enParadigm Making Global Move With Learning Solutions
An interaction with John Cherian, Co-founder and CEO, enParadigm after winning the 'Excellence in Learning Technology' award at HR Excellence Awards.
Congratulations on winning "Excellence in Learning Technology" at the BW Businessworld HR Awards.
First of all, thank you (to BW Businessworld) for this initiative that recognizes technology-driven learning solution companies. Over the last few years, learning tech has come a long way and it is a matter of great honour for us to win this award; I am sure the competition was very tough.
To start, can you introduce enParadigm to our readers?
enParadigm is a learning solutions firm that started in 2010. I started the company with a fellow alumnus on the IIM Ahmedabad campus. At that time, having seen and been through the most touted training programs; both on and off campus, I was convinced that there was scope to build more exciting learning experiences. We wanted to put the learner at the center of the process and make learning more engaging and relevant. For us, the way to do that was to bring the best of all our learning from business and bring it alive through technology. Today, we have built a team of business analysts, learning solutionists, content & technology experts, and facilitators, creating end-to-end learning solutions; right from conceptualizing and designing platforms to delivering programs. Doing that requires one to have vision in content, design, and technology; I am very proud of the talent we have in our Company.
Apart from the BW Businessworld award, enParadigm was recently recognized as one of India's fastest growing tech companies as part of the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 India 2018 and APAC Fast 500 program. Has technology always been the focus for you?
In my view, being recognized as part of the Deloitte Tech Fast programs; both the national and APAC levels, was a validation of our approach. Right from the start, technology was a core ingredient in our solutioning process; we have developed proprietary platforms since day one. Today, we have a comprehensive array of products and platforms - a Business Simulation Suite, a Behavioural Simulation Suite, and a host of mobile-first platforms. But, our goal, from the very beginning, was to enhance the learning experience through technology.
Over the last few years, learning technology has become an exciting space. Today, we have experiential learning platforms, micro-learning platforms, and many other advances in tech. There is a lot of stuff happening with curated content, artificial intelligence, and machine learning and these changes are being adopted by the learning industry at a much faster rate than before. Global HR leaders want to scale learning experiences for their employees across countries. This has put the spotlight on technology being leveraged in the learning space. But, we must not forget, at the end of the day, it is about using technology to drive learning globally, at scale, without compromising the relevance for the learner in their performance context. For us, that remains the core focus when designing and deploying technology driven solutions.
Can you expand on that - What types of learning products do you offer and how do these products differentiate you from your competitors?
As I mentioned, we primarily have three ranges of products. The first one is called the Business Simulation Suite which caters to the hard skills - getting someone to understand strategy, sales, operations, finance, marketing, etc. These are the areas in which business simulations typically drive learning. We have built around 20 different business simulations for various sectors and roles. These simulations are very effective in helping someone understand how to drive the desired results in their particular role.
The second one is our Behavioural Simulation Suite, it is primarily focused on soft skills. We have around 10 platforms and together they help develop specific behavioural competencies that contribute to developing self, managing teams, and driving leadership.
Our latest offering is a suite of mobile apps. We currently have 4 products, each with a specific purpose - SmartSkill for mobile-first, micro-learning, SmartSustain for post-program learning retention (typically deployed after any learning engagement like a webinar, workshop, etc.), SmartSell for on-the-go sales enablement, and lastly, our very exciting induction platform – SmartLaunch.
Rome was not built in a day, neither is capability. To really move the needle on capability, we bundle various combinations of these offerings along with scalable solutions such as virtual assessments and online group coaching to create 6-12 month learning journeys for high-potentials, first-time managers, sales effectiveness, and leadership transformation.
What are some of the challenges you face when you blend corporate learning and technology as closely as you say enParadigm does?
