Practitioners Perspectives // February 02,2023

If the vision is set & learning encouraged, possibilities are limitless: Words of wisdom from a learning leader

Featuring: Nakkeeran Thangiah , Chief Learning Officer, Tube Investments of India Limited
Curator: Bhuvana Rajaram


Nakkeeran Thangiah Chief Learning Officer, Tube Investments of India Limited
Curator: Bhuvana Rajaram

How can organizations bring about a culture of continuous learning?

See learning is integral to an organization. If it is to be part of the cultural fabric of an organization, it must be emphasized by the Executive Management. They must include it as part of the vision of the organization and go full throttle to initiate necessary measures to put them into actions. It is not enough if the importance is penned down in fancy vision/mission documents but a conscious effort to build an eco-system of learning will be the key.

What specific measures can organizations adopt to build this culture?

There are several aspects to this, but the salient being:

A Learning Governance Council can be formed that includes business leaders and learning heads. This council must look at learning and its impact from different angles and bring about a suite of programs within the organization.

Some of the trends they will have to meticulously look into will be the learning architecture, trends that are evolving, what kind of ROIs should be considered, how to cater to millennials, how to integrate technology smartly into learning programs, how can learning be made more interesting, is it just in time learning, how can we engage globally and culturally diverse employees, so the list is endless. But if an organized approach is introduced that has most of the above points inbuilt and shared across the organization as a top-down approach, then learning can be a potential differentiator for any organization.

How can we maximize learning with limited budgets?

When it comes to learning, it is not always a cost overhead. We can create wonders with a small budget and a frugal mindset. Millennial minds are creating new apps, there are so many free tools available, I am confident of providing 5-star service for a 3-star price with limited resources and with an experimental approach. And again, I hark back to the culture aspect within the organization, if the vision is set and the learning department is encouraged, possibilities are limitless.

Fortunately for me though our organization is a legacy one, they have a strong passion for learning. And even during the recession we never cut down on our learning budgets and invested in people development. And for legacy organizations to reposition them to the current trends, they will have to do 3 primary things:

  1. Unfreezing (unlearning)
  2. Implementation (execution)
  3. Reinforcement (continuity)


There is reverse mentoring as well. No longer age and wisdom is synonymous with learning”

What are the specific changes in the learning space?

  • One major change is the autonomy of the learners. They have a plethora of options to learn from
  • Social media has opened innumerable avenues for learning and knowledge gathering. And they are largely influenced by their peers.
  • And there is reverse mentoring as well. No longer age and wisdom is synonymous with learning, millennials being mentors is also happening. Everybody learns from everybody these days.
  • Micro learning or learning nuggets are building traction.
  • There is speed coaching with high-gain questions keeping in mind the agile scenario we operate in.

What are the future trends in learning?

Fluid thinking is something that will come up in a big way. There is no longer one correct approach or view. The embracing of contradictory points of view will be the future. Learning no longer is black or white, the grey aspect of it will need to be addressed as well.

How can we address knowledge retention?

  • This is a very interesting aspect, the better the packaging of learning content the more retention. Anything that is in story mode, gamified and capsuled, with acronyms, cue cards and pop ups will have an impact on the learner.
  • Importantly if any learning program can address the fundamental question of – What’s in it for me? Then retention will be a natural outcome.
  • In fact we are exploring an option – where with a question each day to every employee we get to know the mood of the employee. The collated data will provide psychological profiling of every employee which is available as heat maps to the executive management. And we are looking to tag programs accordingly.
  • One Point of Learning where reinforcement happens in a topic to ensure stickiness of the subject. And various touchpoints can be provided for the same topic ensuring retention.Accountability Partner is another aspect where you can tie the learner to another who will monitor the progress of the learner.

 How can we address knowledge application?

The more learning program are tied to requirements the better the application will be. However, incentivizing can help and recognizing the learner is also some of the positive ways of ensuring application of knowledge. A problem bank can be created and learning programs can be tied to it. This will ensure learning addresses a problem and naturally application will be immediate and tangible.

Is technology-based learning the way forward?

Agree, technology will be the Tsunami that will take us all with it. And organizations will have to integrate it neatly into their learning programs and offer a multidimensional experience to learners. But this said nothing can replace the human aspect. So, we are already seeing trends such as going back to boardgames, and games that we used to play as children. What I think is, modernizing and incorporating some of our traditional games that we have inherited as part of culture can make a big difference.  

How can learning outcomes be measured?

Metrics can be one way of looking at it, but that may not be a realistic view. We have to scout for the value that learning delivers, has it helped him/her learn something new, has it helped them widen their knowledge horizons, has it helped them delve deeper into the subject, has it created a spark in them to continue their learning and finally of course have they transformed into better performers and contribute to organization growth. These are vital for me.

What are the challenges of a CLO? How is it addressed?

As a CLO, I cannot let go for even a minute. Because the learning space and technology is evolving so fast that I must keep on learning, reinventing, innovating and be in tune with times and trends.

Learners of today demand variety, novelty, excitement and the organizations need return of learning investments. So, an efficient CLO is someone who balances both and be open and flexible to bring in other partners to co create curriculum and learning experiences. Today it is a specialized field and experts must be introduced and CLOs cannot afford to be threatened.



Chief Learning Officer, Tube Investments of India Limited

Catching up with Nakkeeran is simple and easy, his accessibility, amiable manners, humility and the smile that I hear in his voice as we made the introductions spoke volumes of his leadership demeanour. Is this not what we expect from leaders all the time? And I was fortunate enough to get an hour of his time where he walked me through the importance of learning, the trends, its types and the future of learning.

Nakkeeran tells us how enterprise learning is integral and how it forms the culture of an organization. From catering to millennials, leveraging technology and providing viable learning solutions on a limited budget, a whole spectrum of concepts under the learning umbrella is discussed. Importantly, he makes us think on how learning is tied to business outcomes and can be aligned to application at work.

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