Episode #3: A Unique Mentoring Program Focused on Digital Transformation – An Interview with Carrefour L&D Leader Adilson Borges

Many organizations are grappling with how to keep employees up to speed with the digital transformation that is impacting society. Adilson Borges, Chief Learning Officer of the France-based retailer Carrefour, joined the Learning and Development Stories podcast and shared how his company is addressing this issue in its L&D activities. It is not through a one-off, expert-led learning event, but rather a peer-to-peer mentoring program.

“Digital transformation is impacting business for all organizations,” he said. “Our program brings together individuals who are skilled with using digital communications and matches them with those interested in learning more about digital transformation.”

As part of the program, the L&D team set up the infrastructure for a successful mentoring program in which the groups met in pairs on average of four to five times over a six-month time period. The L&D team provided a framework as well as different tools and elements that enabled participants to share their knowledge. The program also was a means for the different tandems to discuss important topics that impact Carrefour’s business, like big data, artificial intelligence and apps that facilitate customers’ shopping experience. In summary, the program included a kick-off to set the stage for the mentoring program, group interactions and then a concluding wrap-up event. Carrefour saw a 40% improvement around participants’ knowledge of digital transformation.

“We identified five or six different dimensions – general themes around digital transformation, artificial intelligence and using big data. We asked participants questions about these topics before and after the program,” explained Borges on how the impact of the learning was measured.

The way we shop is evolving, due in part to how devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo are impacting the way we buy new products. According to Borges, it was key for the organization from a business perspective to equip leaders to understand these dynamics and gain perspective on what is coming up next.

“It really is about going beyond the training itself to enable people to incorporate the content on a regular basis so they can change the business,” said Borges.

“There is one way to not make mistakes – don’t try anything new,” said Borges. “Mistakes are part of the process. We have to celebrate them.”

Borges highlighted a learning lesson from his career: moving too fast and failing to spend enough time listening to sponsors to really understand what they needed. This ends up leading to re-working different elements down the road.

Another issue he highlighted is truly collaborating, especially with difficult personalities, to co-develop learning solutions.

There is lots of content out there. One role for L&D leaders is selection. But for Borges, the most important goal around this theme is understanding the learners and looking at learning as co-creation. What are the tactics and techniques that are needed to develop participants’ full potential?

One way is ensure that there is a mechanism for learning to be shared from the bottom up. On that note, Carrefour has developed a digital workplace in which employees can learn from each other. It is about peer-to-peer transfer and matching to help learning happen in the organization.

“This can help people develop their full potential,” said Borges. “I can see those individuals developing their skills and put their learning into action and I can learn from them at the same time. It can also capture best practices.”

Go to an HR website and odds are you will quickly come across content around improving employee engagement. Organizational learning can play a role in this.

Borges recounted a story of how a learning program has improved morale. Carrefour has 120,000 employees coming from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. As an employer, Carrefour has a training program in place that validates basic skills – language skills, math, etc – designed to help future employment opportunities, both within and outside the organization. Those who have taken part in this program have 20% higher likelihood to recommend Carrefour as a place to work and a 25% higher likelihood to want to continue working at the company.

Within Carrefour, there are some 250 employees involved in L&D across the different business units. As a larger group, the L&D employees meet once a month and discuss projects. They try find common points of interest with the goal of identifying joint initiatives that can have a large impact on everyone, notes Borges. In terms of project management, Borges believes that communications must integrate all stakeholders.

Other communications tactics of a typical program might include the following:

– A newsletter announcement
– Special events (kick-off sessions and learning days)
– Multimedia (particularly short videos that capture a program’s outcomes)

Borges’ recommendations for L&D professionals include the following:

Tool: Empathy. Put yourself in the place of the learner.

Resource(s) for ongoing learning: Mindset by Carol Dweck. The book focuses on having a growth mindset.

You can connect with Adilson Borges on LinkedIn at the following link.

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