Agilent Technologies wins the 2020 Learning! 100 Award for learning culture.
At Agilent Technologies, we create instruments that power some of the world’s most cutting-edge research. Governments use our tools to keep food and water supplies safe, while medical scientists use our instruments to fight cancer with more precise diagnoses and targeted treatments.
Because we live in a digital era where things change quickly, we know the manufacturing tools of the past are no longer those that will propel us into the future. Instead we need every employee to be a strong digital thinker who helps us drive innovation and digital transformation for years to come.
To that end, Agilent’s supply-chain team launched a pair of training programs over the last two years that have engaged and upskilled thousands of employees around the world.
The first is the OFS School of Digital Innovation, an online academy that provides growth and development opportunities for all 3,000 employees on the Order Fulfillment and Supply Chain (OFS) team. The second is our Computer Essentials course, which makes sure that as Agilent progresses on its digital journey, our less-technical employees don’t get left behind.
The results of both programs have exceeded our expectations. Despite hurdles related to geography, academic skills, and more, better than half the OFS team has earned at least one level of certification in the OFS School of Digital Innovation; and more than 150 computer novices have developed the Microsoft Office skills that form a critical foundation for their digital learning.
These employees have made us proud: They have gone on to automate processes, build dashboards to increase our efficiency, and even help take entire departments paperless.
Here’s an overview of both programs, with an emphasis on Computer Essentials.
Taking on digital transformation
In order to drive digital transformation throughout Agilent, OFS had two goals: to give employees a strong digital foundation, and to build upon this foundation in a way that would help Agilent advance its digital initiatives.
Our challenge was in serving a workforce that is tremendously diverse in terms of education, digital experience, and even proficiency in English. How could we provide everyone a strong digital foundation when, for example, we had production-line employees who had never used a mouse? How could we reach every single employee across 30+ sites in four continents? And, how could we provide training in a consistent, cost-effective manner, without interfering with normal work responsibilities?
In short, we created an online academy with courses on a range of digital topics: artificial intelligence, innovation, blockchain, and more. In less than two years, more than half of our employees have achieved at least one level of digital certification.
Computer Essentials: Leaving no one behind on our digital journey
Along with the OFS School of Digital Innovation, we created the Computer Essentials program to make sure our less-technical employees didn’t get left behind.
Computer Essentials covers basic computer skills, along with commonly used Microsoft applications: Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The courses are customized by site and focus on competencies that improve collaboration, communication, and innovation.
“Computer Essentials is a tactile way for our colleagues who don’t use computers daily to come together, have fun, and be inspired to try out some digital tools,” says Jim Macdonald, the program’s key developer and OFS learning champion. “Whether we are making a spreadsheet, putting together a presentation, updating documents, or just trying out some keyboard shortcuts, we are in it together, and we have fun in the classroom.”
We launched the training program with the support of OFS learning champions, a team of subject-matter experts who support their colleagues’ digital journeys. This global team makes sure their colleagues have access to the training resources they need to strengthen their digital learning. They also work with the OFS Academy to shape the future of OFS learning and development.
Here’s one example of how Computer Essentials works. At our site in Church Stretton, U.K., one of our learning champions led a course on Microsoft Outlook. Viv Brown, a materials team supervisor, taught 17 employees how to create auto-signatures and out-of-office messages, how to use the meeting function to book rooms, and how to check other people’s calendars.
These might seem like simple topics, but for employees who are not in front of computers every day, they can be so intimidating that the employees avoid computers altogether, says Neil Thomson, the OFS site manager at Church Stretton. By learning how to use Outlook for tasks that come up frequently, they gain confidence and are more engaged when it comes to more technical training and become more familiar with Agilent collaboration tools.
Impact of OFS learning programs
Since we launched the OFS School of Digital Innovation in late 2018, the Academy has graduated nearly 58% of our 3,000 employees, along with 152 Computer Essentials graduates at sites from the U.S. to Singapore.
The results have been gratifying: Many employees learned something in the OFS School of Digital Innovation that they then used to support a digital solution in their workspace.
For example, our manufacturing site in Chicopee, Massachusetts, drove an initiative to go paperless in an entire assembly area. Previously, the 20 operators and technicians were computer novices who preferred the old but familiar ways of paper processing. But after a learning champion took them through our Computer Essentials course, their skepticism turned to enthusiasm, and the entire team embraced efforts to digitalize the department.
Today the Chicopee team does its paperwork electronically, cutting down on costs related to paper, printing, and scanning. The switch has reduced overhead hours by 30 minutes per job, saving about $20,000 per year. It has also, in the words of one employee, “given me the gift of time, which is really nice.”
Personal development was also appreciated. Rodney Davis, a production team member at our site in Folsom, California, told us, “These classes made me more confident and less intimidated about using computers … Now I come to work feeling really excited about my job.”
All OFS training described above was completed on a voluntary basis. In many cases, we found that employees embraced the digital learning opportunities enthusiastically, and managers proactively incorporated OFS School of Digital Innovation certifications into their employees’ development plans.
About Agilent Technologies
Agilent is a global leader in life sciences, diagnostics, and applied markets. Our mission is to advance the quality of life and improve the human condition around the world, by providing instruments, services, and consumables for the entire laboratory workflow.
Based in Santa Clara, California, Agilent has 16,000+ employees and serves customers in 110 countries.
Agilent has won the Learning! 100 award four times.