Learning Leaders Named From Across the Globe

Bersin competition becomes a true global event this year. The 2008 Learning Leaders hail from far and wide — including Denmark and Australia — and represent a wide range of innovative solutions to training and business challenges. The 26 winners of this annual program from Elearning! magazine and Bersin & Associates include 16 organizations from across the telecommunications, technology, military, manufacturing, consulting and retail segments and 10 providers of training and development solutions and services.
“Once again, we were amazed at the creativity and business focus of the Learning Leaders winners,” says Josh Bersin, president of Bersin & Associates. “Despite the worsening economic climate over the past year, these organizations understand the need to continuously invest in the development and readiness of their people. These innovative and high impact programs demonstrate the results of this investment.” Read on for highlights about each winner and observations from the Bersin & Associates team of judges. Throughout 2009, Elearning! will bring you stories and Summit events featuring winning programs, technologies and initiatives. Also, for a collection of proven best practices compiled from the winning applications, download the Bersin & Associates report, “Learning Leaders 2008,” at the Website www.bersin.com/llreport2008. Operational Excellence
Operational programs make up the foundation of all corporate learning. “This year’s applicants offered outstanding examples of success, focused on building deep levels of expertise in sales, customer service, manufacturing, accounting, and other important disciplines,” notes Bersin. “In today’s highly networked businesses, nearly all these programs are built on blended strategies and use competency-based learning, coaching, and mentoring to drive high levels of impact.” Beers+Cutler: This accounting and consulting firm serving the Washington, D.C. region assigns college interns to team leaders and immerses them in client work. By building on intern competencies and expanding learning opportunities, the company provides a much higher quality internship experience. The onboarding program has provided the firm with a better means to assess and develop interns and ultimately make better selection decisions. ROI has been high, including more efficient production, improvements in client service, and additional revenues generated by several intern projects. Boeing: One of Boeing’s most strategic capabilities is its ability to implement a total systems engineering approach to its development, manufacturing, and customer service. The company’s comprehensive Systems Engineering Leadership Program (SELP), developed as a blended, experiential learning program with support from top level Boeing executives and learning partner Vangent, Inc., has been instrumental in its continued success as a commercial and defense aerospace contractor. CA: Faced with turnover in its sales force typical of the technology industry, CA, the IT management software company, implemented a continuous learning program for time-constrained sales managers. The blended program, designed for managers’ specific needs and preferred learning methods, included on-the-job coaching practice and an online coaching support community. ROI has included reduced turnover, increased sales volumes and higher employee satisfaction. Textron: Known around the world for its brands including Bell Helicopter and Cessna Aircraft, Textron implemented a comprehensive development program for manufacturing leaders. Materials Excellence was developed in conjunction with Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business Executive Education, to teach all disciplines of integrated supply chain. The program delivered very high ROI including reduced inventory costs and increased quality. The program is a model for career and leadership development in a single functional discipline.
Organizational Management Excellence This category identifies examples of the best-managed learning organizations that deliver high impact training for the business. “This year’s winners represent three very different types of training organizations,” says Leighanne Levensaler, director of talent management research for Bersin & Associates. “But all are great examples of explicitly well-planned and managed learning, born from a clear business need and targeted at business impact.”
Freeman: This family and employee-owned company based in Dallas provides integrated services for nearly 4,000 expositions and more than 10,000 other conventions and corporate events a year. Its centralized learning organization maintains tight business alignment while playing a critical role in the organization’s overall talent management strategy. It uses a holistic team-based approach to people management in which training and HR are integrated, maintaining a customer-driven, strategic focus on effective management of the entire employment life cycle. Sun Microsystems: This large provider of network computing platforms and services is the epitome of a high impact learning organization. Sun Learning Services is managed as a successful profit center — profits are maximized by offshoring, outsourcing, implementing technology and centralization of services. It serves employees, customers, partners and the community all under one organization. Telstra: As Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company, Telstra is one of the best known brands down under. The Telstra Learning Academy is a partnership with Accenture to support a five-year strategic imperative to develop a next-generation engineering, technical and operations workforce. The Academy includes a dedicated function called “Business Interlock” which develops end-to-end learning plans for each business unit based on its strategic direction. Results include a 60 percent reduction in fault rates for work done by communications technicians and an 11 percent reduction in the average call handling time.

