Airtel is the third largest mobile operator in the world in terms of subscribers and one of India’s top providers. With a strong presence across the country and a large business portfolio that spans both B2C and B2B services and solutions, Airtel employs over 15,000 employees in a variety of roles. As its employees’ role profiles, and therefore learning needs, are extremely diverse and dynamic, Airtel began exploring the world of online learning in 2016.

After a rigorous assessment of all the online learning solution providers at that time, Artel chose LinkedIn Learning based on the relevancy of its content, mobile accessibility, positive feedback from early adopters and competitive pricing. Four years on, the company is seeing remarkable engagement with 100% monthly activation rates and 52% monthly repeat learners - but this success was not built overnight.

Shifting mindsets and behaviours
When Airtel first introduced online learning, its employees simply weren’t interested. Vishal Choudhary, Head Learning Operations & Head-HR Kerala and Tamil Nadu, shared that it was partly because employees had come to enjoy the real-time interaction that synchronous, instructor-led training offers.

To address this, Airtel embarked on what was essentially a full change management programme with the aim of demonstrating the value that employees would gain from anywhere, anytime learning with LinkedIn Learning. Recognising that resistance to change often stems from inertia and wariness of the unfamiliar, the Airtel team used a ‘push’ and ‘pull’ method to get employees to experience online learning for themselves. 

The ‘pull’ took many forms, including a dedicated learning hour every Friday when employees were encouraged to log into LinkedIn Learning. The team also organised games, contests and even a learning marathon to build excitement and buzz. Early adopters were recruited as change agents and their success stories were shared to inspire others. At the same time, the team incorporated a ‘push’ by assigning LinkedIn Learning courses to specific employee groups as part of their learning journey. Down the road, Airtel also began sharing learning dashboards by geographic region. For managers and leaders, these dashboards offer a useful snapshot of their teams’ Learning & Development (L&D) progress.

Thanks to these efforts, sustained over time, online learning has become a habit for many Airtel employees. Now, the team’s focus is on maintaining momentum and deepening engagement.

Anusha Rahinwal, Airtel’s Learning & Development Partner, said, “Ongoing communication helps us ensure that learning continues to be top of the mind for our people. In addition to regular, company-wide learning reminders, we also segment our communications. To promote a new digital skills programme, for example, we would target our digital employees.”

This commitment to targeted relevance also drives a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts. To develop role-specific learning journeys, Airtel goes through a rigorous process of identifying relevant skills and mapping these not only to relevant LinkedIn Learning courses but also to different skill proficiency levels.

The COVID-19 disruption
On 25 March 2020, India went into a nationwide lockdown. As streets were emptied out in a preventive measure to break the COVID-19 chain of transmission, 15,000 Airtel employees were instructed to stay home. While its office-based employees adapted to work-from-home arrangements, Airtel’s field workers faced a very different reality. 

“This was probably the first time in their lives where they literally didn’t know what to do with their time,” said Anusha. “Having LinkedIn Learning made a huge difference; it provided them with support.” 

Given Airtel’s ongoing efforts to sustain high levels of interest in learning, it is perhaps unsurprising that, in April 2020, the company recorded a historical high in terms of LinkedIn Learning activity:

  • 2x the number of learners logging in
  • 2.4x surge in the number of videos watched per learner
  • 35% increase in monthly repeat learners

“These numbers are very meaningful to us because they signal organisational resilience. They tell us that our employees are embracing learning as a form of motivation. Even in times of adversity, they are thinking of a better tomorrow and taking proactive steps to achieve positive outcomes for themselves,” said Samit. 

Adding on, Vishal said, “In that sense, you could say that COVID-19 was a disruption, but a positive disruption for us. It highlighted and reinforced our culture of learning.”

Now that Airtel’s offices have reopened and its employees are cautiously returning to their daily lives, LinkedIn Learning activity has normalised. For Samit, Vishal, Anusha and the rest of Airtel’s L&D team, however, the journey continues as they prepare Airtel and its employees to succeed in the new world of work. 

●  100% monthly activation rate1
●  52% monthly repeat learners2
●  78 video views per learners per month2

About Airtel

Employees: 14,500 
Headquarters: Gurgaon, Haryana
Industry: Telecommunications
Anusha Rahinwal
Vishal Choudhary