Does L&D Have a Seat at the C-Suite Table?

The role of L&D expanded during the pandemic and is becoming even more crucial now. Despite all the challenges organizations have faced last year, there has never been a more exciting time for learning and development. Infact, there has never been a better time to ask this question – “Does L&D have a seat at the C-Suite table?” I’m sure most of us would answer this in an affirmative “Yes”. That’s what LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2021[1] states too. According to the report, 63% of L&D pros believe that the L&D seat at the C-suite table is secure in 2021, which is a huge jump compared to just 24% respondents who felt the same in March 2020.

There could be many factors driving this change but the most pertinent one being that workers, managers, and business leaders – literally everyone is feeling the pressure to upskill and reskill today. The report by LinkedIn also identifies upskilling and reskilling as the top priority in 2021 for L&D pros globally, followed by other priorities like leadership and management, and virtual onboarding. A recent survey by Degreed reveals similar insights – Six-in-ten respondents feel that Covid-19 and the resulting economic crisis has accelerated the need to acquire new skills. Josh Bersin also highlights this challenge through his viewpoint of the rising need for internal mobility, in his recent article.[2]

In the current scheme of things, organizations have to learn how to match their crew to new roles and activities. The new-collar worker’s rise reflects the need to emphasize skills and ability over someone’s academic pedigree. On one hand, these changes have left L&D leaders thinking about strategies to reskill and upskill their workforces rapidly while on the other, they’ve also earned L&D a much-deserved seat at the C-Suite table, something that they’ve been hoping for, since long. L&D is rightfully in the driver’s seat today, as a strategic enabler of this monumental leap. Clearly, it’s their time and opportunity to play a crucial role as a change agent.

Harbinger had the privilege of hosting some of the world’s highly accomplished learning and development leaders for a recent Power Hour that touched upon the same topic. These experts gathered to talk about ‘Designing L&D for success in the post-pandemic world: The CLO Point of View.’  The session included Joti Joseph (A Seasoned L&D expert with a 26-year stint at Standard Chartered Bank) and Ken Hubbell (Sr. Vice President of Instructional Design Strategy and Innovation at Wells Fargo Bank) as panelists. The discussion was led and facilitated by Dr Vikas Joshi (CEO at Harbinger Group). The panel had an intriguing exchange of thoughts about the shift in the role of a CLO and the redesigned L&D function and corresponding change in KPIs. Some very insightful points were raised in the discussion. Vikas opened the discussion by sharing some industry statistics and ran a poll to know our audience’s top focus areas for L&D programs in 2021. (Not surprisingly, the results were in-line with what the LinkedIn report mentioned earlier, stated – Upskilling and reskilling, a clear winner with almost 60% votes). This was followed by a deliberation on the shifting role of the CLO, coupled by the new skills that L&D pros need to acquire, and concluded with a discussion of new KPIs for the redesigned L&D function.

The panelists opined that the L&D function needs to step up and take up more and different responsibilities, than they’ve been handling so far, to deliver what is expected of them in the coming times. L&D leaders are in the most powerful position to impact the culture of the organization they’re working in.

Shift in the Role of CLO and the Changing L&D KPI

Chief Learning Officer as the Bridge

In her opening thoughts, Joti shared that she feels that the role of Chief Learning Officer as someone who holds the triangle of human resources, learning, and business together has fundamentally changed in the last one year, and that’s what has probably got them the seat at the C-suite table as well. She also touched upon some skills that L&D professionals need to acquaint themselves with, to thrive. These include but are not limited to consulting, curation, personalization, and technology adoption and enablement.

Ken emphasized why it is of paramount importance for L&D pros to learn how to speak the language of business today. He feels that this will also enable them to show the impact of what learning can actually do in terms of metrics that that rest of the business stakeholders understand. Joti had similar thoughts when questioned around the changing L&D KPIs. She felt L&D KPIs need to be completely in sync with business KPIs and these two units should not function in isolation.

