“It is important that people understand they can ‘reach’ their potential with our help, so that Godel, among other things, is perceived as a company with a strong Learning & Development function,” – To celebrate International Teacher’s Day, we spoke with Head of L&D Vera Dudochkina about why companies need a ‘learning culture’, why it is important for each employee to reveal their creative potential, and what opportunities Godel has for this.

Let’s start from the very beginning. How was Learning & Development created? Why does Godel need it?

As the company grew, various practices of training, development, and knowledge sharing appeared. The Learning & Development function was created in 2015 with the other functions when the company decided to change its structure. At first, it existed only within divisions. A few years later, the function, which was originally called Education, had a leader – a lot of things were happening inside each division, and a person was needed to act as a coordinator, providing a strategic focus, bringing everything into a single system. Initially, there was no professional in the field of Learning & Development within the company – this is a separate area that requires certain skills and competencies.

Over time, it became necessary to develop a course for Talent Managers – there were more and more of them, and we needed to train them professionally. The expertise and resources came along with the introduction of the Head of Education role.

Why was Education function finally renamed?

The function was renamed last year. There is an international standard of direction related to training and development. Education is only part of what we mean by Learning and Development. If we are talking about learning culture in a global sense, then the name Education does not reflect the whole process. Global learning and development is not just about organising educational events. The bottom line is that people constantly grow, develop their skills and potential – this allows the company to become more adaptive, flexible, open to a constantly changing market.

We need to develop a learning culture – a type of corporate culture in which constant learning, growth, and improvement are considered the highest value. To show that we are focused not only on educational activities, but also on a strong learning culture, it was decided to rename the function to Learning & Development.

How is learning culture realised in Godel?

There is a permanent team that drives the Learning & Development processes, and sets a strategy based on the needs of the company. Each division has its own function representative. Learning activities are not only training, but also retrospectives on projects that help the company get new experience, analyse mistakes, and evaluate growth. This is another element of learning culture: it includes openness, willingness to experiment, use of new systems and tools.

One more important element of the learning culture is that any employee can teach others and learn themselves. Everyone can share knowledge, skills, and best practices organise their own educational events. This works even if a person does not have certain knowledge. In this case, you can become a coach in any area – in the L&D function there is a course of coaches. We are actively developing a soft skills programme – if you want to become a coach, we invite you to participate. We continue to attract the resources of Godel divisions – the practice is successful; the guys help us conduct lectures and training. For example, courses for Talent Managers are taught by Agile Delivery Coordinators and Business Analysts. The course will be of interest to colleagues who are ready to work with the audience. A person learns to be a business coach, takes a topic, focuses on it and then specializes in it – shares knowledge, runs sessions for employees.

Do the new coaches go through the knowledge assessment? How can you check that they have enough expertise?

There are different approaches to assessing knowledge. An employee may have an established reputation, everyone knows him as a strong professional, he has proven himself well on the project – in this case, you do not need to prove anything. The Talent Management function is responsible for assessing the skills and experience of colleagues – recommendations, feedback from colleagues, division leaders speak for themselves.

If we talk about training in the field of soft skills, it is good when it read by employees who have already recommended themselves as strong leaders. In general, the situation is complicated – it is impossible to be an expert in all soft skills, to use all of them in practice, you need to be a superman. Soft skills are built on emotional intelligence, which is transformed throughout life. It is impossible to finish this process because we constantly interact with people and develop our strategic thinking. You can learn a huge number of techniques, be efficient, and still make the wrong decisions from time to time. Looking for a super expert in this area does not make sense. To be a soft skills course trainer, it is important to have the desire to develop, to be a strong performer, to study the topic.

If there is a lack of trainers among the employees, could the function invite experts from outside?

A good learning strategy is based on a balance of external and internal learning. No company, as it develops, growing to several hundred, thousands, tens of thousands of employees, can do without the involvement of outside experts. A provider can be invited if there are no internal resources for conducting a one-time course, for which it is not worth hiring a specialist on staff. It is easier to buy a programme and send an employee for training.

What initiatives of L&D functions are most attractive for Godel employees?

Meetups and hackathons are still the most popular activities – these are social learning events where people communicate to each other, run knowledge sharing sessions, organise networks. To get involved in L&D function as a course trainer or mentor, you need to have time, because you are working on the project. Someone is interested in being a speaker, someone is a mentor, someone wants to work with materials, someone wishes to coordinate trainings, run long-term Mastery programs.

In addition to training programs, we have services. One of them is a facilitation service where you can come and ask to facilitate your meeting. The external facilitator learns the request, looks at what the team wants to achieve, sets goals, designs the meeting.

What courses are more effective – online or offline?

There isn’t correct answer to this question. It depends on the purpose and circumstances. Each of these formats has its pros and cons. The offline format used to be more convenient. However, it also has some limitations. Now a flexible hybrid model that combines two formats is the most effective is.

How can an employee join the function?

