Drive Big Change with these 6 Corporate Learning Tactics

Corporate learning functions are critical to driving organizational change. We are in the middle of analyzing our 2012 Global Best Practices Research on Leading Change and "culture change" is a priority globally. 62 percent of over 550 global respondents said that they are involved in culture change projects. Cultures only change when employees change behavior. So who better than Corporate Learning to advise on how to drive this change? I interviewed several leading learning executives to find out how they do it. Here are their six must do’s:
1. Make learning easy to access – "During change, team members are anxious and can become easily frustrated. It is imperative that learning associated with organizational change be seamless and easy to access," says Dean Williams, who is in charge of Human Capital Technology Solutions at Wells Fargo.
His team partners with the technology people to create systems that are easier to use for content providers and employees. "If it is difficult to access learning, team members may feel the company does not care for them or this is not as important as they say it is."
For example, Wells Fargo had an acquisition involving new employees recently. New employees need to participate in learning, not only to learn about the new company, but also to be compliant and make a good impression with their new company. Employees are stressed and have a lot of work to get integrated. The last thing they want is to spend 15 minutes to get logged on to the LMS. That is where Williams and his team come in.
Usually you have to authenticate that you are the person on the computer, then you have to find course, then register for course, and then launch it. "We created software on top of LMS so employees didn’t have to deal with this. Whenever we communicated to employees about the changes, we put a hyperlink to the course. You could go right into course and behind the scenes have the LMS track what you are doing, your time in course, your test results, and take you back out to where you came from – you would never know you were in the LMS. It is this small improvement that makes life for employees easier and increases the chances they will get the learning they need during change."
Mary Selzler, Corporate Training & Development Officer, for North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance, agrees with Williams. She says "You have to do more than everything. You need the quick guides, cheat sheets, training, coaching, everything! ...because everyone is different and needs something different. And on top of that, you need personalized attention." Talking about a recent large scale systems change, she said "We went through a change 10 years ago that was very painful so we looked at how to do it better this time. It was clear we needed to give extra help to those employees who were not so good with technology. So they created open-lab time and special coaching services available to walk individuals through system, if they needed extra help, one at a time."
2. Follow-up Verbal Testing-- At Ruby Tuesday’s, Jim Domanic, VP of Training & Development and his team are in the thick of all change. First, his team designs, creates and implements all communication to their 40,000+ employees about any change. Whether it is menu change or process change, Jim’s team uses every means imaginable to get the message out – from written, verbal and video. And since they brought on an on-site video team, instead of 6 weeks, they can create their customized videos in only 8 days.
Domanic told me, "For example, we went through a fairly significant menu change – and we needed managers, team members and leadership to understand it quickly. We filmed videos that targeted cooks, servers, leadership along with written and computer based learning. "
On top of that they added a new innovation: follow-up with verbal testing. They came up with questions that leaders could use for real-time testing of employees to check if they understood the changes and how to communicate them to customers. "This worked really well," said Domanic. First, it creates a new level of engagement for the leaders and employees, by giving another way for managers to stay involved in the teams. Also, it engages a different learning style, verbal, which can only be handled in change rollouts by the leaders."
3. Focus on the business goals- At Aetna, Michael Hannah, Learning Head for Sales and Underwriting also focuses on changing employee behavior— not the behavior that the training department decides, but the behavior that the department needs to meet their goals. Instead of focusing on rolling out corporate decided training program, "For any business area we work with, at the beginning of the year we discuss their business priorities, what it will take to achieve that, their assessment of their [own] ability, and how can we help them achieve that level of performance," says Hannah. This enables Hannah and his team to help create the type of change that the business needs to succeed.
4. Change when they want the change- Harley-Davidson is known is no stranger to change. They know it is important to change but also that it can be hard. Doug Keller, previously training and support manager , leads a team of business analysts and QA people to make software changes for 500 Harley-Davidson dealers as easy as possible.
"If we have done the right thing in the design phase, the changes will be easily adoptable," says Keller. "However, when there is a more significant functional or process change, training is more critical."
Keller realized that by simply asking the dealers when they want the change to go live and when the training should be scheduled, he was able to increase buy-in and acceptance. He started to require a written affirmative response from a message to dealers stating, "Yes, we received the background information on the change, we read it, we understand what is required , we told staff about it, and we are prepared for the change. And…. we want to get the change on this (fill in blank) date. The dates are forced choice, but still the dealers appreciate the flexibility with dates— so they can get the change on their terms. This helps us move forward with implementation and training more quickly. The end result was best for everyone."
5. Reach Millenials with Technology – Communicating ongoing marketing and operational changes to 4,000 employees is a challenge at Smokey Bones restaurants. Jay Bunkowske, Director of Training at Smokey Bones, uses the latest approaches possible to reach workers. He creates YouTube videos on new items that a chef can watch on his or her iPhone or with special equipment right in the restaurant kitchen. Bunkowske is creating podcasts so employees can listen to information updates on their iPod. They also use ShiftNote to create and distribute visuals that restaurants can print for educating and motivating employees. "The bottom line is you have to give them information to access when it is convenient for them, using technology."
6. Making Employees Agents, not Targets, of change – "We have had on-going transformation since Gerstner was in charge in the 90s, responding to the changing economy, to do more with less , and our growth with more oversees employees and customers," says Jim Carey, Learning Manager at IBM. Carey works with his team to support business transformation within IBM. "We are now starting to look at how to transform systematically. Our leaders know that the people who deal with and capture the growth markets the fastest will be the winners. Our job is to support the transformations of our business to help IBM win."
Carey continued, "Traditionally, employees are seen as the targets of change. They are seen as resistant to the changes being pushed by leaders. Actually, employees are stakeholders and not targets of the change. Leaders who see employees as the target to buy in need a paradigm shift. Employees want to be a part of creating the change; they want their voice heard. Our team’s job is to teach employees a framework to participate in creating change, and be a driver of change, rather than just complaining through a survey or an employee focus group. If you want to be a partner in deciding and co-creating change, you have to think systematically about change management. We are teaching employees methods to solve problems and create solutions. We do this, and then have them apply the tools to real challenges – so employees can recommend solutions based on analysis. Leaders then review the employee ideas and, if approved, the employees implement the solution. The employees are then the real change agents."
The magic answer to driving change through learning? Use every means necessary: Get employees involved, communicate from every direction, and leverage technology. Culture change takes time, and without these six strategies, the market changes will leave your company behind.