Having an engaged workforce is good for business – that’s simply a fact.
The question that remains is what’s the best way to actually create great experiences at work that leave employees feeing happy and productive?
The answer is different for every organization – but for global construction and materials giant Cemex, the key is having a “solid and attractive learning and development (L&D) ecosystem” – as Carlos Delgado Conde, the employer’s director for talent planning and development for EMEA, tells UNLEASH in an exclusive interview.
Its employee surveys (which are powered by Qualtrics) helped Cemex to understand that great employee experiences are due to the “portfolio” of learning approaches and technologies the construction firm has.
In fact, this ecosystem approach to learning not only drives employee happiness, but also acts as a “catalyst for performance and growth in the company”, in Delgado Conde’s words.
Inside Cemex’s L&D ecosystem
Cemex logged $15.6 billion in sales in 2022, and employs more than 43,000 people across the world.
The construction giant has the full range of L&D programs – some global, some regional, and some local.
They focus on technical skills, as well as softer, professional competencies.
To support L&D, the construction giant leverages a range of integrated technologies, including NovoEd, Degreed, Learnship, Get Abstract and LinkedIn Learning.
In addition, it has designed the Cemex University, as a “one stop shop” for all things L&D, [including] leadership development programs.
One is called Connect, which is for first time managers.Thrive, is for more senior management. And Ignite is for top talent and leaders globally.
Changing the perception of coaching at Cemex
Despite having a strong L&D foundation, Cemex is not resting on its laurels.
“It’s very clear to us that we need to keep innovating, we need to keep developing a very attractive learning and development ecosystem, both formal and informal,” adds Delgado Conde.
This explains why in the early 2020s Cemex decided to look into coaching.
Delgado Conde explains that the focus was on the EMEA region, where Cemex employs 12,000 of its 43,000 people.
This region had, as recently as 2019, been through a challenging integration from a loose federation of business units into one functional group.
“There was a huge appetite for coaching – it was understood as a good fit benefit, a support system for talent,” and not just leaders.
But given the complexity of the region – Delgado Conde shares: “You have to understand that in EMEA we have 12 different countries, five time zones, 11 different languages.
“We needed the right partner”.
A partner with the right scale, “the right technical capabilities, the right pool of top certified coaches in different languages”; so Cemex settled on CoachHub.
The construction giant started with a very small pilot in 2022 – this “provided the right data to support the leadership buy-in for a full-blown implementation of the program in 2023”.
At that point, Cemex named the program ‘CoachUp’ and chose 40 executives across different segments of the business and from a range of different countries in the region.
These are the people “we wanted to develop, that we wanted to offer a support system, [and] that we wanted to establish and position coaching as a very relevant component in their value proposal”.
A major challenge that Cemex faced was the “perception of coaching as something that was exclusive and only happens when there’s an issue” with performance or behavior, explains Delgado Conde.
The idea was the ‘CoachUp’ cohort would then become “key influencers” and coaches themselves for their direct teams, and the rest of the EMEA function.
The future of coaching at Cemex
The ‘CoachUp’ pilot ran for six months – across the 40 executives who took part, 97% were active and participated in a total of 400 coaching sessions.
Delgado Conde shares: “We accomplished our goal of having at least two monthly sessions (on average) per participant” – Cemex’s figure was 2.06 and the external benchmark is 1.33.
Overall, the executives enjoyed ‘CoachUp’ – they ranked it 4.9 out of 5.
Delgado Conde notes: “The feedback we’ve been getting is overwhelmingly positive because people seem to appreciation the one-to-one intervention with a certified coach” – all of Cemex’s other leadership programs are group sessions.
For Delgado Conde, CoachHub has really contributed to the EMEA’s success since its integration in 2019: “We believe that now we are contributing to the strategic goals of the company”.
He excited to announce that Cemex and the coaching partnership will be continuing, and not just in EMEA; the construction giant is exporting digital coaching outside the region.
“We always share best practices with other regions. We’ve been sharing this good experience with other regions like South and Central America, and the US,” adds Delgado Conde.
However, different vendor partners will be in play globally – CoachHub will remain the partner in EMEA, and South and Central America, while Torch will be the vendor in the US.
Interestingly, Cemex isn’t just looking at geographical expansion, but also the number of participants and use cases.
Delgado Conde tells UNLEASH that many Cemex employees have expressed interest in participating in future coaching programs – they’re very excited and grateful for this type of development opportunity.
“This year the use case for coaching was mainly leadership development”, but next year will look different, explains Delgado Conde.
For instance, this year, Cemex will look at using leveraging coaching to drive diversity and inclusion – for instance, the construction giant is focused on improving female representation at the executive level, and coaching can help to support women coming to back from maternity leave or going through other professional or personal transitions.
Navigating mergers and acquisitions (M&As) will also be top of mind for Cemex’s future coaching cohorts.
“We are growing in the region through M&A and bolt on acquisitions, so there’s a very clear use case to coach executives involved in M&A activity.”
Skills, L&D and tech at Cemex
Given learning innovation is key to employee experience, and ultimately, Cemex’s continuing business success, Delgado Conde makes it clear that coaching is not the construction giant’s only L&D priority for 2024 and beyond.
“We are committed to start a skills-first…journey”, and one which is powered by the best learning technologies for Cemex.
To this end, the construction giant is trialing LinkedIn Learning to help “to increase the visibility of the current availability of skills within the organization”, and develop skills taxonomies.
Currently, “we are not making full use of the current skills available for us in the organization”, shares Delgado Conde.
The aim here is drive internal mobility – and a talent marketplace will also help here.
Last, but certainly not least, a major skills priority for Cemex in 2024 and beyond will be around the HR function itself.
“In HR, we are thinking about taking our sills to the next level” – the department is planning to work with Josh Bersin here, and maybe even develop a HR Academy, all with the aim of HR becoming a “trusted advisor” to the wider business.
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