As employees enter the business for the first time, either as new or mid-career recruits, they are expected to engage in a professional development path toward success in their career. British American Tobacco expects employees to know what to do to effectively help the company achieve its business goals.
British American Tobacco has created a personal career path for all employees to enable them to find out what they need to do and how to get it done. The design of each path is meant to propel employees forward at a fast and efficient rate (driving learning at a faster rate than competitors). Everything employees learn is aligned to meet business needs.
Its blended solution is based on an adult-learning model, where behavior change occurs during and after 120 days of action learning. Action learning starts with pre-work, has an event and then continues with regular coaching forward in time. It is during the coaching period that real and permanent learning takes place.
The key learning experience for management invites managers to spend one year on a Business and Leaders Program. The learning experience has at its core “Fast Lane Executive” (FLEX). FLEX is the management development program created to pave the way, specifically to breathe life and vitality into the British American Tobacco guiding principles.
During the 12 months, executives receive six intensive two-day events, 12 group-coaching tutorials and 12 individual coaching sessions (all facilitated by external coaches from The Source International, which developed FLEX with British American Tobacco). Executives also get to experience appreciation courses in finance, product knowledge, SCQuARE, marketing, operations and project leadership.
The expectations of the learners are set out both in organizational culture, as well as explicitly in the course curriculum. Change in significant levels of personal improvement are driven in tandem by the employee and the coach. New skills are monitored by the coach and senior managers to ensure employees are in fact using these skills on the job with a high degree of effectiveness. Some specific measures include:
- Improved performance development of reports through coaching.
- Increased confidence and capability in confronting poor performance.
- Greater confidence in taking risks.
- Significant improvement in work relationships.
- Significant improvement in teamwork.
- Greater clarity in role and responsibility expectations.
- Improved feedback.
- Improved capability in driving and maintaining performance ownership.
- Better use of performance-appraisal process.
- Increased communication effectiveness.
- Significant improvement in self-awareness and personal motivation.
Program evaluations put the percentage of behavior change due to training at 47 percent, while behavior changes from the coaching are nearly 60 percent with 92 percent of the participants recognizing that their behavior changes are permanent.
Success is apparent and immediate. FLEX has become the premier training program within the business. Evidence of changed behavior is ongoing and regularly recorded by senior managers. Managers are pleased with the skills they have learned and have said the experience has changed their lives—both at work and at home. There is a waiting list for people wanting the experience. Meeting effectiveness has improved, and collaboration across functions has increased. Confrontation and problem resolution has become a positive experience. Individuals would like to continue with an external, personal coach. The processes learned are becoming “the way we do things around here.”
British American Tobacco is experiencing measured improvements that affect:
- Work habits (higher productivity, increased output).
- Feelings and attitudes (better morale and higher job satisfaction, increased confidence).
- Work climate.
- New and advanced skills.
- Development and advancement.
The monetary impact to the business of these behavior changes averages $70,000 annually per person with an average level of confidence in those figures of 80 percent.
Measurement of success is, however, not how many people have attended courses, it is not how much money has been spent on education and training, and it is not a “tick the box” exercise for individuals. It is all about how each individual has added value to the business.
Success is measured in terms of continuous improvement rather than the amount of training we do.
Max Robson is head of learning and knowledge for British American Tobacco.