Redefining Education, Exposure, and Experience for Employees In 2021

In conversation with Anupam Trehan, Director, People, and Communities, Cisco India & SAARC; where she explains the evolution of skilling strategy; changing dynamics of leadership; factors to make organization future-ready in order to excel in the post-pandemic world.


The Learning & Development interventions and strategies are evolving in real-time, balancing technical expertise within a domain, fostering leadership capabilities and talent engagement within the organization. All this while continuing to focus on making organizations ready for a disruptive future is the need for the hour Anupam Trehan, Director, People and Communities, Cisco India & SAARC tells Resham Suhail of BW People.

Q1. What is your organization’s skilling strategy, and how has it evolved in recent times? 

This pandemic has reminded us that people take precedence over everything else. It has also spotlighted newer models of working and the role technology can play in the workplace across organizations and industries

At Cisco, the focus on learning is anchored in Conscious Culture, and they deliver this by focusing on three E’s – Education, Exposure, and Experience. For the people and teams, learning happens through various platforms, such as learning platform, Degreed; Community Learning, where one learns from peers or internal experts across topics. There are various functional and role-based learning paths, as well. Through events like Let’s Talk, All Hands, Fireside Chats, etc., employees learn more about our business strategy and culture. Our internal Talent Marketplace provides employees opportunities for stretch assignments, roles across businesses, etc.

However, they focus on learning does not stop there. Rooted in our culture, learning at Cisco extends to our customers and communities too. Cisco Learning Network, Partner Training, Modeling Labs, Learning Library, etc. are focused on our customers and partners. Networking Academy, Mentor To Go, e-Vidyaloka, etc., are platforms through which we help our communities learn.

Q3. How has this time been fruitful for you as a leader? How has leadership changed according to you?

The past year has been a journey of learning for leaders across industries, as all have had to navigate and adapt to this new normal. As people adapted to working from home through the pandemic, balancing time, attention, and efforts towards work, family and self, the need to lead with empathy, understanding, and respect has never been more critical.

Now, the priority must be to adopt a people-first stance, leveraging digital technologies to enable skilling, ensure an enhanced employee experience regardless of from where one is working, and help their workforces adjust to a new way of working and learning – all this while continuing to focus on making organizations ready for a disruptive future.

Q4. What major factors do you think organizations need to nurture to become future-ready?

This pandemic has also spotlighted newer models of working and the role technology can play in the workplace across organizations and industries. A few areas that organizations are starting to focus on include –

Firstly, as technology becomes core to everything we do, the need and demand for a technologically-savvy, digital native workforce will increase tremendously. Technology will continue to play a key role in how business is done. It will also be an experience curator and enabler as well as a collaboration, connection, and engagement platform.

Next, as the future of work becomes increasingly hybrid, companies need to enable access to remote collaboration tools and high-speed network infrastructure to ensure seamless and secure collaboration and innovation between dispersed teams without a dip in productivity.

Lastly, the need for security, secure networks, devices, platforms, data security, information security, etc., continues to remain of paramount importance.

Q5. The focus today is to create incredible value in the employee segment – taking employee experience to new levels. What is the role that technology is playing in all this?

With organizations reimagining how work is done and exploring hybrid work models, enhancing the experience across various work models requires a far more thoughtful approach. It starts with the creation of virtual/ hybrid workspaces that embody the culture and values of the organization, which, in turn, is experienced as an inclusive, engaging, collaborative, productive, rewarding, and encouraging experience for employees – an experience that is seamless and consistent regardless of the workplace, virtual or physical. As mentioned earlier, technology will continue to play a vital role as an experience curator and enabler as well as a collaboration, connection & engagement platform.

Q6. According to you, what are the major predictions for the year 2021? What transformation do you foresee?

A few words used to describe the year 2020 include “unprecedented times”, “new normal”, etc. In 2021 the new normal is THE normal. It will be a year of translating learnings from 2020 into execution strategies for the business and teams. Be it innovating for success while optimizing costs, business transformation; and leveraging technology as an enabler and accelerator for business and employee experience. From an employee and teams perspective, the focus shall continue to be on investment in skills for the future, health & well-being, including mental well-being, and building and sustaining a truly inclusive workplace.

Q7. What is the outlook of your budget for investing in upskilling and L&D interventions?

Trehan believes that investments in learning & development are just that - investments and not costs. She sees investments in learning & development driving impact across business outcomes and employee experience and engagement – even more so now and for the foreseeable future. We will continue to invest in the well-being and professional growth of our employees.

Q8. Organizations have been paying particular attention and creating a different function with a dedicated Chief Learning Officer. This is an increasing trend. What do you have to say about it?

A dedicated learning function helps not just from a training perspective but increasingly will start to play a crucial role in enabling organization transformations through investments in skills, capabilities, and mindsets to create a truly agile workforce. It will be about reimagining learning to make it timely, relevant, on-demand, and personal. A true learning culture comes alive only when each one of us leans in and takes responsibility for learning as individuals and professionals, as peers, and as leaders.


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