Citi's L&D leader on how to build a proactive learning culture

Citi's L&D leader shares her insights

Citi's L&D leader on how to build a proactive learning culture

Learning and development is no longer a ‘nice thing to have’ for organisations – it’s a key ingredient for success. Particularly in times of great change like we’ve seen over the past 18 months, an appetite for learning equips leaders with the tools they need to meet the rapidly changing demands.

Speaking to HRD, Jennifer Whitaker, Citi’s Head – Leadership and Performance Solutions APAC, said fostering a culture of proactive, driven and self-directed leaders is the ultimate goal for any L&D practitioner. Whitaker will join a line-up of top L&D experts at HRD’s Learning and Development Summit, being held virtually later this year, sharing her insight on how to build a proactive learning culture.

“Waiting for the L&D team, your manager or business head to prescribe the learning pathway to meet both business goals and career plans can no longer be a learning strategy,” she said. “That reactive approach relies too much on there being a designated  group of people that have all the answers. It also assumes that we know what the future holds and what individuals need and want as they work towards the future state.”

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But Whitaker said by the same token, a proactive learning culture doesn’t mean employees are let loose to learn and discover aimlessly. It’s the role of L&D practitioners to provide the scaffolding for proactivity and self-direction from the ground up.

Technology has also revolutionized the level of sophistication in how organisations tailor and deliver learning. Employees now expect a seamless experience, matching the spec of the technology they use outside of work.

“We see our role less as the providers of learning and more in line with curators,” she said. “We have a learning experience platform where our learners can identify their interests and needs. The more they use it, the more it lands content in their inbox.

“We are also introducing adaptive learning, AI and virtual coaching tools to provide the personalised learning that incentivizes people to be more self-directed. We still have legacy paradigm shifts to make and ongoing work to do around the learning culture and mindsets, however, we are setting up platforms to enable a more proactive approach while upskilling our learning advisors to educate and consult around self- directed learning in the flow of work.”

At Citi, the learner experience is at the heart of what the L&D team do. Whitaker said they spend a lot of time thinking about how to create a positive user experience, but that learning also encourages self-awareness, confidence, connection, validation, benchmarking and capability growth.

But when the pandemic arrived across Asia Pacific and Citi’s employees shifted to working from home, the big challenge was how to deliver virtual learning to the same standard employees had been used to. Whitaker said pre-pandemic, the appetite for virtual learning was far less than in-person, and was synonymous with compliance and regulatory training. Therefore, shifting the mindset around virtual learning and improving the delivery was the initial focus for the L&D team.

“We also knew we had to lead with the key levers for successful virtual learning; connection, interaction, engagement, modularisation, accessibility and just in time,” she said.

“This meant determining the right platform, re-designing existing relevant programmes and designing new materials, upskilling design teams, facilitators and learners.”

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It was a mammoth task – particularly as Citi’s leadership development is delivered in five languages. But as the learners switched to virtual, the team continually interviewed users and collected feedback to better understand their needs and experience. That vital process allowed the team to make data-driven decisions, iterating and tweaking the content to meet their users’ needs. So what did Citi’s L&D team learn from the unique experience?

“The key things we learned as we pursued our goals around learner experience was that we needed to adopt all of the skills and mindsets we were encouraging out learners to adopt. The need to seek, sense, test and iterate, fail and learn and pivot quickly, became not just words, but required capabilities,” she said.

“We also learnt the important role of learning in providing our employees with an anchor point. As everything around them was becoming uncertain, learning continued to be the one thing they could count on, particularly as we shifted our content and delivery strategies to meet them where they were at, create connections with each other, and provide best practices to keep them moving forward.”

Jennifer Whitaker will join a host of speakers at the virtual event on December 1. To view the full Learning and Development Summit agenda and sign up for your spot, click here.

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