We always focus on the learner and how they view the learning experience. In our experience, the most essential component of learning; and I think a lot of leaders in the HR community agree, is ‘motivation’. A person learns only if they are motivated. Motivation comes from questioning oneself; asking questions like ‘Why should I learn in the first place?’ ‘Am I aware of the gap in my knowledge?’, ‘What learning can impact my output?’, and so on. Technology comes after that. We speak to many HR leaders and one of the most frequent complaints we hear is about various e-learning solutions. There are so many instances of an organization buying courses but those course not being consumed. Some years ago, we kept hearing that e-learning solutions were going to take over the learning landscape and deliver consistent learning experiences at scale. That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because those solutions missed the motivations of learners. Without knowing why someone wants to learn or being able to communicate how our program is relevant to them, we can’t make the learning ‘stick’. The moment it comes to technology, human elements like a facilitator or a learning co-host are missing and that is the biggest challenge in driving corporate learning through technology. We solved this problem better by focusing on the learner, and creating a hybrid model that built relevance and scale with the help of technology, and motivation using the human element. A lot of learning in our programs happens in a collaborative and competitive environment; we leverage our very advanced platforms to deliver this. Our models comprise the best of what humans and technology can deliver to help our clients sustain the learning journey and be consistent in their development.
Has there been a time when you have found it difficult to sell your products and ideas to a business or HR leader? How did you overcome it?
That is a challenge that many learning solution companies face, as business leaders find a lot of learning modules irrelevant in directly driving their business objectives. We never faced a challenge in selling learning to business leaders since all our initial simulations were business simulations. We have refined and developed them over time and continue to use them in our programs. They are all about the business and helping learners understand the importance of doing the right thing for a business in their role. In my experience, business leaders always understood the relevance our simulation platforms quickly.
For us, the interesting challenge was in penetrating the behavioural training market as there are so many players in it offering solutions in all shapes and sizes. Our Behavioural Simulation Suite has various simulation platforms for managing self, managing people, and having crucial conversations – performance, appraisal, feedback, negotiations, influencing, etc. We believe that we have created something that is unique and effective. Along with hard skills, behavioural dimensions can be equally important to achieve business success but it may be a touchy subject for most people and organizations. We knew this, and we wanted to create a platform where people can learn these behavioural dimensions in a safe, virtual environment. In the early days, getting customers to understand the power of simulations for behaviour change was a challenge. We had to find a new language to begin conversations. It was only when we got opportunities to meet HR leaders and demo the platforms that we were able to breakthrough and get our message across.
Among the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 India winners, you were the only learning solutions organization in a list meant for tech companies. What is the significance of this to enParadigm?
This speaks about the scalability of our business. If you look at most learning companies, they are in the B2C space wherein people are paying for their own courses. That is a different market. We are one of the few companies who is addressing the corporate market. There is increasing realisation among corporate organizations that learning is not a discrete or motivational function. We see a lot of evolved learning cultures and practices developing in corporate India and that creates more spaces for the solutions that we provide.
The fact that we are growing at a rate that competes with some of the most successful technology companies in the country is a reflection of the fact that many of those companies oriented towards developing a more evolved learning culture entrust enParadigm with their learning initiatives.
Do you think there is a gap in the Indian market or even globally when it comes utilizing technology in the right way when it comes to corporate learning?
The right way is always subjective, there is no universal ‘right’ as different learners learn through different methods - many like to experience things themselves, some get inspired by their bosses, some from industry experts, some through books etc. An L&D leader cannot stop at only implementing a learning platform or conducting a workshop, but they have to look at the journey from offerings to consumption to behaviour change to business results. Why would a learner on the field, who is probably impatient & wants to get quick results, want to learn from a platform? That is the big challenge. We see a lot of employees who tend to click ‘next’ in order to complete the course, or worse, ask their subordinates to click ‘next’ on their behalf. They don’t ‘see’ or identify how a program is relevant to them. Therefore, the key questions to ask are, ‘What is the learning impact for a particular role?’ and ‘What is the impact to the organization?’ Technology will always be a medium; a vessel, it doesn’t answer the ‘why’ questions that learners have. We are trying to enhance this system by using courses that are relevant to a specific role in an experiential and engaging format. This where our “best of both worlds—humans and technology—model” becomes effective. This is the shift in focus that enParadigm brings to the table.
Lastly, looking ahead, what is next for enParadigm?
We are working on several key initiatives as a team – one of them is to use our understanding of business and technology to link learning to productivity levers for the business; and do it with less human intervention required by the business stakeholders. We are delivering our simulations and micro-learning solutions at scale for a global audience, we are increasing our presence in global markets as well.