The road to true learner engagement

Sarah RatcliffLearning Ambassador for Cegos UK

In a recent Cegos “Global L&D Talk”, we looked at the theme of learner engagement. How can we use the right approach to engage learners? How do we make sure tight L&D budgets are being spent wisely? What’s the best structure and ecosystem to support learner engagement?

Three keynote speakers from different companies – Roca Group, Aston Martin, and Siemens Energy – shared perspectives and experiences on the issue. Here, we present key insights from their presentations and hopefully provide inspiration to help engage your own learners.

The importance of knowing your audience

Roca Group may not be a familiar name, but it is likely that many people have come across their products. The group manufactures and supplies bathroom equipment and is made up of several brands, which makes it a diverse company with offices and factories all over the globe.

Until recently, each business unit took care of their own training provision, which resulted in an inconsistent experience across the company.

Erik Holznienkemper, Corporate University Director at Roca, was tasked with creating a streamlined and coherent approach to training, as well as inspiring a more collegiate feel among the group’s vast workforce of over 20,000 people.

“We decided to reformulate our mission,” says Erik, “to provide people with the skills, knowledge and tools to align everyone to the strategic pillars of the Group.”

There are six strategic pillars in all – growth, operational excellence, innovation, digital transformation, sustainability, and people. The challenge was to incorporate these pillars into the employee experience, with the focus on people being the responsibility of Erik and his L&D team together with the corporate HR team.

“Learning engagement is only possible at a personal level if we understand our audience,” he says. “We don’t only focus on managers but remember that around two thirds of our employees are blue collar workers stationed in our factories. We also want to adapt to cultural differences and understand the needs of each business unit. Culturally, there are different needs, but there is also a lot of potential synergy.”

Previously, the L&D team was small and centralised, and not widely known at a local level. To counter this, and improve engagement, the team has grown to include L&D Business Partners in the group’s three global divisions. These staff members are currently conducting the first global status quo & needs detection with people on the ground to find out about their specific needs, as well as analyse internal data to determine what type of audience needed different kinds of training.

Erik and his team will identify common strands across the whole organisation, to develop common training programs that can be delivered in multiple locations. As well as the economic benefits of this approach, it should allow employees and managers in different divisions to feel they were part of one big company, thus achieving that particular goal.

By spending time understanding the audience, the training provision will be more relevant and successful than had previously been the case.

Understand and promote company values

Aston Martin can be fairly associated with highly aspirational and glamourous cars (and people), but this doesn’t exempt them to work hard towards learner engagement.

Mehmet Kocum – Head of Leadership and Culture at Aston Martin – was tasked with helping evolve the company culture to improve employee engagement and reduce the attrition rate which was higher than the industry average.

“How do you drive culture change by looking at learner engagement?” asks Mehmet. “We only have 2,800 employees, and my role is to make sure the brand promise matches the employee experience, so we can attract and retain talent, helping them to unlock potential for their future.”

Mehmet spent time getting employees to identify the company’s core values, which, he believes, cannot simply be introduced. These values lay at the core of an established company but can be defined and acted upon to improve morale.

He felt that by educating the workforce about company values and engaging them in that conversation, it would create a greater sense of purpose and engagement. Importantly, this had to include C-suite if the initiative was to have any meaningful impact.

The result was a series of 2-hour ‘values immersion’ sessions, in which employees were encouraged to understand and interpret the core values the internal research had identified. Employees across the board were enthusiastic as it created an extra dynamic behind their work.

To generate this enthusiasm, Mehmet and his team ensured the sessions were interactive and, importantly, were not delivered by either the HR team or external providers. Instead, all facilitators were picked from within the company, so the scheme had a tangible connection with workers on the ground.

“We gave people the safe space to speak up,” says Mehmet of the secret behind the success. “We also got feedback for facilitators to help make continuous improvements.”

Mix and combine the right learning ingredients

Climate change is a pressing issue for humanity, and companies like Siemens Energy are having to change the way they do business. The focus on sustainability, transitioning to renewables and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is driving large parts of the business. This means a big transition for talent, too. Many must learn new skills to deal with the shifting paradigm, and that means investing in learning and engaging their people.

“It’s important to have experts,” says Nancy Bornemann, Global Head of L&D at Siemens Energy. “We need expertise, but it’s getting harder and harder to find those with the skills to innovate. That’s why learning and development is so important. There are big shifts in skillsets.”

It is important to plan the right mix of ingredients when it comes to training methodologies and engaging learners. “We have to think about what’s going to make an impact on people from a growth perspective,” she says.

This means investing in a robust learning management system and using training modalities that fit with the way modern employees want to learn. For Siemens Energy, there is a big focus on learning on the job and involving function leaders as facilitators.

However, Nancy is keen to bring in external learning expertise to support what happens internally. This can let them focus on the strategic drivers and choices to address the future challenges, while having specialised counsel and partnerships that can help identify paths and advice. Furthermore, making sure that everyone in the team is focussed on value added rather than on back-office work such as planning or reporting.

Nancy also states that “it is important to monitor the results that show us if things are working”. “Employee engagement surveys reflect satisfaction, but we also see how our leaders are being scored. They are expected to have a growth dialogue with employees to enable them to perform well. We find that voluntary (rather than compulsory) engagement in the system works well, too.”

Ultimately, learner engagement is all about giving people a sense of meaning and purpose to what they do. Once they understand that, it’s much easier to get people to learn effectively and give them ownership of their own learning.

If you would like to know more about how to improve learner engagement within your organisation, contact us today.

Written by

Sarah Ratcliff

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