By Laura Overton 

A few years back, Rachel Hutchinson, Director of Learning and Development, started a journey to radically transform learning at Hilti. 

I recently listened into a fireside chat between Rachel, Charles Jennings and Vivian Heijnen as they reflected on the transformation journey so far, the changing capability of the L&D team and the ability of the team to respond during the Covid pandemic. 

I recommend you catch up with the full conversation (hosted by Phil LeNir President of Coaching Ourselves). In the meantime, I also wanted to share the a few of the lessons they shared that really jumped out for me! 

1. Hilti L&D redefined its role because of the business not because of â€˜cool’ L&D trends! 

Rachel explained that the L&D strategy fundamentally had to change a few years ago from ‘Teaching first to learning first’.  

This wasn’t driven by the latest technology or L&D fad picked up at a conference but because of business feedback. The evidence, sought from over 4000 colleagues at the time, highlighted that their traditional training approach of ‘assigning and prescribing’ was just not working for their working population.  

‘We were teaching the wrong things at the wrong time’ – Rachel Hutchinson

As a result, Rachel wanted to make a major shift from formal learning approaches into something that focussed on meeting needs and supporting performance in daily working lives. 

Whilst their L&D transformation included new technology platforms, different models of learning (she followed the 70:20:10 Methodology) and new L&D capabilities, these were introduced as part of the solution their challenge of becoming more useful to workers in their daily lives. 

2. To be more valuable, we need to work on valuable things! 

In the early days of the transformation process Rachel worked with Vivian Heijnen on a programme to help her global learning teams fundamentally shift their perspective from delivering courses to delivering value. And not just value in the broadest sense but timely, business critical value.  

The capability programme that they embarked on together helped individuals practice working with the business to not only identify the important business needs but also to home in on the critical tasks needed to meet those needs.  

Converting this fundamental starting point into a habit also stood the L&D team in good stead as they were able to respond rapidly in the Covid environment by resurfacing the priorities that really mattered in the changed business landscape. 

‘Working on things that do not create value – that’s a very risky place to be in an economic downturn’ – Rachel Hutchinson

3. Let’s solve a business problem â€¦. together! 

The conversation also highlighted the learning transformation relied on building up a framework and common language that works across multidisciplinary teams. The original capability building process created a vocabulary and a structure for different parts of the business to work together towards achieving a common goal.  

Vivian explained the importance of a whole system approach when dealing with the problem. ‘We need to look at how individuals, teams and organisations learn. How do roles meld together’? What was clear for me was that L&D transformation at Hilti was not just about L&D! It was about introducing a structured process provided the whole organisation with permission to solve the problem together. 

‘A multidisciplinary approach works best – why stay in silos? Let’s work together on the problem‘ – Rachel Hutchinson

4. Success breeds success 

To help new processes bed in, quick wins were needed. Identifying a clear business problem was central to the capability building programme. Designing the best intervention to address the problem involved looking first for solutions that could be applied in the flow of work under the premise that the closer to the point of use, the more impact that solution will have. 

Participants in the capability programme were asked to work with their business on real needs with real value. Some of the projects provided speedy results.  Within 3 months, a project to convert more service quotes into signed business resulted in an improvement from 25% to 40%. Over time the value was improved even more and now stands at 70% conversion.  

Some projects, such as reducing the onboarding process from 15-18 months down to 5 months, took longer to deliver. The important part of these early results was that word got around so that teams actually wanted to work with L&D in new ways! 

‘When multidisciplinary teams see success – word gets around!’ – Rachel Hutchinson

5. Agility involves rapidly shifting L&D knowledge into L&D practice 

Learning transformation isn’t just about quick wins, new platforms, and L&D capability programmes. Lasting change is about adopting new processes and forming new habits across the business. This takes effort and time for all involved. It was interesting that Rachel shared that not all the in-country L&D teams took to the new approach – after all it wasn’t compulsory. 

However, when Covid hit, so did the reality. Those teams who had been on the programme but had not converted their knowledge into day to day practice struggled to cope. 

Those that had embraced new methods and systems of working and learning together to solve business problems were more seasoned, more experienced, and better prepared to adapt. 

Individuals were already empowered to contribute, the platforms were already in use, the business leaders were already open to discussing the priority business issues and critical tasks and the L&D teams already equipped to respond rapidly to new business demands.  

‘For those teams, apart from the conversation of a few classroom resources into virtual, Covid actually meant business as usual.’ – Rachel Hutchinson

The start of the journey 

At one point in the conversation, Rachel mentioned the importance of shifting from being an order taker to becoming a value creator. She felt that there is still a long journey ahead. 

For me it seems that the processes, methods, and common language already driving results in the business will pave the way for an acceleration and I look forward to hearing the next instalment! 

These were just a few of the lessons I picked up from the conversation – take a listen, I’d love to know what jumps out for you in the comments below.