Talking more about metrics for measuring L&D success, the panel discussed how it is crucial for L&D to systematically move from effort measures to outcome measures. Ken shared his experience and recommendation of moving from traditional reporting and measurement via surveys and questionnaires to Net Promoter Scores as an effective measure of L&D success.

Avoiding Distractions

While talking about some new focus areas for L&D like mental health, Covid awareness, diversity and inclusivity, Joti raised a very relevant point. She feels it’s important for L&D leaders to avoid distraction and highlight ‘concept fatigue.’ She reiterated that L&D leaders need not go about implementing every new strategy they hear of and should ideally stick with chosen strategies and plans till they can prove their hypothesis, one way or the other.

The Final Word

The session had some great insights and clearly laid out how Chief Learning Officers view the world from their vantage point. L&D does have a seat at the C-Suite table provided it takes up an expanded role in the post-pandemic world, and experts have this confirmed for you.

Check out the on-demand recording of the Power Hour to hear the whole discussion. Do share your thoughts through the comments section below or reach out to us at to share your feedback.



[2] Not Enough Workers: Rethink Recruiting In The New Economy – JOSH BERSIN

Digitization of Education – Modernizing Classrooms for Good

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.

When I was a young kid, I could not even imagine learning anywhere except for a traditional classroom and in the physical presence of my teachers. There was some noise about desktops as I stepped into teenage, but it was only limited to our ‘Computer Science’ classes once a fortnight where we would learn coding in BASIC language. As I stepped into college, I graduated as a ‘Computer Applications’ professional who frequented computer labs primarily for practicing my coding assignments. Most of my learning still happened in traditional classrooms, with teachers around, and through paper books. (Interestingly, I have progressed from calling them real books to paper books in the last few years). Fast forward to 2020 – The year that changed mine and probably the entire world’s outlook about education. We work remotely, collaborate virtually, learn through online courses, virtual classrooms, and virtual instructor led training sessions, which very amusingly is also how our kids learn today.

Integration of technology into learning and education is not new but the pace at which it advanced through the year 2020, is remarkable. The field of education was in fact one of the first ones to be affected by the disruption caused by the pandemic. Millions of educational institutions had to resort to online teaching – something that was in the pipeline for the longest time and yet never really prioritized. Some were better prepared than the others, but it won’t be incorrect to say that everyone learnt and evolved for better. With this rapid transformation, we also realized that the potential of digitization in education and learning is huge and exciting. While there are many challenges, there are abundant opportunities too. And as we step into 2021, I can’t help but feel amazed by the sheer thought of learning technology progressing by leaps and bounds.

What is Digitization

Wikipedia defines digitization as the process of converting information into a digital (i.e., computer-readable) format. In the context of learning/education, digitization may be better understood as a subset of ‘Digital Transformation’. Digital transformation is best understood as the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.

Common Approaches to Digitize

Digitization largely makes use of (but not limited to) mechanisms like:

  • Online learning courses which can be taken at the learners’ convenience and assist in self-paced learning. These courses are usually targeted at building competencies and knowledge in specific subjects or skills. Course creators can accordingly build them as interactive learning modules. using appropriate instructional methodologies like gamification, animations, videos, simulations, scenarios, and more.
  • Online assessments and examinations which make the whole assessment process convenient and hassle-free for both teachers/trainers and learners.
  • eBooks which provide an interface to learners to access learning material digitally and in an interactive fashion.
  • Study assistants and virtual bots which are available anytime anywhere to guide the learner on all their queries.
  • Curating and converting OERs (Open Educational Resources) into interactive videos, nuggets, and more.  

Challenges to Overcome

While the above digitization approaches contribute to bringing a certain level of ease in the system, there are some challenges that still need attention.

  • Transforming Content Appropriately

Learning online works differently from traditional classroom-based learning and hence the approach to design and deliver both should also be different. Digitizing a piece of content is not about converting it as-is to an online format. We need to apply the right learning design strategy, instructional approaches, and learner engagement tactics to make content appealing for online learners.

Breaking longer content into smaller micro-learning nuggets is equally important. These small learning bytes make a good use-case for just-in-time learning and periodic reinforcement.

