The Future of L&D in the New Normal — In conversation with Alina Rusu
Alina Rusu is the Founder and Learning & Development Director of Business Academia — a Singapore-based firm that helps client organisations implement customer centric learning and digital strategies to boost productivity and efficiency.
I had the privilege to learn from Alina how she has been supporting firms since COVID-19 hit, and her thoughts on the Future of Learning & Development.
Listen to what we spoke about:
Business Academia can help your organisation’s L&D efforts
To learn more about Business Academia’s Customer Experience Management (“CXM”) programme and to connect with Alina for your organisation’s Learning & Development needs that are Just-in-Time, Just-In-Time, Just-For-You, visit: https://www.businessacademia.co .
For a preview, check out Business Academia’s learning modules that you can Remix directly into your ArcLab dashboard here: https://builder.arclab.io/discover .
Here’s the transcript of my conversation with Alina:
James: I’m delighted to speak with Ms Alina Rusu, Founder and Learning & Development Director of Business Academia — on the Future of Learning & Development in our New Normal.
Alina is an entrepreneur, based in Singapore and hailing from Italy. She has extensive professional experience in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and was part of several Global Project Management teams in Fortune 500 companies: enabling sales growth, a customer centric culture and organisations’ Digital Transformation. Alina had worked in Vodafone, Randstad, Adecco and Club Med, before founding Business Academia in 2018.
Alina is curious about future trends, innovation, quantum mechanics (of which I know nothing about) and a passionate Science Fiction reader.
Alina — Thank you for joining us today!
Could you tell us more about Business Academia and the work you do?
Alina: We focus on three verticals:
1. Learning programmes: design and deploy learning programmes for corporate and higher education institutions in Asia Pacific and globally.
2. Business consultancy: we are diagnosing, following up and coaching professionals and MBA students
3. Innovation and Leadership: which we want to reactivate once air travel is back again. This is because we work with our business partners and we bring leaders from corporate companies from Europe to Singapore to learn from Singapore as a smart city. They can learn about the our fintech Landscape, innovation and disruption in the financial world, mobility, energy, green architecture, waste management etc.
In your training work, what are some of the specific courses that you run for organisations?
Alina: We run a customer experience management training. We are very happy and delighted that our Customer Experience Management programme (“CXM”) is subsidised by Singapore Government agencies: IMDA and SkillsFuture Singapore with 70% up to 90% support for Singaporeans and PRs.
We are running this for organisations in Singapore, across Asia-Pacific and worldwide. We are very proud of this CXM programme that the government has subsidised, which will run till 2022 with government subsidies.
Apart from that, we help organisations to solve their most urgent business problems with design thinking and agility sprints in order to accelerate their growth.
We also teach soft skill training such as negotiation skills, emotional intelligence at work, sales, business development and so on.
COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. How has your training approach changed in the last 6 months?
Alina: We are looking into tech components in our learning programmes. Including nano learning, mobile learning, bite size learning, interactive tools and everything we can use to make the learning journey enjoyable. That’s why with the current situation, we accelerate that tech component alongside what we have already designed for our learning programme.
We are answering a question “how to keep people engaged while in front of a computer for a long time?” We took the inspiration from movies — how and why a person should be stuck in front of a device for more than 2 hours. We took that question and worked backwards to see what sort of components, including tech, can we put inside the learning programmes to make it enjoyable.
How do you now assess learning, given you typically aren’t able to be in the same room as learners? Any specific tools that you use?
Alina: We have an interesting combination of pre-course and post-course assessment strategy
We include a lot of hands on practical assignments that we design even before the training or workshop starts. We are not waiting for the programme to end, but to encourage this practice, as well as experiential learning
On top of that, we use the ArcLab platform -launching ArcLab modules in 2 sequences, one before the training starts and the second during or at the end of the learning programme.
We use data and we observe the results from the practical workshops and exercises in order to understand the progress for both online and offline trainings. We measure in terms of percentage, how many of the learners have improved, in terms of knowledge, concepts and application.
After extracting the data from ArcLab, it is really impressive the amount of insights we can get. We also start to get qualitative conversation especially on the follow up and coaching sessions and suggest where are the areas that can be improved. To that, we encourage a lifelong learning attitude.
Could you share who are some of the client organisations that you serve, and a little more about digital and ‘virtual’ training that you now do for them?
Alina: We are running a lot of the customer experience management trainings for the organisations we work with, thanks to SkillsFuture supporting us.
We have human design thinking workshops, sprints and agility, emotional intelligence and soft skills. From there, we go into coaching sessions, follow-ups, implementations and so many more.
We work across industries, e.g. from telecommunications to consumer goods to airports, university, media and cable industries.
It is not important for us to position ourselves in a specific industry because our program supports the implementation of an entire structure, when we talk about people, processes, tools. Instead, we are positioning ourselves as collectors of business intelligence tools. So we collect the hottest and coolest business intelligence platforms. That’s why we are teaching ourselves a lot about what’s out there and we extract the easiest, most impactful and the most cost saving platforms. We do that and simplify it for our customers. So they have access to a list of providers they can look into and adapt as tools.
What are some of the key trends that you see in your work, that you think has gone on an irreversible course since COVID-19?
Alina: In L&D, the integration of online and offline is going to stay. It is as relevant as it is for the retail or F&B industry. The integration of these two will definitely stay. But when it comes to human interaction, it is very important. We need to understand how to balance that according to what is permitted.
Data is very important as it is no longer based on putting as much content out there as possible and hoping that our people/colleagues can assimilate it. But we need to look into cleaning, analysing, extracting the insides of the data in order to understand where we stay, where we should be, what should be done to reach that point.
We need to enabling a proactive culture, lifelong learning culture. This is an ongoing and relevant trend.
If you look at L&D prior to what’s happening today, you could notice more organisation would run by reacting to what is happening. So they would have skills or suggestions or behaviour that they would encourage the companies to look into. The learners would have catalogs to choose from that the topics they would think is more relevant to them.
This makes sense for a while, but now I am actually looking into trends and trying to get a competitive advantage to understand what are the skills that are necessary today and tomorrow so i can support my people to go towards that path.
What’s next for Business Academia?
Alina: We are working hard with our learning programme to enable organisation in their transformation journey and to support their teams altogether to work together to make things happen
We hope to reactivate the innovation and leadership programme to learn about the awesome things about the cities of the future.
We are working on projects e.g. a mobile app that supports people that have been made redundant and those that are without a job, to exchange their skills that are relevant in the workplace.
Thank you so much for spending time with us today. Before we end off, can you share some tips on what companies need to do, to equip their workforces to be ready for our Digital Future?
Alina: Keep it simple and enjoyable. A lot of people or colleagues might be scared of turning to digital completely. Even though there might be a lot going on out there, we might underestimate the power of resistance.
Support your people with JUST-IN-TIME, JUST-ENOUGH and JUST-FOR-YOUR-LEARNERS sort of journey.
We are no longer as L&D professionals reacting to what’s going on, we are proactively opening the learning library to our learners. The L&D department becomes a part of the operation so it is not the one that has the key to the learning library but enables everyone in the organisations to adopt this lifelong learning culture and be always on top of the game to stay relevant because everyone is replaceable.