How well is Cognizant preparing the next generation of technology professionals with future-ready digital capabilities?

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Cognizant is expanding its learning and development programs to hone talent in future-ready digital capabilities and hone the leadership pipeline. Felix Weitzman, SVP and Chief HR Operations Officer, Cognizant provided an in-depth overview of how Cognizant works.

1. How does Cognizant develop its learning and development program?

At Cognizant, we put people first in everything we do, and we’re proud to offer even more game-changing learning and development (L&D) opportunities to help our people stay among the top talent ready to go. the future and to drive innovation for our customers.

We are expanding our training and development programs to hone talent in future-ready digital capabilities and refine our pipeline of leaders. We already have a solid catalog with tens of thousands of learning resources. This year, we added over 8,000 new learning resources and 550 learning paths through digital skills and professional development support. We’ve integrated 30 new hands-on virtual labs for our associates to practice hands-on tasks.

2. Can you name a few key programs that Cognizant has run as part of the company’s training and development program and share details about them?

The competitive advantage we bring to our customers has always been rooted in the high value we place on continuous learning. Our L&D programs include various training opportunities, digital leadership programs, customized leadership development initiatives and leadership transition programs to enable our associates to take on leadership roles.

To name a few: to help new associates successfully transition into their roles, our onboarding experience helps our talent engage effectively in a new environment, new role and new relationships. For high-potential middle managers, we offer our LEADER@Cognizant program that was exclusively designed in partnership with Harvard Business Publishing. We also have our feminist leadership initiative, Propel, to accelerate a diverse leadership pipeline.

3. Do you have an industrial partner to develop these training programs and their curriculum?

Learning partnerships with world-renowned technology organizations and educational institutions have always been part of our portfolio, and we are deepening these relationships to provide associates with additional opportunities for growth, development and leadership. These include programs we offer in conjunction with Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP and ServiceNow, and leading global educational institutions such as Harvard Business Publishing, Duke University , INSEAD, Chicago Business School, Indian School of Business.

Upon completion of a partner training program, associates receive certifications of completion and digital badges that they are encouraged to share with their networks and customers.

4. What has been the impact of these initiatives?

From on-campus on-the-job training for the entry-level workforce to providing capability assurance programs for professional practitioners, our skills ecosystem provides growth for associates at all levels. Developing new digital skills and leadership capability supports career growth, internal talent movement, and brings seasoned Cognizant associates to new ventures. In the past year alone, we have tripled job promotions (2021 vs. 2020) and facilitated tens of thousands of job moves to higher positions for our associates in 40 countries.

In 2021 alone, Cognizant trained over 150,000 associates in digital skills such as cloud, AI, ML, IoT, analytics, and automation. We plan to increase the number of qualified associates this year through new learning opportunities – from leadership training and technical certifications to expertise in advanced digital technologies.

Our approach to talent development is a key differentiator and has been recognized by leading training and development organizations (40 Brandon Hall Awards and four ATD Excellence in Practice Awards).

5. What tools are used for these training programs?

Alongside our self-directed learning resources, we take a human-centered design approach to learning and blend the right proportion of technology and human interaction to help our associates unlock their full potential. We have invested heavily in the technology ecosystem to deliver immersive learning experiences.

This includes improvements to learning content (type, access, curation and delivery), assessments, mentoring and coaching, collaboration, resources, governance platforms and overall learning experience . This also includes cloud labs and simulations, AI/ML to personalize learning recommendations and at scale. We are increasingly focusing on playful learning, especially among our frontline leaders. Of course, our learning experience is seamless and easily accessible anywhere, anytime for our associates.

In 2021, for example, we launched a cloud lab to provide associates with on-demand, hands-on learning, and MyLearningStudio, an in-house learning experience platform. We hit 5.8 million views on over 190,000 learning resources on these platforms, and counting.

6. Are these training programs tailored to different roles and geographies? If yes, how ?

We have dedicated L&D professionals in all geographies who work to assess customer needs and technology trends, and use innovative, forward-looking design to customize and curate high-demand L&D offerings.

All training programs have fixed learning objectives and expected performance outcomes. However, there are various learning methodologies that we use to suit different preferences or needs.

For example, some associates may prefer structured self-paced learning in the form of micro-modules that can be leveraged while travelling, while others may prefer to complete the program via an eight-hour dedicated instructor-led course. Such flexibility is built into the design of the program, while ensuring skill acquisition.

If necessary, we also integrate the module into an existing training program according to the characteristics of the learner. Examples are bridging or retraining programs for associates returning from a long leave or for lateral hires.

7. Can you share the details and impact of the company’s LEAD@Cognizant program?

At Cognizant, we accelerate the nurturing of high-performing, high-potential leaders through personalized assessments, executive coaching, and executive education. Our LEAD@Cognizant program for high-potential middle managers was exclusively designed in partnership with Harvard Business Publishing to empower leaders to lead and thrive in the digital economy.

The 4.5-month, three-module curriculum aligns with our leadership themes: Lead Boldly, Partner Powerfully, and Inspire Performance. Our people participate in sessions with Harvard professors and Cognizant business leaders, simulations and a Leadership Capstone Challenge. Today, more than 600 leaders have participated in LEAD@Cognizant.

8. Is the hybrid work environment a challenge to train/improve employee skills? If so, how do you counter that?

At Cognizant, we believe the future of work is about providing the flexibility to work where our people work best. A hybrid model defines our approach to work.

To ensure we deliver effective and engaging learning, regardless of workplace, we have evolved elements of our talent development programs, such as the ability to remotely monitor assessments, setting up labs cloud-based for hands-on labs and case study submissions, using video platforms to conduct interviews, and increasing the use of social tools like Yammer and Microsoft Teams to form groups, search for feedback, boost engagement, quick knowledge check, and more.

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