“The 7 questions” is a novel Ciklum blog column that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at who makes up our company, and also tells you about our customers and partners.The following interview is conducted with Liubov Priadko, Learning and Development Manager at Ciklum, who told us how her team and she managed to keep the pace of Learning and Development activities up regardless of remote working mode.
1. Can you please tell us how in general the learning and development process is organised at Ciklum, considering that the company has offices in 14+ countries and over 3,500 people?
As you may imagine, providing a service for such a number of people requires both structure and flexibility in the approach.
There are certain training topics or opportunities that we are managing centrally. However, we do allow a number of activities to run at separate team’s requests managed locally in various locations and teams. My team is quite tolerant of team-specific or client-specific requests.
At the same time, I am a strong believer in self-learning opportunities and “learning in the flow of work”. My team’s job is to ensure that there is an infrastructure of opportunities where different people can find different things for themselves while ensuring that the learning solutions help us as a company to move towards the business goals.
2. How can one establish an efficient process to develop and train so many people in the company? Is the approach different when you have 30 people versus 3,000? What should be the first steps for the business if they want to organise L&D?
When you are working with 30 people, you can tailor to everyone’s needs. Learning becomes individually tailored, and an HR working with such a team usually has the luxury of being able to create personalised development plans and solutions.
In a large organisation, a critical skill is picking up on common/repeatable learning requests and topics, so that you can provide an efficient solution. It is also about staying close to where the business is heading and identifying real causes behind the learning requests that you receive. Learning strategy has to come hand in hand with business and HR strategy. The first step that I would advise for the company if they want to set up a learning and development function is to honestly answer to themselves about the skills they need for the business to reach the goals and whether they need to hire these skills or develop. It is always useful to analyse what is already being done in the company. People learn whether there is an existing learning function or not, so investigate how your team is currently learning now and build upon your findings rather than reinventing the wheel.
3. In March 2020, the world has gone into a remote mode. How was the remote learning and development of Ciklum employees organised during that time? Did it complicate or maybe simplify the learning process?
For anyone working with events, March 2020 was a time to reconsider how things are done. For learning function, not only has it been a challenge that we have had to move the events to online, reconsider programs and budget, but also in times of uncertainty, people turned to learning as a change management support. While going remote was quite a challenge for my team, when I now look back, I believe that this experience has taught us the range of skills we would have never been able to acquire otherwise.
My focus during the lockdown has become delivering the needed knowledge through the convenient means at the time people needed it. I would break down the lockdown learning into three stages: supporting the transition to remote, adapting learning to remote, maintaining the new normal.
Since day 1, we have started helping Ciklumers adapt to the new normal by sharing information posts on remote best practices through our internal corporate social network. As we were doing it, my team was busy putting the planned training events on hold and figuring out how we work ourselves remotely. Once we have realised that the remote is here to stay, we have started encouraging remote knowledge sharing for Ciklumers. My team has started an active “Speaker support program” where we have prepared online sessions on webinar best practices as well as individual coaching for every speaker who was willing to share the knowledge Ciklum-wide. With the great support from our HR Business Partners team, we have launched a weekly “Manager Hour” to ensure that people in managerial roles receive support as they are supporting their teams. In summer, we have worked closely with external training providers to help them adapt their courses to an online format so that we could continue providing learning opportunities.
While the lockdown has definitely caused collaboration and screen fatigue, it made things easier for learning teams who were willing to think creatively and adapt to the situation. I can certainly see how being online helped us give more chances for more people to learn than we would have been able to provide if the sessions were hosted live.
4. During the period of March-October 2020, 3065 Ciklumers have participated in 89 online educational events. Astonishing 12, 049hr 41min hours of online courses have been watched by Ciklum Udemy for Business users. It doesn’t look like Ciklum is suffering from lack of engagement. How do you overcome typical L&D challenges?
It was no doubt the result of the hard work of every team member on my team as well as many Ciklumers who contributed and led the learning initiatives. During the lockdown, all of my team needed to learn some content management and marketing skills to make our opportunities attractive. We have become the #hashtag and SMM advocates that is for sure. We have also relied greatly on curating the self-service learning opportunities that were available through our learning partners, providers and simply on the market. In simple terms, with everything going online, the problem was not to find a chance to learn but finding the right learning opportunity in the huge amount of things that were available out there. The key to overcoming the challenges was to channel learning opportunities our people would want to make use of and to market them internally so that they pay attention to them.
5. Recently, Ciklum announced its own RPA and DataBricks academies with the first enrolled groups already started. Why is Ciklum launching its own training?
When a company needs expertise, there is always a choice between hiring and training. Technical skills are a fast-moving currency. There is often the demand for something that the market does not yet have enough, and the remote mode does not stop the business need for projects to be done. RPA and DataBricks academies are project-driven initiatives by Ciklum’s Centres of Expertise with the purpose of creating the non-existing pool of skilled talents on the market we would like to work with. I admire the work done by our technical experts as well as academy coordinators to make these projects come true and can’t wait to meet many talented candidates at our internal learning events as Ciklumers.
6. Is it too soon to talk about full-fledged Ciklum academy where all kinds of expertise will be represented?
My team knows that I am quite ambitious in my plans when it comes to education, as it is my true passion. However, I would rather underpromise and overdeliver here 🙂 There are definitely big plans on my agenda, so stay tuned to see what the future holds.
7. What are your observations regarding which types of learning activities are the most popular and are of high demand among IT engineers?
Ability to learn is a skill. We have even conducted a ‘Learning How To Learn’ session for our teams to understand best which learning strategies work for them. From my experience, people are really learning when they have an internal need and desire for it, so the more practical the session, the better is the response to it among IT engineers. Whether it is a soft skills session, where you analyse a real-life case, or a technical knowledge sharing session with practical demo’s and ability to practice on sandbox environments, training works best when each participant understands why to attend the session, what is applicable and how to apply it to real life. So whether it is a live session, a certification, an online prerecorded training course or a simple manual, the information needs to be relevant, well-structured and applicable for IT engineers to have demand for it.