How do we get more colleagues to engage with L&D resources? This is a common concern facing L&D leaders. Swisscom, the major telecommunications provider in Switzerland, has been able to address such a question by encouraging employees to create training content. Patrick Veenhoff, Head of Learning & Development at Swisscom, shared his experiences with this innovative initiative on episode 12 of the Learning and Development Stories podcast.
“We introduced a very disruptive approach to corporate learning,” said Patrick. “I don’t have any trainers, and we don’t produce any training content. Instead, we enable 5,000 employees to teach and learn from each other.”
Patrick explained that a training is created when a need is identified. The employee then works alongside a coach to develop the training from conception to delivery.
“Traditional learning and development departments do things top down, and this approach doesn’t work anymore,” explained Patrick. “Instead, for me, the only way to really address this is to create a platform and then an ecosystem that self regulates.”
Tying learning to business objectives
Prior to launching this initiative, it was evident that Swisscom’s L&D was not addressing all of the training needs in the business.
“The initial concept was to merge all of the training initiatives together and put them under one name,” recounted Patrick. “After one year and several discussions, there wasn’t anything concrete yet that people could really use.”
It was at this point that Patrick looked at the requirements that the Swisscom board of directors had established, the time spent and his understanding of how external customers and the market in general were working. Connecting these dots, he and his colleagues came up with this concept of involving employees in the training process.
It would be difficult to find a way to foster knowledge transfer more effectively than creating this type of ecosystem in which employees are deliberately training others.
It might seem like a tall order to make this a reality. After all, it can be challenging to just mobilize employees to see the value of using different learning resources. Patrick believes that flipping this equation and involving employees in creating content can be a reality by incorporating three aspects of a healthy environment.
- Good processes
- Appropriate tools
- Aligned incentives
Lessons from mistakes
Patrick shared about how one of the initial forms of trainings that they used was podcasting. They thought a podcast format would work well. However, after about six months, they realized no one was listening.
“When you try out a disruptive concept like this, you simply need to be open for the feedback that your users or customers are giving,” he said.
The link between training and employee engagement
After analyzing how training methods were being used at Swisscom, Patrick realized that L&D was being seen as a cost, rather than an investment.
“The other thing that I saw is that there are so many changes happening on the markets that it’s nearly impossible to say what type of skills so you’re going to need as a business in the next two or three years.”
Keeping employees engaged required a different training format that would help deal with the speed of change in the industry.
Patrick and his colleagues have used multiple styles of communication.
“The first thing that we did was a very top down approach where I pitched the idea to our board of directors, and once it was approved, we did the launch of the initiative. Three months later, I then personally visited all of the management teams. And so this was the first step. Then inside my team, everybody had the assignment to spread the message about this new approach in different team meetings.”
They have also been able to leverage a peer-to-peer approach.
“Everybody who creates their content has a personal interest to start sharing this content with other people. In the first three months, we had two or three very big projects where about 500-700 people had to be trained. We enabled that group to create content by themselves. And then they were the ones pushing that content to those big groups of people. Those were immediately two or three very big showcases that this approach was working.”
Patrick also used a blog to keep everyone up to date and to increase transparency about what has been working and opportunities for improvement.
Patrick highlighted the importance of looking outside traditional L&D resources. He has found inspiration from user experience design, user experience research, psychology, business and entrepreneurship.
“I also have exchanges with startups in education technology, and I’m finding that this gives me fresh ideas. I then think about how can I apply those ideas or those concepts to an L&D.”
Patrick recommends Refind, an online tool that curates and sends you articles based on your interests.
“This is a great way to keep up to date with what is happening on the web, but not have to search 20 or 30 websites for something that I care about reading.”
About Host - Kevin Anselmo
Kevin Anselmo is the Founder and Principal of Experiential Communications, a consulting company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He runs different communications programs for L&D departments.
Kevin has worked in the executive education space for 12 plus years, including a four-year stint at IMD Business School in Switzerland, one of the top ranked executive education providers in the world. He currently collaborates with Duke Corporate Education, ranked number 1 in custom executive education in North America for 18 consecutive years, according to the Financial Times.
He has interviewed numerous program participants and sponsors about the impact from different programs and learning experiences as part of different communications projects in the L&D space. In addition, he has led communications strategic reviews and run communications training for a number of different types of clients.
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