A regular keynote speaker at international events, Simon Brown is the Chief Learning Officer at Novartis, a global healthcare company that uses innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments. He is also the Global Head of the Novartis Learning Council, consistently ranked among the world's top companies investing in research and development.
Under his leadership, the company is redefining the way they foster learning for over 125,000 employees. He is actively playing a part in enabling personnel effectiveness via talent acceleration, leadership programs and making the workforce adept in digital learning.
Prior to his position in Novartis, Simon served as a commercially-minded learning leader across renowned organizations, such as Lloyds Banking Group, Accenture, HSBC, Brightwave, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is also an author of Amazon's 2020-hot new release, 'The Curious Advantage.'
In an interview with HR Tech Outlook, Simon highlights the significance of modern technological advancements in enhancing employee learning and engagement.
In light of your experience, what do you say about the emerging technologies that drive the employee education?
The past few decades have seen a lot of learning advancements serving the quest to enhance employees' lives. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) helps learners by creating personalized learning opportunities. Leveraging it with the right learning management system provides employees a cost-effective way to gain knowledge and learn on-demand.
I consider the learning experience platforms as a major part of employee learning. And then, there is a broad array of learning technologies, namely podcasts, audiobooks, e-books, video platforms, interactive tools, and sophisticated content-based virtual reality games. Fortunately, we are able to leverage those interesting developments.
Further, people are becoming more familiar with technologies like Zoom and MS Teams in the wake of the COVID pandemic. These tools are best suited for employee training and meetings even with senior executives who cannot afford the time to attend them in a face-to-face environment. This has led to the rapid adoption of these synchronous learning platforms among other virtual tools for building a valuable learning ecosystem.
What would you say about the best solution offerings that would foster learning among employees?
Having many years of experience in the field, we have unboxed our cultural aspiration of hundred hours of learning per year, which attracts most folks to join us. The opportunities to learn and develop are the one prominent reason for it.
Personally, I am committed to creating a culture where employees can learn curiously. We have the best-in-class learning management system, learning experience platform, talent marketplace, and human capital management system integrated using a common language. For an employee to choose any learning platform or solution, a clear vision of making the right choices in their best interests is paramount.
"Companies must have a clear focus on integrating different learning systems and platforms to help employees"
Moreover, we have been building a learning infrastructure and an ecosystem that would ensure proper communication among employees. Our personalized learning tools and technologies encourage them to ultimately increase their performance and engagement.
What are some projects or initiatives that you have leveraged to impact employee learning?
Right from 2018, we have been dedicated to conducting events that support and drive employees' curiosity. Our reach was higher than expected in the pandemic, with various learning events for nearly 20,000 associates entailing over 60,000 learning hours. Employees were celebrating these great curiosity events throughout the year.
Based on the overwhelming feedback, we currently created #CuriousTogether campaign and introduced a range of webinars on different topics to inspire people's curiosity and learning abilities. As a result, the average 22.6 hours of learning that an employee took with us in 2018 doubled in 2020. This showcases our value towards employee learning.
How do you envision the future of employee learning and engagement?
Companies must have a clear focus on integrating different learning systems and platforms to help employees. This would ultimately provide a positive and joined-up user experience to engage more people.
From a technology perspective, I think AI can become more interesting in terms of adaptive learning, like an AI coach. It would help employees in cutting down the complexity around different use cases. In line with these, VR would be adopted in a broader remit than we have seen in the past. One of our manufacturing training outlet flourishes with greater use of VR. Beyond that, we would see widespread adoption of specializations within learning environments over the coming years as well.
What would be the single piece of advice you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field?
The one thing that I have always focused on at Novartis is to understand what value learning can help in our organization. Especially, one must address their company strategy and shape the learning efforts to deliver employees the best possible learning. The other thing is around keeping track of data. It is highly necessary to be mindful of maintaining sound data, and thereby one can identify what's really going on within the company.