This article accompanies HR Problem Solvers for 2010 .
When budgetary and logistical pressures forced Fullerton India Credit Co. to re-evaluate how it trained its new branch employees in the ways of microfinance, company leaders understood new workers "were from very poor financial and educational backgrounds," says K.S. Kumar, the Mumbai, India-based company's executive vice president of human resources.
He says e-learning "was clearly not an option" because most new workers had never operated a computer before and electrical access was limited. These new employees also spoke one of six different local Indian languages, ranging from Tamil to Telugu.
Rather than look to new technology, "we revisited the question -- how does our target audience, essentially rural youth, really learn and pass on traditions?" Kumar says. "Reframing the question from the customer's paradigm led to the breakthrough insight of using street plays, puppets and comic books, which are prevalent methods of storytelling and passing on traditions and values in rural India."
In light of this, the company, which provides financial products to middle- and low-income regions, decided to embark on what it calls "enter-training" to continue its expansion into rural areas.
Because the company also relies on current employees to help train new employees, a trio of fictional characters was created to reflect that dynamic: new employee, Naresh; existing employee, Ramesh; and their manager, Mahesh.
The trio was then featured in printed material, practice sessions and play scripts "to mirror the usual stages of a team's life cycle," Kumar says. Since it was introduced in January, 743 new employees have been trained.
Fullerton India Credit Co. Ltd., Mumbai, India
Read all of the 2010 HR Problem Solvers.