Translating curiosity into continuous learning – with Cognizant [PODCAST]

From technological advances to evolving customer demands, the workplace is changing. And the skills and knowledge organizations need to succeed are changing too. Find out how Stefaan van Hooydonk, Chief Learning Officer at Cognizant, keeps up. Hear how he’s taking a new approach by building a culture of curiosity and embracing continuous learning.
Translating curiosity into continuous learning - with cognizant

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Top tips to keep up with the changing skills landscape

Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some quick top tips from Stefaan:

  1. Predict skills to stay relevant: Understand the skills your organization needs now and in the future. Harness your people’s passions and stay ahead of demand. 
  2. Develop together and stay together: Effective learning and development keeps employees engaged. Happier people contribute more and stay longer with your organization.
  3. Build a culture of curiosity: Transform your organization by encouraging people’s natural curiosity. The more people are curious, the more they drive their own continuous learning. 
  4. Become a supporter of continuous learning: Traditional elearning has its place, but isn’t the only answer. Instead, offer support and tools for self-driven continuous learning.

1. Predict skills to stay relevant

With rapid pace of change in the workplace, the skills needed to succeed are evolving. If your organization is going to remain relevant, it needs to stay up to date. 

Stefaan sees predictive skilling as the answer. Understanding your business now and exploring where it’s going in the future. What types of project are you currently engaged in? What projects have you sold? What type of projects will you have six, nine or 12 months? With this knowledge, you can start prepping to achieve your goals. But you can’t do this alone. You need to harness people’s passion. Find out what drives your people. What skills are they learning outside of work? Could their interests help you fill any skills gaps and stay ahead of demand?

“There are so many beautiful professionals who are tinkering away at weekends with things that they’re passionate about – IoT based, AI based, machine learning. How can I support these colleagues to expand even more on these passions? This is beneficial for them, but also beneficial for the organization.”

2. Develop together and stay together

In this dynamic skills landscape, your people are key. How can you engage employees so they’re excited about learning new skills?

An organization can demand excellence of its people. But for Stefaan this is only effective if it works two ways. It’s about growth and development together. You need to help people move towards their next role, as well as achieve excellence in their current one. The happier people are, the greater their contribution and the longer they stay with your organization. 

“All the research that I’ve looked at shows that the more you invest in the area of growth and development – and it doesn’t have to be classes, but growth and development in the broader sense – gets paid back in loyalty.”

3. Build a culture of curiosity

Humans are naturally curious. Encourage this curiosity in your organization and you can transform learning and development.

Stefaan sees people’s curiosity as essential for effective learning. Curiosity makes you look inward and outward. It helps create trusting relationships in which you lift each other up to a higher level. The more people are curious, the more they will drive their own continuous learning. Rather than taking the lead, learning and development provides support. 

“This creates a continuous learning muscle. The more people are curious, the more they just get on with it. And then learning and development – there’s going to be lots of work to be done – but I become much more of an invisible supporter. Supporting the tools for people to consume, but also to contribute.”

4. Become a supporter of continuous learning

Technology provides new tools for communicating and sharing. With instant access to knowledge, people are learning constantly. Whether it’s by googling something or asking a neighbor, we’re developing new skills every day. 

In this environment of lifelong constant learning, Stefaan is finding out where elearning fits. As well as encouraging a culture of curiosity, he’s developed a Learning Studio. A resources site where people find what they need for their development. It contains everything from informal learning pathways to formal certification. Providing the support and tools needed for self-driven learning.

“I’m a great believer in personalization. And I think that’s where learning should be going. Because everybody has different expectations of life, expectations of a job, different situations at home, different backgrounds, different ambition levels, so on and so forth. Trying to make one size fit all is just too hard.”

A quick recap

The skills needed for organizations to succeed are evolving. If you’re going to keep up with demand, you need to adapt too. Stefaan has four strategies for success. Understand the skills and knowledge your organization needs. Work with your people and harness their passions. Encourage people’s curiosity and self-reflection. Become a supporter of continuous learning. Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast.

Want to introduce continuous learning into your digital learning strategy? Download our step-by-step learning strategy guide!

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About Stefaan

Stefaan is a seasoned L&D professional who brings a fresh, innovative philosophy to learning. With over 25 years’ experience in learning leadership, Stefaan has worked at Flipkart, Philips, Agfa Healthcare and Nokia. As Chief Learning Officer at Cognizant, he supports learning on a truly global scale.

You can find out more and get connected with Stefaan on LinkedIn.

On Stefaan’s reading list

Find out which books are Stefaan’s must-reads for encouraging continuous learning.

Modern Workplace Learning 2020, Jane Hart

Modern Workplace Learning 2020 explores how to build a continuous learning environment at work. Stefaan sees this as a call to action for everyone in L&D.

“I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College, Susan D. Blum

This book follows students whose enthusiasm disappears when they enter a broken school system. Stefaan finds many parallels in corporate culture and learning. 

The Learning Brain, Thad A. Polk 

The Learning Brain gives Stefaan the scientific underpinnings to be credible within his organization.

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our top books blog

Join the conversation! 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email Simon, our podcast host, at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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Co-author: Anna Heather