Now Streaming: Binge-Worthy Digital Corporate Learning Programs

Imagine getting immersed in your next corporate training program the same way you’ve binged watched your favorite Netflix series. That’s the kind of engaging employee training experience that startup Hardskills has created.

Unlike traditional formats that rely on talking head lectures, Hardskills training programs are more akin to cinematic productions, featuring professional directors and actors who replicate real-world situations culturally aligned to global audiences. The objective is to serve up personalized content that builds someone’s human skills. As digital natives increasingly dominate the workforce, it turns out that skills such as being open to new ideas, critical thinking, and influencing people are prized just as much as technical know-how in the enterprise arena.

“Our digital learning platform delivers the content, technology, administration, and metrics that provide personalized, interactive training for people to gain the behavioral and cognitive skills they need,” said Shoba  Purushothaman, co-founder and COO at Hardskills. “With data-driven assessments, we deliver personalized coaching based on the skills graph of each employee.”

High Training Completion Rates Generate ROI

Hardskills’ enviable 94% enrollee completion and certification rates translate to tenfold improvements in return on investment (ROI). Customers have improved practical behavioral skills, such as communication and time management, by 63% within three months. One global tech organization achieved 97% training program completion rates among thousands of employees in 40 countries. That’s pretty impressive considering typical online learning completion rates clock in at less than five percent.

“Customers find that employees can actually learn these skills quickly,” said Purushothaman. “This helps create a consistent set of operating behaviors because everyone is learning the same rules for open communication, time management, collaboration, professionalism, and more. In this way, we support the organization’s strategic growth initiatives.”

How to Scale Individualized Digital Learning

The curriculum consists of learning modules covering “high performance fundamentals,” which is available on the SAP Store. Employees learn a range of skills that typically do not make it into institutional classrooms. These include building the self-awareness to become more inclusive and open to ideas from people who thinking differently, or how to influence people who don’t report to you. A leadership program is under development.

“We track people’s progress in every module, and reach out to offer help if someone is lagging behind,” said Purushothaman. “We’ve won over skeptics who thought learning was confined to school. People of all ages tell us they’re able to manage bigger teams, yet spend fewer hours at work. Women especially are prioritizing more by learning how to say no. That’s one of our most popular modules.”

Next Era of Online Learning

Like her two co-founders, Purushothaman channeled her expertise in media and B2B marketing technology content into Hardskills.

“Our cool movie techniques and technology make the learning experience come alive,” she said. “We have fully interactive sessions with believable characters like the office underdog, bully, or annoying co-worker who takes credit for the work of others. People are drawn in to listen and learn because it’s persuasive storytelling. We contextualize modules around relatable, shared experiences such as sports and major world events.”

Born and raised in Malaysia to parents of Sri Lankan origin, Purushothaman absorbed the classic migrant ethos that education was the passport to life. She’s lived in seven countries and brings a global mindset to everything she has done.

“Although I never imagined I’d be living in America or building a company based out of Berlin and Singapore, where I am today is a natural combination of who I am and everything that I’ve done,” she said. “From being an outsider, I learned how to become an insider, be adaptable, and pick myself up.”

Innovation Partnership with SAP

Landing in Berlin, Germany, four years ago to establish Hardskill’s European present, it was not until her company’s inclusion in the SAP.iO No Boundaries initiative Future of Work cohort that Purushothaman jump-started her company’s next transformation. This cohort supported startups led by female and/or underrepresented founders.

“I didn’t resemble the typical entrepreneur at the time, so this was quite transformative,” she said. “Our network expanded immediately as we forged relationships with SAP’s marketing and product experts. People took our calls, and talked with us at meetings. We changed how we thought about our product and go to market strategy, iterating POCs based on expert recommendations. We even hired great people through SAP’s network.”

Today SAP is also a Hardskills customer. SAP Labs India has incorporated the startup’s training modules into the company’s strategic commitment to collaborative working. In addition, Hardskills is integrated with SAP SuccessFactors software.

“Our partnership with companies like Hardskills reflects SAP’s commitment to not only nurture a startup culture in our organization, but also foster co-innovation across our vibrant ecosystem,” said Sindhu Gangadharan, senior vice president of SAP User Enablement and managing director of SAP Labs India. “Providing guidance and mentoring on using the latest SAP technologies, we’re building the next generation of innovators who are helping our customers become intelligent enterprises.”

Online Learning Opens Career Opportunities

Since the first roll-outs of massive open online courses (MOOCs), online learning was touted as the democratization of education. Fast forward a few years, organizations have discovered employees need personalized training that will open doors to their next career opportunity.

As much as we prize technical knowledge, it’s the human skills that distinguish star performers.


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This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.