Genpact (NYSE: G) is a global professional services firm that began in 1997 as a business unit within General Electric. In January 2005, Genpact became an independent company. From its headquarters in New York to New Delhi, the 90,000 Genpact employees manage its operations across 25 countries. They advise their clients to “think with design, dream in digital, and solve problems with data and analytics.”

What was the trigger

Piyush Mehta, CHRO of Genpact says, “The half-life of skills is barely 2-3 years. We have to become agile in how we look at talent and skills.” With careers spanning 50-70 years, reskilling at scale and with speed that matches technological shifts is a common challenge for organizations.

The outcome was “Genome” – The company’s model of learning for the future, where 1500 learning assets have been created across 60 domains. This is a go-to site for 300 granular skills. They build Genome even though the employees have access to commercially available learning platforms that dish out personalized recommendations for content. The reason for that lies in their identifying the design principles.

Design Principles

  1. Content plus context builds skills: The organizational context helps the person to understand how to apply the knowledge in the day to day work. This is a vital step in bridging the knowing-doing gap. (Read more). Genome became like a platform that would hold content that been captured in the Genpact context. A video recording of an actual presentation made to a client is far more powerful than say, a TED talk on how to be a better presenter.
  2. People learn best in the master-apprentice framework: Genpact leveraged the ancient model for social learning in India – the “guru”. Employees were asked who their go-to experts were when it came to solving problems.
  3. T-shaped employees:  Genpact’s research revealed that interoperability is becoming increasingly important in the digital world. Their research on AI showed them that 59% employees would be more comfortable if they understood more about the potential of the technology. 80% of the employees are willing to learn the new skills needed to take advantage of AI in their roles. That needs the reskilling initiative to shift from the individual to the group. When everyone has some deep skill but can use it across multiple scenarios, they create solutions that are interdisciplinary and comprehensive.
  4. Learning in the flow of work: Reskilling had to be an ongoing process and not episodic. That meant blending learning and skill building in the flow of work. Learning had to be made byte sized. Watch a video ten minutes before going for a meeting with the client is far more effective because the knowledge is fresh. Content is created and shared in real time.
  5. This is a business initiative: Interestingly enough Genome was not spearheaded by the Learning and Development team. It was led by Piyush Mehta, the CHRO and the Chief Innovation Officer. The people agenda is co-owned by the business. HR is part of every business decision – whether it is a final go/no-go on an acquisition or handling a call with a client. 60% of the CHRO’s goals in any given year hinge on revenues and margin. After all, the hiring and retention of talent has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Genome demystified

Here is how they went about the task

  1. Creation of capability models: These were created through Genpact’s domain knowledge. Automation opportunities were identified.  The first step was to ask 10,000 people of the organization to catalog their skills. This was a quick and dirty approach. The result was a catalog of 50 skills for the future. They range from Machine Learning to Storytelling.
  2. Network analysis to identify nodal / central knowledge experts: For the 50 skills, 50 gurus and experts were identified. People rated themselves. Through Organizational Network Analysis, an algorithm was created to identify the “thought leaders” and “knowledge-brokers”. The knowledge brokers are the “nodes” in a network. They have a large number of connections. The thought leaders are the final word in the subject. This segregation allows Genpact to know the employees with deep-expertise ie thought leaders. This was done by asking the respondents to identify the colleague they would call to get material on a subject. They also had to identify someone who could help them prep for a client meeting. The final category was to identify the colleague they would accompany for a client meeting.
  3. Masters and Gurus are at the heart of this: The guru would then curate material, create tests and find ways of certifying learners according to proficiency levels ranging from beginner, intermediate, proficient and expert. The guru creates ways to build the skills in the learner and that is given 25% weightage in their annual goals. For instance, when someone uses the skill as part of their role, the learner sends a video of that to the guru or the Master. The guru gives feedback on the skill usage and uploads the video as a piece of “real” content the other learners can use. The result is 3,000 hours of curated learning modules that has contextually relevant content.

Sustaining a learning culture

Very often organizations launch an initiative with great fanfare. When the dust settles, people move on to their desk and carry on doing their work as usual. Genpact seems to have found a way to sustain this massive exercise. The leadership team has taken it upon themselves to celebrate learning and the people driving the agenda - the employees.

The CEO recognizes the gurus and experts in every town hall. He celebrates the guru who has done the maximum amount of skill building. The clients are told about this. The CHRO and the Chief Innovation Officer talk about Genome to the clients and the employees at every possible opportunity. The result is that skill building is not a metric tracked by the L&D team, the agenda is part of the business conversation every day.

Genpact’s story is inspiring at many levels. It shows us that re-skilling is at the heart of digital transformation. It is possible to do it with speed and at scale. The magic happens when we put the employee at the center - not technology.

Abhijit Bhaduri is a talent management advisor to several corporations. He is the author of The Digital Tsunami and was identified as the No 1 HR Influencer with over 850,000 followers on social media. Join him on LinkedIn @AbhijitBhaduri