Leadership Development Excellence
This category honors organizations that have implemented innovative learning solutions to increase the quality of a company’s leadership pipeline and show a positive impact on the company’s business objectives. According to Kim Lamoureux, principal analyst for Bersin & Associates: “This year’s applicants demonstrated the design of sophisticated leadership frameworks and supporting programs. These organizations are outstanding examples of aligning leadership development to the business strategy and bringing learning back inside the company.” Sun Microsystems: Leadership Connections, part of Sun’s comprehensive Leadership Academy, prepares senior and executive leaders through skills assessment, coaching, training, and a sophisticated custom-designed simulation. Keys to Sun’s success include CEO and executive team involvement in the leadership framework, the selection of content and topics, and the design and piloting of the simulation. The program has shown great success in improving managers’ knowledge of the company’s strategy and business model. Ratings for understanding the interrelationships and dependencies across Sun business units, for example, more than doubled — from 39 to 90 percent — after completing the program. Textron: A winner in two categories this year, Textron has seven leadership programs that target all levels from front line to executive. The Growth Leadership Program is a cross-functional program designed to facilitate growth-focused leadership by applying core marketing processes, tools, and principles to the entire product lifecycle. Nominated participants apply content to a real Textron business challenge. In partnership with Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business Executive Education and with strong executive support, the program has shown tremendous ROI. To date, 87 growth-enhancing projects have been launched across the company as a result of this program. U.S. Air Force: This progressive, career-spanning development program targets 42,000 junior officers, field grade officers and general officers of the U.S. Air Force. Its foundation is a new Institutional Competency List, which defines the competencies and level of proficiency required at every rank. The program, developed in conjunction with Vangent, Inc., includes distance learning, virtual exercises, custom simulations and automated assessments. Mentoring, a core Air Force activity, is a requirement for all officers throughout their careers.

Learning Initiative Excellence
This category honors organizations that have implemented a program, project or process that was well designed, skillfully managed, and resulted in recognizable business impact. “Each applicant focused on very diverse areas of talent management — measurement, strategy and learning,” says Lamoureux. “These organizations demonstrate how effective very different initiatives can be as long as they are tightly aligned with one or more business objectives.”
KPMG LLP: This audit, tax, and advisory firm — a U.S. limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG international network of independent member firms — created the Performance Measurement Group (PMG) to maximize the ROI of its learning and development initiatives. The PMG has implemented enterprise-scale measurement technology infrastructure and sophisticated analytics methodologies. A rigorous measurement curriculum was created, including a practicum that supports learning managers as they use these tools and methodologies the first time. These efforts, guided by learning organization leadership, have helped generate clear increases in productivity, efficiency, and time to competence. Luxottica Retail: The talent management team of this optical retailer, best known for its LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Sears Optical and Target Optical brands, gained executive support for an integrated enterprise-wide talent management strategy and system. The company has implemented a new LMS and talent management suite, developed governance boards, established learning priorities, created new talent management processes, and eliminated ah-hoc systems. As a result of this initiative, Luxottica Retail was able to reach 100 percent completion of performance reviews, identify and develop key talent, define skill gaps and increase online learning offerings. Vestas Wind Systems: This Denmark–based pioneer in the wind power industry built a successful e-learning initiative for a new employee induction program. After an extensive analysis of the business with 62 learning targets and with high levels of stakeholder input, the company developed an online environment with 16 virtual “colleagues” in different roles. Its five one-hour modules are designed around the company’s value chain. Knowledge and skills levels of new employees who complete the program are shown to double — from a 44 to 86 percent test score. Now the program is being rolled out to existing employees.

Technology Excellence
The technology category was dominated in 2008 by advances in new ways of using online learning to enable collaboration and more immediate access to training and related information. According to Chris Howard, director of research for Bersin & Associates: “Simply repackaging classroom training for online delivery is a thing of the past for leading organizations. These companies are now building online employee networks, learning portals and quick access modules to address different learning styles.” Booz Allen Hamilton: The consulting firm’s HR Technology Portal is the wave of the future for enterprise-wide learning and talent management. It combines all talent-related functions into a single portal so employees know where to go when they need to do anything related to their employment and career. The system was researched and developed with a very methodical approach to requirements and technology. The company pushed the envelope using a single technology platform (PeopleSoft Enterprise Solution) for every module including those supporting both administrative and talent processes. Cisco: The company’s QuickStart program is an e-learning solution designed to ready the sales force for strategic product launches. It consolidates new product and technology information into small chunks for easy access and consumption at the time of need. This program is an excellent example of how small, self-paced modules can be used to train sales people quickly on new products and services — critical for this supplier of networking equipment and network management. Program sponsors based their solution on extensive interviews with both sales managers and sales people. Sun: A winner in three categories this year, Sun launched the Sun Learning eXchange, a YouTube-like collaborative multimedia portal where employees can post, view, rate, tag, share, or download content to computers or wireless iPod devices. This initiative is the profile of how a Learning 2.0 platform can revolutionize sales training. The Sun Learning eXchange enables sales people to seek guidance from their peers quickly and easily.

