By Chris Cummins
We improve the performance of organizations by improving the performance of their people. At Skillsoft, this mantra guides the work we do with thousands of customers around the globe, every day. You have to wonder though, with day after day of talking the talk of using learning and development to better organizations, do we actually walk the walk?
Yes, we do! We strive to set an example for our customers. We want to share and understand their challenges. We also want to reap the benefits of an aligned, curated and well-supported eLearning program in our own business.
Skillsoft’s inside sales organization spans multiple time zones and regional nuances, so we have to ensure that we balance diverse approaches to sales and management. To guide us in developing a learning program, we asked the essential question, “what are our biggest challenges?” Here’s what we came up with:
- Though we prioritize improving performance we still needed increased buy-in to a cohesive program for developing both sales reps and sales leaders.
- Although we pride ourselves on varied perspectives and diverse styles, the challenge always is finding a consistent management approach across all of our centers.
- While we actively encourage ongoing self-development and continuous learning, we needed to find an opportunity to bring managers and employees together in one holistic program that reinforces consistency.
While many people would classify these as training challenges, they certainly were having an impact on our business as well. Naturally, as a sales organization, we recognized that addressing these issues would almost undoubtedly influence our bottom line.
Enter the Welch Way. A program that has the ability to transform teams, improve productivity and drive business results. Sounds great – but how did we put it into practice?
Working with our Performance Trainer and leveraging the expertise and resources of our Services team, we were able to establish a Welch Way learning initiative that:
- Had two streams of engagement – one for management and one for individual contributors
- Used cohorts to allowed participants from across North America to interact with their peers and shared varied perspectives on the content they were focusing on in each module
- Focused on one module of the Welch Way, which contained short videos and follow-on activities as well as a playbook that enabled people to easily digest what they were learning
- Encouraged a self-paced and self-reflective approach in conjunction with bi-weekly small group discussions focused on understanding and applying concepts to relevant current situations
- Struck a great balance between formal and informal learning activities – we even made use of our internal social collaboration tool to facilitate additional sharing
We wrapped up our second round of Welch Way this past September and had 90% of our folks complete the program in the expected timeframe (no, even at Skillsoft we don’t always achieve 100%!):
- 87% of participants indicated they had already applied strategies from the program within a week of learning them (scrap learning can’t hold us down!)
- 87% said that the cohort meetings boosted their accountability and made them feel even more engaged
- 74% said they wanted to do the program again
Our people are better equipped to handle conversations with peers, managers and customers. From a practical perspective, our front line sales professionals speak more confidently about how the Welch Way changed the way they work and the way we do business. Anecdotally, we’ve seen more engaged employees, better collaboration across peers and among different levels of management, most consistency and shared approaches across our geographically dispersed employees.
But how did we stack up against the challenges we sought to overcome?
Challenge #1: Improving performance through a cohesive program
Outcome: Managers are better equipped with the skills and tools needed to be more accountable to themselves and their teams—they can then empower their reps to create and track their own goals to successful completion.
Challenge #2: Creating consistency in leadership/management techniques across centers
Outcome: Managers were able to share their strengths and challenges with other managers at varied levels of leadership across different centers. By sharing experiences during the cohort group meetings, managers gained new ideas and solutions to better guide their own teams, as well as a more holistic view of overall corporate leadership style.
Challenge #3: Encouraging ongoing development and continuous learning for managers
Outcome: With a small weekly time commitment, busy managers found the Welch Way program engaging and relevant, encouraging them to seek out further learning opportunities.
We are in a unique position to practice what we preach at Skillsoft and as you can see, it is hugely beneficial for a variety of reasons. As leaders, we need to continue to challenge our approaches. We need to be cognizant of the fact that when our employees are engaged, supported and encouraged to grow and develop, little will stop them from achieving their goals. We need to shape an environment and build a culture where this can happen. That commitment to making an ongoing investment in people and culture propels an organization forward.
Sample a course from the Welch Way program: Watch “Getting it Done—Maintaining Focus”
Chris Cummins is Vice President of Inside Sales for North America at Skillsoft.