Responsive design is another important factor to keep in mind while digitizing content. Learners are likely to access online learning content on a device of their choice.

  • Integrating Multiple Systems

While this doesn’t pertain to content digitization per se, but the right system integrations form the core of any digital transformation initiative. All systems in picture need to communicate with each other seamlessly for the transformation to be effective. For example, in a major upskilling initiative in a company, if the learning management system is exchanging data with the performance management system, it will become much easier to measure the impact of any learning program on the employee performance and even predict what kind of learning programs would an employee need.

In the context of education, systems like student information systems should be integrated seamlessly with salesforce or a CRM, attendance management system, learning management system, and even online meeting tool like zoom to track the entire journey of a learner – from candidate to a certified professional.

These are just a few examples, there could be many others. The point I am trying to establish is that learning cannot operate in a silo; it will work the best if it is a component of the entire organizational workflow.

  • Building a Culture of Continuous Learning

In today’s dynamically changing world, it is important for any organization or educational institution to develop a culture of continuous learning. Upskilling and reskilling continuously is the only way to survive in this competitive landscape. People must learn faster than ever before and for that, we need to weave in continuous learning in the organizational culture and not just make it a mandate.

Making learning available in the flow of work, periodic reinforcement of relevant learning content through nudge-learning, using deep analytics and AI to recognize and address competency gaps, are some ways technology can help address this challenge.

The Way Forward

We are in a time where phenomenal changes are taking place in the education and learning domain. Are the new EdTech products capable of helping develop skills that future workplaces will demand? As per a McKinsey report, by 2030, 65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Clearly, today’s jobs are not necessarily going to end up as tomorrow’s jobs. Hence, we need to rapidly address competency gaps, not just through school education but throughout work lives of professionals. In this changing marketplace, learning is no more meant to be confined to the four walls of a classroom, it needs to evolve. It needs to enable learners to acquire new skills whenever they need and wherever they need.

Digitization is the first step towards this transformation. Solutions like AI-based teaching assistants, chatbots, automation, nudge-learning, augmented and virtual reality will take center stage. Where do you stand in this whole transformation? What challenges have you experienced and what results have you achieved? I would love to know. Drop me an email at to connect and discuss.

3 Ways The Health Insurance Industry Is Using Technology To Its Advantage

As the whole world grapples with COVID- 19, industries are exploring various ways to ensure business continuity. Amongst these industries, the insurance industry, specifically its health insurance segment, finds itself in a unique situation. On one hand people want to buy health insurance to safeguard their families, but on the other hand it is hard for sales agents to sell insurance in a virtual environment. Insurance sales have always relied on the high-touch, in-person mode of selling.

Traditionally, the insurance industry has always been an early adopter of technology and they seem to be using it to their advantage during this crisis as well. Here are a few things we found worth sharing from recent interactions with our insurance sector customers.

1. Supporting Customers Using Chatbots

Insurance industry has started using Artificial Intelligence (AI) as their first responder. AI-based chatbots are helping support teams and call centers to handle frequently asked questions. Due to this, call centers are able to handle customer queries even when they are short on staff. This also helps in gathering business intelligence about customer preferences, options, and buying patterns.

2. Making Online Payments

Filling forms and online premium payment is an integral part of buying or claiming insurance. Customers often need help with these activities; however, in today’s situation it is not possible for them to sit across the table with agents to discuss these things. Online training modules on use of web meeting tools are supporting both agents and customers, without putting anyone at risk.

3. Selling Insurance in Online Mode

Insurance industry follows a high-touch sales model and sales agents are trained to sell insurance over face to face meetings.  Online micro-learning modules on social selling, phone, and internet-based selling, are supporting sales agents in achieving their business targets. It is not only about using zoom or WebEx; but also engaging customers in online mode, building trust, understanding their unsaid needs, and much more. Virtual selling would be an important competency for any insurance agent going forward. Technology-based selling is not a temporary fix. It will be the new normal, even beyond COVID- 19.

Are you working in the insurance industry? What solutions are you exploring to enable and empower your sales team? Comment below.