Vendor Innovation
The number of submissions in the vendor category was considerably higher than in previous years. According to Chris Howard, this is due in part to the innovation that is taking place in the learning and talent management vendor community. “The theme this year is the recognition that both blended and rapid learning are being adopted as standard practices,” Howard observes.
> Allen Communication Learning Services: The Allen Learning Portal is a fully functional, on-demand, portal-type LMS solution targeted at the corporate market, especially those corporations where flexibility and translation are key. Its price is fixed, no matter how many learners use the system.
> Brainshark: The Brainshark Content Network is a YouTube-like open market for e-learning and other content. Companies and individuals can search for instructional content, purchase, and then easily integrate into their own LMS.
InnerWorkings: InnerWorkings offers a structured learning and testing environment integrated within Microsoft Visual Studio. InnerWorkings Developer offers a 500+ hour library of learning challenges, so that developers can hone the skills they need, when they need them.
> Kognito Interactive: Kognito’s The Investigator is a Web-based, interactive learning simulation that teaches human resource managers how to effectively and legally investigate complaints of workplace misconduct including sexual harassment, retaliation, and unethical behavior.
> Mzinga: With the Social Learning Suite, Mzinga combines LMS and performance management with social media and networking technologies, collaborative authoring, and virtual classroom capabilities within a single SaaS platform for organizations wanting to jump into Learning 2.0.
> NIIT: For electronics giant Philips, NIIT provided a product that includes a global LMS implemented across three geographical regions in more than 80 countries. The product supports 90 processes, 200 training providers and more than 500 training locations globally.
> PDI Ninth House: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Interactive Edition” is a new personal and professional development solution that uses Hollywood-style video drama and interactive activities.
> Richardson: Richardson QuickSkills, a package of Web-based courses drawn from the company’s world-class sales curriculum, helps sales professionals build stronger relationships, exceed sales objectives, and close more business using a wizard-style interface.
> Saba: The Saba Knowledge Center is a portal extension to Saba’s enterprise LMS, adding search engine functionality. It enables easy contributions and leverages Saba Centra to capture live interactions.
> Suddenly Smart: The company’s SmartBuilder v3 is a Flash-based Web e-learning development platform. Its intuitive, drag-and-drop authoring environment enables users to quickly lay out content, incorporate rich media, establish robust interactivity and customize content from templates.

Honorable Mentions
Operational Excellence
>> British American Tobacco (www.bat.com), for its talent-driven learning to promote employee expertise in marketing and business acumen.
>> AMREF, (www.amref.org), the African Medical and Research Foundation, for its ambitious program, in partnership with Accenture, to develop certified nurses throughout Africa.  
>> The Cumis Group (www.cumis.com), for its blended learning approach to onboarding featuring customized learning plans and social networking.
Learning Initiative Excellence
>> PEMEX (www.pemex.com), for its four year effort to implement all phases of a comprehensive, integrated talent management strategy for 12,000 professional and executive employees.  
Technology Excellence
>> Citrix (www.citrix.com), for Citrix Education’s innovative online solution for training partners in a short period of time on a newly-acquired product line.  
Vendor Innovation
>> Bellevue University’s Strategic Initiatives Division and Human Capital Lab (www.HumanCapitalLab.org), for developing a methodology that creates relevant learning and measures business impact for companies including Home Depot and Verizon Wireless.  
>> Retention Education (www.seddesaber.com), for its self-paced, anytime-anywhere, low-cost system providing English language instruction for Hispanic workers.  
>> CallSource (www.callsource.com), for Our University, a platform that provides continuous monitoring of telephone performance and targeted, individualized training and feedback.

Thank yous
The following organizations provided technology, content or consulting services to the 2008 Learning Leaders winners:  
* Accenture (www.accenture.com)
* Adobe (www.adobe.com)
* Apple (www.apple.com)
* Blackboard  (www.blackboard.com)
* Brainshark (www.brainshark.com)
* Convergys (www.convergys.com)  
* Cue Consult (now Peopleway)  (http://www.peopleway.net)
* Element K  (www.elementk.com)
* Effective-Learning  (www.effective-learning.com)
* Empatii. www.empatii.com
* eRoom (www.eroom.net )
* KnowledgeAdvisors (www.knowledgeadvisors.com)
* Limelight Networks (www.limelightnetworks.com)
* Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business Executive Education (www.fisher.osu.edu/exec)
* Oracle (Peoplesoft)  (www.oracle.com/applications/peoplesoft-enterprise.html)   
* Plateau (www.plateau.com)
* Questionmark  (www.questionmark.com)
* Richardson (www.richardson.com)
* Saba (www.saba.com)
* SAP (www.sap.com)
* SkillSoft (www.skillsoft.com)
* SuccessFactors  (www.successfactors.com)
* Vangent  (www.vangent.com)
(Not all applicants specified vendor names.)

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