Employees can contact their Talent Managers or Heads of L&D within the divisions. I communicate directly with division managers and heads of the function. We focus on attracting as many people as possible from different locations – Godel is growing as an international company that connects everyone. The plans are to translate programmes into English, soon we will start it with the Talent Management course, ADC Bootscamp has been already translated. All programmes that come out now are originally in English. We will try to mix groups – in Russian and English. Possibly, we will completely turn to the English language. Thanks to this, the division by country in the team will gradually disappear, and it will be easier to get involved in training.

Let’s talk about the online library which you have initiated in the function.

On the internal portal of the L&D function there is an online library with e-books on technical and software skills, as well as on management. When we launched the tech lead training program, we offered participants a list of recommended readings that we added to the online library. When creating a course, they attached a link – you can follow it and see the books you need. When I ran webinars on personal and professional growth (by the way, I plan to resume them soon), I recommended literature with which each participant could dive into the topic. Now the library has a couple of hundred books, and we do not stop there, we will continue to expand it.

Do the offline libraries in the locations help with learning and development?

They already exist, but from my point of view, offline libraries are created just for the offices’ vibes. Most people read e-books – we do not place a special emphasis on offline libraries. Since we started talking about literature, I can’t help but mention the Godel book club – the initiative existed at different stages of the company’s growth, there were sessions: the guys chose books on management, got together and discussed interesting points.

What are your future plans?

Our plans are awesome and diverse. Recently we held a strategy session, which was attended by CTO, VPs, heads of the divisions and L&D heads. We collected business priorities and assessed our concerns and plans. Now the function is at an interesting stage: strategies are being revised, changing along with the direction in which the company is developing. The priorities that existed before are partially becoming irrelevant.

The function plans are to continue to support Mastery’s programs. There should be a balance of Seniors, Middles and Juniors – it’s not good when there are only Juniors in the company, and not better when there are only Leads and Seniors. The balance of expertise of employees at different levels ensures harmony in the work of the company.

We have launched a program for tech leads, which we plan to continue to work on – it plays an important technical role, about a hundred people will visit it. Both current tech leads and Seniors who have the potential and desire to improve themselves in a leadership direction while remaining developers can get into training. In this case, leadership and soft skills, the ability to organize work with a team come to the fore.

We want to develop a culture of coaching. Separate elements of coaching already exist in Godel. There have been several cases where people have come up with requests for training. We understood that not training, but coaching is suitable for them. There are people in the company who have passed certified training in this area – we also attract them. A course on coaching for People Partners has already started.

A big focus will be on the development of soft skills – they will be open in all locations and divisions. With the growth of Godel, the e-learning direction will develop – the first steps were taken when the company implemented the LMS Moodle.

What is LMS?

The Learning Management System is a platform without any content where you can upload your material and thus create e-courses. This year we started working with the Go1 platform of a global Australian provider. This is a content platform that already has ready-made electronic courses from 200 providers including such leaders as Skillsoft, Pluralsight, etc. You can also upload your programmes here and supplement existing courses with your own materials. The employee can independently go through them at any time. We bought a platform for our key projects – tech leads, Talent Managers will study through it. Our soft skills training will also take place through Go1.

Go1 is an integrator platform that does not write its own courses but collects programs from hundreds of other providers. Instead of running after each of them yourself and choosing a course, you can come to one platform where there are a hundred thousand pieces of content and choose what suits you. .NET division bought the Pluralsight accounts for the Mastery interns. The other divisions may also purchase such platforms for their technical skills.

How does the introduction of such platforms change the approach to the learning process?

We are moving towards blended learning. There is a combination of several formats, online and group sessions led by a trainer. Gradually we are moving away from lectures – the guys go to the platform, take an electronic course, read the material that we post there. E-learning courses can be interactive – you can do assignments, take part in role play, you may be asked to solve a case study, take a test. Having completed self-training on the platform and having received a theoretical base, you come to group sessions – practice-oriented workshops with discussions and exercises to consolidate new knowledge.

This format makes the learning process more fun: people want to practice, discuss, solve problems, play, communicate – social learning is important. Lectures take a lot of time and resources, but only 20-30% of the material is remembered from such presentation of information.

What is the most important task for L&D function now?

The main goal is to develop a learning culture. I have a vision of how Godel receives international recognition as the best learning organisation, which uses world best practices. To realise it we should do a lot, however, this vision drives and inspires me.

People should understand that they can realise their creative potential with our help so that Godel is perceived as a company with a strong Learning & Development function. Whatever products or services a company sells – hot dogs or technologies – people with their skills, expertise and potential always stand behind the product. L&D is one of the functions which helps company to create terms in order for the employees to fulfil their potential. A company contributes to the development of society due to its human resources.

It is important that Learning & Development opportunities are open and accessible to everyone. So that every Godel employee can say: “Yes, I have all the learning opportunities here.” Another global goal of L&D is to cover all roles and locations through online platforms, trainings, knowledge sharing sessions. Every employee is important – if you are in Godel, you are valuable to the company and you should have the opportunity for full development.