How Nestlé demonstrates tangible business value through L&D

How Nestlé demonstrates tangible business value through L&D

An “outside-in” thinking approach has been critical to the development of a unique L&D framework within Nestlé, which has demonstrated learning value and results while positioning the L&D function as a tangible performance enabler within the business.

As a result, Nestlé’s L&D team has made considerable inroads into changing the conversation about learning value within the business, moving from a focus on efficiency and cost to concentrating on results and value, said Vanessa Blewitt, global transformation lead: learning intelligence and effectiveness for Nestlé.

“There is always the imperative to demonstrate value you deliver in any function, and certainly L&D was a function that was challenged to say, ‘Well, what is the value of our learning investment?’” said Blewitt, who was speaking as part of the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sydney from 29 to 30 October 2018.

“And learning effectiveness was an agenda that I had been looking to push for a while, because I was frustrated by the fact that people continuously said, ‘You can’t demonstrate value. It’s just a cost of doing business.’ And I disagreed with that.”

At the same time, Nestlé’s corporate leadership development centre was pushing for digital transformation of learning within the business, and Blewitt said this created the mandate for change within Nestlé’s L&D function with a view to improving learning effectiveness through technology and innovation.

Keys to success
Blewitt began with research into learning effectiveness models with a view to applying a value measurement approach to all L&D offerings.

“What has interested the business is how we apply scale and scope to this,” she said.

“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to measurement, but rather, we have a one-size-fits-all framework that has levers.

“So we measure reaction, application and value-added ways of working for all development solutions, from a basic e-learning excel course all the way up to our multi-week development solution programmes – but we do it in different ways and activate different enablers.

“So the framework we have is focused on creating conditions for value creation as well as measuring values creation as part of an input to a continuous improvement and feedback loop – this has been a strategic point of difference,” said Blewitt.

Another key element is that the L&D framework also supports learners and line managers, according to Blewitt, who explained that they use the same framework as they prepare for and participate in learning as well.

To help improve adoption of the new framework, there has been a significant focus on automating through Nestlé’s LMS provider Cornerstone OnDemand.

“I was frustrated by the fact that people continuously said, ‘You can’t demonstrate value. It’s just a cost of doing business.’ And I disagreed with that”

“Each development solution is assigned an identifier, and that’s how we decide what we need to measure and what activities we need to have,” she explained.

“So we use our learning management system to send emails at certain times, for example – from registration and then 30 days out, 7 days out, 10 days after and 30 days after, and key messages with links to learning effectiveness assessments are included in these emails.”

Nestlé is also undertaking a global capability building exercise which involves HR business partners, L&D professionals, line managers and employees, and Blewitt said the L&D is a critical component of this exercise – focusing on why it is important, how it is happening and their individual role within the process.

“Key to the success of this is a global communication approach,” she said.

“We take a standardised approach, and we’ve worked hard to understand where the pain points are to make sure we’re addressing these.”

Blewitt has employed global analytics to help ensure the business is telling a story that can both improve learning outcomes as well as take on board recommendations to make sure learning is a business enabler.

Implementation, adoption and analytics
Nestlé started by rolling its new L&D framework at its corporate leadership development centre in Switzerland about two years ago, with more than 5000 participants a year coming from around the world to participate.

This learning is targeted at the top two to five per cent of employees in the company, and Blewitt said this process is important in developing Nestlé’s leadership pipeline.

“We would say that this learning is business school quality; we work with IMD and London Business School to develop and deliver these programmes, and this is our most strategic and highest investment in L&D,” she explained.

The L&D framework is now part of Nestlé’s global business transformation programme, which is currently being rolled out in 10 markets with around 5000 learning solutions on offer, followed by 40 markets next year and the remainder of the globe the following year.

“So ultimately in three years’ time this, we will reach about 10 million hours of learning per year for our business, said Blewitt, who explained this will be underpinned by learning analytics to support the rollout:

  • An effectiveness dashboard to help assess the effectiveness and value of any L&D delivered, and this dashboard assesses a wide range of factors including:
  • Course, location and registered/active participant numbers
  • Course feedback through star rating assessments
  • Application of learning on the job (30 days afterwards for skills-based learning, and 100 days for behaviour-based learning)
  • Alignment, readiness of learners and efficiency
  • What was applied, training relevance and value added to participant’s ways of working
  • Trainer engagement and delivery (both virtual as well as face-to-face)

Understanding and communicating L&D value
In developing the new framework, Blewitt said it was important to focus on the value of the learning and this is an ongoing discussion within the business.

Cost and efficiency continue to be important and are not forgotten in the approach, and Blewitt said the opportunity is to change the conversation from “How much did we spend per hour of learning as a bottom line figure?” to “Was it money well spent?”

“We’ve worked hard to understand where the pain points are to make sure we’re addressing these”

“To answer this we need to know how it was used and applied, and did it add value?’” she said.

Positioning learning as a business enabler has also been a key focus for Blewitt, who explained that L&D communities are often event-focused as this is their traditional sphere of influence and control.

“The other challenge is getting people to understand how to use insights,” she said.

“Some people look at the data, and quite quickly understand how they could apply analytics and insight to improve, while other people find it challenging; they don’t quite know what to do with it.”

Capability building has also been important for L&D teams as well, with a focus on how they can use analytics to take action themselves and recommend actions to their business stakeholders.

Blewitt explained that she has never been asked for return on investment calculations – “and nor will I ever seek to do one,” said Blewitt, who believes this issue is at the heart of the learning measures challenge.

“There are so many variables as to why there might be an increase in sales, for example – how to determine the percentage that a learning programme attributed a 10 or 20 per cent increase in one thing or a decrease in another,” she said.

With the added complexity of participants in multiple locations with varying conditions, she said such calculations would be valid for only the highest strategic value learning, when the reality is that all learning should add value.

“This is why we seek to answer four key questions for all learning assets:

  • Did they CHOOSE it?
  • Did they REACT favourably?
  • Did they APPLY learning on the job? – and if so,
  • Did it ADD VALUE to ways of working?

“Application is key, as without this, there can be no value creation,” said Blewitt.

“Additional measures are added as the strategic value of learning increases. This will include correlation (not causation) to business results.”

She gave the example of the company’s leadership pipeline, which will undergo certain development programmes, which can then deliver analytics around participation, retention and promotion rates.

“So our business will be enabled by actionable data insights to inform decisions and actions and continuously improve,” said Blewitt.

Blewitt will be speaking ahead of the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sydney from 29 to 30 October 2018. For more information or to register please visit the HR Innovation & Tech Fest website.