quick win. So you have to first think about what is that my employees are hooked onto every day. All this 5,000, Find out that particular avenue, that particular platform, And on that platform, can I maybe just quickly share bite-size learning content, maybe a more personalized. It cannot be the same content for everyone, or a bite-size assessment. Where they can be feeling proud that, Hey, I know this right example, if that can be done then it can be a super amazing achievement. Like you rolled it something out to 5,000 employees and within a week, maybe you got an adoption by more than 20% of that maybe 1000 employees, then you can say, wow, I was able to do this one and second thing while doing this, if you can ensure. That being more human, that employee feeling proud, I've got this right. It's rather than you saying, Hey, I did this, whereas he can say I got this. Maybe if you can think about it, can I give a badge of achievement of learning to all my 5,000 employees within a week? Is it possible? And they earned that badge. Then that going be a super cool thing. And that can be a super cool achievement because they are saying, I want it. And then that's been saying that I'm being more human because they are being proud of it.
Pranav- I think Sujit, you have, I think laid down the principles
and also a bit of strategy and tactics. I think both have their place principles because without principles
are just, you know, jumping into a tactic, like having a chatbot makes no sense, but what you have, you lightly
pointed out is that we are humans. We have emotions, It's not like even a big enterprise is like a robot,
a big, big robot. It's not like that it's actually made up of small, small, like human beings.
As I said, more than 5,000 human beings in an organization have emotions, which as you said, have fear. They have some desires, they have some dreams and so on and so forth. And what these strategies I believe would help us help the L&D leaders to basically get involved, get more involvement and more adoption by the actual participants of the program, Because, we discussed upon different things. One would be actually tying it to an increment in the salary or the other could be the fear of becoming redundant and the other thing that we touched upon towards the end is getting some recognition.
So I think you nicely laid down the principle and connected them to the actual human emotions and where we actually establish the need to have this humanity in the first place. Otherwise, it's just like, a nice concept that we want to talk about, but it's not that, it's actually something that can have a business impact because the more is the adoption, the more is the learning. And then is the more is the business impact. And then you also, you know, connected that with some actionable strategies, like, let's say having bite-size content or giving them badges or having a bot on Microsoft Teams. So I think we have covered a complete circle, From principles, strategies, and tactics.
Sujit-I'll just add one last, before we close I would say every
L&D person, Or every person in the L&D team need to have always a sweet when he opens up his mouth.
Or any kind of his action. Just like if you have ever seen a whale show, Maybe one of my favourites
is the Water World in San Diego. Where there's a whale called Shamu and whenever Shamu does everything
well. The trainer gives him some small fish to eat. Whale requires a lot of fish to eat. So every
animal loves appreciation. And as human beings, I guess we love more appreciation. So L&D team needs
to think about how can I appreciate my employees for the small, small learnings they do in the company.
And that appreciation can be a wow card, badges, certification, Some, maybe Amazon vouchers if I do
something amazing in a month. A learner has run a leaderboard in the company for learning. The employee
learner of the week, learner of the month and keep on running this.
It's amazing, somebody you just learn something and somebody gives a pat on the back, Hey, good job. You see a dog trainer. A dog trainer asks him the dog to give you a shake hand. And he gives a shake hand and he gets a pat on his back.
So everybody needs appreciation. And I've seen a lot of learning teams. People keep on learning, but there's no appreciation that is coming. They only appreciate it maybe once I get a certificate. If I'm getting certified from Microsoft, then is that an appreciation? That's a certification. I anyway, going to do it, get it because I'm doing this certification, but can you celebrate my small, small learning? If there can be bite-size learning, bite-size skill assessment, bite-size upskilling, bite-size reskilling then there be a bite-size appreciation. At every instance of it, I would say that is being more human and celebrating every learning moment with them.
Pranav-Nice, I think that's all you also throw in a lot of other
extra tactics as well. So thank you for that. And you also left the audience with one question, which is,
how can we give small rewards to the participants of the program, which I think is a good question to chew
on and a good question to end with. So thanks Sujit for being a part of this, really appreciate your time.
And folks if you have any feedback, please feel free to reach out to us. We are more than happy to make this podcast better.
Thank you so much for this thing. And I'll see you all in the next episode.