The world of linear workplace training and learning is changing. As careers become more flexible, so does the support that companies give employees.
Proust has journeyed through a career in consultancy, sales, business development, and sustainability to a role that focuses on people and their learning and development inside the German tech giant.
Detailing what “people enablement and growth” means for Siemens, Proust explains it’s “about creating an enabling environment for our people and shaping a learning ecosystem where we provide relevant and helpful instruments and experiences to support our people along their learning and career journey so that they can grow”.
With this in mind, Proust tells UNLEASH how companies can create a successful learning journey for employees amid the new challenges that are presented by the ‘Great Resignation’.
The learning journey
Before looking to the future, Proust notes the journey she has seen in the learning sector over the last four years.
“We started off by analyzing trends and benchmarks to understand what is happening in the market and what is happening in the people arena. We found a few really significant paradigm shifts that completely changed everything.”
Proust continues: “Firstly, we realized that employees need to adapt to changing roles and constantly acquire new skills.
“There is no more job-for-life as a status and careers are changing from linear career paths to individual option rooms.
“And if careers become individual, learning needs become more individual too.”
So the challenge is to “create and provide completely new tools and mechanisms to then accompany our people. Because you need to accompany individual journeys and not just a linear path for function”.
When looking at how to approach tailored learning, Proust uses an analogy: “We know that everybody has a backpack full of skills, competencies, and experiences. Each backpack is unique; therefore, what is right for the individual, as a learning and development opportunity, is quite unique as well.”
Of course, creating a backpack that prepares the carrier for all the challenges of working life is no easy task.
Adapting to a tailored experience
Proust explains that another challenge that learning teams face is that “in the past, you have had standardized programs like a ‘one size fits all’ solution, it doesn’t work nowadays because there’s a lot of content in each program that is just partly relevant for the learner.
“Therefore, we see a few trends that have come to life in the learning space. And that is really the individualization and personalization of learning experiences, which come through very modular learning opportunities that you can pick and choose and build into your own learning journey and path.”
However, “that only works if you have the technology that helps you to set up these offerings, and which allows you to enable personalized learning at scale.”
To do this, Siemens has launched a number of initiatives catered to specific needs within the business. This includes tailoring a learning program for an internal CEO of digital industry who believed artificial intelligence was very important. This led to the CEO engaging 20,000 people and encouraging them to upskill through the specifically designed course.
In terms of broader initiatives, Proust notes: “We also developed a new concept that we call MyGrowth. It is a communication concept that brings together all the instruments, tools, and experiences that we provide for our people into one place.
“It is very people-focused and easy to understand because what we learned was that we had too many offerings at different places, our people were asking for more orientation and guidance.”
MyGrowth is based on three areas: self-reflection, learning, and career development. It is the go-to place to enable employees to engage with each area.
As part of MyGrowth, Siemens has “job tagging”.
Proust unpacks how this works: “Siemens has got an organizational cosmos, which is basically like a big organization chart of the whole company. You can find everyone and every team there.”
If you are interested in a position you can simply click and learn more or even speak to a team member directly.
This organizational collaboration is designed to spark conversations and enable staff to look at their broader interests.
Of course, no company can simply assume that its systems work and Siemens uses surveys as well as “mechanisms at different stages of [learning] programs”.
“This may be in the beginning, the middle, and after the program, also months after, to see whether the application really supported the people and whether one could apply the knowledge he/she gained into your real daily work life,” explains Proust.
“On the more digital side of performance, we have different mechanisms, like feedback ratings, to see how often a learning program has been shared or recommended.”
The ‘Great Resignation’
The ‘Great Resignation’, which has seen millions leave the workforce, has outlined the need to listen to employees and Proust shares her thoughts on the situation.
Proust comments: “This wasn’t always due to their job in general that they wanted to leave. It was about self-reflection and which importance, purpose the job has.
“So people ask themselves the questions: How do you want to live and work? Can you maybe pick where you want to work? And could you work from home?
“All of a sudden, changing job became much easier, so it is a very interesting dynamic we see there, and I think that it will challenge companies significantly.”
At the moment, Siemens has a very high retention rate, and “our hope is that people identify with the company quite deeply. The feedback in our employee engagement surveys was very positive, so we see that people value the company and value the company’s values.”
Although retention rates are positive, Siemens has been conscious of the impact the pandemic has had on employees.
Proust notes: “What we have seen during COVID-19, which is really an exceptional and so tiring time, was that Siemens did a lot for the people to take care of their mental and physical health.
“For example, the ‘Life in Balance’ portfolio: a wide variety of offers aimed at the individual, ranging from awareness campaigns on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, to training offers for managers and employees, and employee assistance programs.”
The future of learning and work
When asked about what the ideal learning experience is, Proust comments on how perspectives are changing. “Focusing on experience is key. It starts with putting yourself into the shoes of the learner and goes from there. And you should not try to come from a technical infrastructure.
“If you asked me five years ago, that we need user experience designers and creative people, as part of our learning function, I would have said, “why? you’re running a training course business?” Now it has been shifting so much, learning is really focusing on the experience.”
Siemens invested €165 million in learning and development in the last fiscal year and has strived to improve the usability and accessibility of tools. This amounts to an average of €573 invested in each employee.
Proust comments that learning and development have become “a very different game” from training sessions traditionally twice a year to continuous life-long learning as a process. “Make learning a habit” she says.
This also leads to new requirements for tools, “For me, learning programs have to be engaging, learning has to be fun, but I think the key is that you find relevant learning opportunities in the format and method that you like.”
Finding a preferred method means that learning needs to encompass a range of media. But this is not the only area that L&D professionals should look at in the future.
Proust says: “At Siemens, we are currently working on piloting peer-to-peer coaching. We got the feedback, that people would like to get professional coaching, and that people really like to engage with colleagues about where to go next, and which instruments and tools to use.”
Within Siemens: “We have a lot of professional coaches in the company, who are not a coach by their job profile, but they are really passionate about coaching and have professional education.
“They volunteer to coach people internally. And then we match them with people who would like to be coached. We are piloting this currently to potentially make that available to broader audiences.”
The learning and development space is growing, and Siemens looks set to adapt to these challenges and give its people the opportunity to grow with their unique backpack of skills.