Sunder Ramachandran is the Head of Selling Excellence for India at GSK, a global healthcare company.  His team supports the development of sales and marketing capability in India.  We discuss how his team sustained employee engagement during lockdown, as well as building sales capability and enabling leaders to adapt to the online environment.

Sunder describes the people who work in sales at GSK as thriving on the energy of being in front of their customers and closing deals.  The pandemic lockdown took that away from them.  At the same time the business needed to completely recalibrate how they went to market and approached sales.  In this episode, Sunder describes how his team addressed the priorities of employee wellbeing and business continuity in this environment.

They had invested in their learning technology architecture so were well-positioned to support learning in the digital environment.  Even so, they needed to make a shift from digital as a bolt-on to digital-first.  Their approach evolved as the business environment shifted and lockdown extended to ensure that they kept employees engaged with learning and supported rapid reskilling, as well as being ready for the eventual easing of restrictions.  While not the only design approach used, this is an excellent example of how game mechanics can effectively engage people and build collaboration and teamwork – so long as it is linked to meaningful activities.

We also discuss how the learning team supported and collaborated with managers and leaders to figure out how to effectively lead and communicate online – from motivational sales meetings to one-on-one coaching.

This is a success story from COVID era that illustrates the value of investing in the mindset, skillset and toolset of your Learning and Development team.

Episode Highlights

– The threat that lockdown posed to the employee value proposition and wellbeing of the sales team members.

– Taking an integrated approach to address the challenges of employee wellbeing and engagement in parallel with business continuity and recalibrating how GSK engaged their customers.

– Moving beyond ‘drinking from the content hosepipe’ to virtual tournaments using game mechanics in a thoughtful, meaningful way, and anchored on the enterprise social network.

– Virtual tournament design using pit stops with a wide range of digitally supported learning and performance activities that continued to evolve in response to emerging learning needs.  Ensuring that it was a ‘team sport.’

– Continually evolving the approach as lockdown extended and business needs shifted to move on to a virtual coaching clinic, then virtual board games. The need to continue innovating, avoid fatigue and maintain engagement.

– How data was used to monitor engagement and meaningful enablement.

– Moving learning strategy from digital as a bolt-on to digital-first.

–Looking at the entire enterprise technology ecosystem to make more thoughtful decisions about what to use to enable learning and performance.

–How strong organisational stakeholder management allowed the learning function to move quickly.

–Conducting panel discussions with industry colleagues to share experience and look for interesting solutions.  Using them as a ‘board of personal advisors.’

–Supporting and collaborating with leaders and managers to figure out how to lead and communicate effectively online from motivational sales meetings to one-on-one coaching.

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Full Episode

Listen to the full episode and access transcript and additional resources on the podcast website or your favourite podcast platform.

Have you been listening to the Learning Uncut Emergent series?

I invited co-hosts Laura Overton and Shannon Tipton to create the special Learning Uncut Emergent series with me to explore the shifts in business underway right now and implications for Learning and Development.  Since late June we’ve published two episodes every second week to explore how L&D can emerge stronger from the pandemic.  Our guests have included senior Learning Leaders inside organisations including PwC, Novartis, Astra Zeneca, ANZ Bank, Delta Airlines and Bosch.   We’ve paired them up with experts from other parts of the global L&D community including technology organisations, content providers, strategic consultants and community managers.  You can access all of the Emergent episodes and associated resources in this curated collection.

Last week we published the seventeenth episode in the series.  It’s time to identify and discuss key themes from this special series.  Look out for posts from Laura, Shannon and myself on LinkedIn inviting you to share your thoughts on themes and practical ideas for L&D to become more relevant and effective than ever.  We’ll publish our wrap-up episodes in late October.

After that, we’ll invite you to join us for a series of online workshops in February / March 2021 to identify practical actions and next steps arising from the Emergent series.

Join the Conversation online

You can join in the conversation about all Learning Uncut episodes on LinkedIn and Twitter using the hashtag #LearningUncut.

Follow Michelle Ockers on LinkedIn to have posts about the podcast and other contemporary organisational learning topics appear in your feed.  Have a question for a guest?  Post it in the comments below the episode post and tag them.

Learning Uncut has accounts on Twitter and Instagram. Find and follow them at @learninguncut.


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