In 2020, employers and workers alike were grappling with how to work productively and safely despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, this meant bringing their work home and working fully remote, and for others this meant daily testing, donning PPE, and working behind plastic screens distanced from colleagues.
Fast-forward a year to March 2021, workers were used to remote work and virtual meetings – people were slowly starting to learn how to unmute themselves on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
In fact, workers had such an affinity for working remotely that they decided they wanted to do it long-term. Hybrid working was born for office-based, white-collar workers. But employees’ views on the future of work did not stop with where they worked – they realized they wanted companies to care about them as people, as well as their future careers.
They were prepared to quit their jobs for new roles and companies that provided wellbeing support, as well as offered learning and development (L&D) opportunities.
Its chief learning officer Vidya Krishnan tells UNLEASH that Ericsson sees the ‘Great Resignation’ as less of a threat and more as an “opportunity” “to bring on amazing new talent” as well as help existing employees continue to grow.
Ericsson’s employee value proposition combines “purpose, wellbeing, and belonging”. “We are doing that by constantly learning, developing, and discovering new opportunities to put new skills to work”.
Ericsson’s L&D culture
Learning is so core to Ericsson because it is an innovative tech company that wants to “create connections that make the unimaginable possible”. Ericsson is leading the way with technology like 5G, which will make communication and automation 100 times faster than through current 4G technology.
As a business, “we are literally learning our way to a better future”. “It is part of our heritage [as a 145-year-old technology company] to be constantly reinventing ourselves”, and “we believe [that] is true of our people as well”, notes Krishnan.
“We believe that the only way for Ericsson to grow is for our people to grow”, particularly in the realm of digital, future-focused skills. She continues: “The future belongs to learners, it belongs to the people who…grow”.
Ericsson focuses on two elements: skillsets and mindsets. Skillsets refer to the “critical know-how [and expertise] you can gain, teach and apply”, whereas mindsets are about being willing to learn.
“Often we find that our will to change comes before we get the skill to change”, adds Krishnan.
The pandemic and learning at Ericsson
COVID-19 changed (and challenged) the world at Ericsson, like it did all organizations across the world. Overnight 85% of Ericsson’s workforce went fully remote – and embraced Microsoft Teams meetings.
But there were 15% of workers who were unable to work from home – they were “heroes” on the frontline building and strengthening communication networks so that everyone else could work from home.
Ericsson, therefore, changed its operations and tried “to make what could be done virtually be done virtually”. This included using tablets on the field, remote check-ins on Microsoft Teams, and buying PPE.
Despite the disruption, “I don’t think [COVID-19] changed who we are”, notes Krishnan. If anything the pandemic proved how resilient Ericsson’s people and its IT and communication infrastructure were. “It strengthened us through adversity”, she adds.
One area that was not a problem for Ericsson was shifting to virtual, online L&D.
“As a tech company, digital learning was nothing new for us. The only change was to become digital by default”, Krishnan tells UNLEASH.
She explains that employees embraced digital by default “seamlessly and very quickly”. In fact, Ericsson saw an up to 60% increase in the amount of learning content its employees were consuming.
It was clear that digital learning “was not any reason for people to do less learning”. Instead, digital ”was absolutely one of the reasons people [were prioritizing] learning like never before”. Ericsson encouraged employees to lean into experimenting and discovering how to make digital learning work best for them.
It also helped to make L&D more inclusive. “We see that when you have chat-based interactions, people who may need more help are able to send a private chat…to the instructor directly, [which is something] some people may have hesitated to do in an in-person setting because it was conspicuous to do so”.
Inside Ericsson’s digital L&D programs
The quick adaptation to digital learning by default was helped by Ericsson’s use of Degreed as its learning experience platform (LXP). Krishnan shares that 94% of Ericsson’s employees are active on Degreed (and this has increased year-on-year despite the pandemic).
“Our people make time to learn. They know learning matters; they have zero tolerance for zero learning,” notes Krishnan.
Degreed’s LXP “sits atop all of our various learning systems” and “integrates…that into a very personalized digital experience” – this includes SAP SuccessFactor’s learning management system, content libraries including Pluralsight, Skillsoft, and Coursera, as well as Ericsson’s internally created training content.
Krishnan is very pleased with Degreed because it’s “tailored to what Ericsson defines as critical skills”. Their partnership actually won a silver award from Learning Technologies in 2021.
But it is not the only learning initiative at Ericsson to receive recognition. The company was a finalist in two categories at The Learning Awards 2022: internal learning solution of the year and people development program of the year.
The internal learning solution in question is Ericsson’s SET2WIN, which is a “sales proficiency system”. “It is a digital credential-based L&D program that allows our people to build their skills in critical areas, but also take it to a higher level where they’re demonstrating the application of those skills”, explains Krishnan.
Ericsson’s people development program of the year was its Global Tech Talent initiative. It is aimed at technology leaders – and it pushes them to prioritize “action oriented project-based learning” with the support of mentors.
“Cohorts actually meet in virtual spaces; many of which we co-create with vendors like Mozilla hubs and in the Microsoft environment”. Then they “brainstorm together” in “social VR”. According to Krishnan, this program drives strong retention and active internal mobility within Ericsson.
For Krishnan, these L&D plaudits show “more than anything [that] our people have such a hunger to learn, teach and grow”.
The future of work at Ericsson
The future of L&D at Ericsson will be digital by default. But the company is aware “there are moments where being together brings benefits that simply nothing else can match, especially moments of intense celebration, connection or collaboration,” according to Krishnan.
This links with Ericsson’s view of the future work. “We’re very committed to our hybrid philosophy about…the way we work”. The office will continue to have a role in the future – but that role has changed from pre-pandemic, and now is much more focused on innovation (with the help of technology like AR, VR and 5G) and socializing between colleagues.
“We will always be a people-first, digital by default, hybrid-evolving workplace”. This plays into why Krishnan sees the ‘Great Resignation’ as an opportunity for Ericsson.
Krishnan shares that Ericsson believes the future is “where flexibility, wellbeing and working in digital ways” are prioritized. In addition to learning, this helps Ericsson become “a place where people can thrive”.
This is linked to Ericsson’s business and technology, which makes “a flexible way of working possible for the world” and it is very important to the company “that we live that ourselves”.
Ultimately, for Krishnan, “we are trying to change the world through technology in ways that ensure that limitless connectivity does so much good in the world”.