Like many organizations going through a merger, three years ago Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA Inc. found itself in that not terrible, but not desirable void between two company cultures. The global leader in imaging technology found that learning was the perfect bridge to bring the two together. By creating key development initiatives for its sales and dealer employee populations, the company was able to unify its culture and establish a learning foundation that will elicit bottom-line results.
“Konica Minolta is very, very interested in growth and personal and professional development of employees,” said Marilyn Mitchell, director of professional development and enterprise learning, Konica Minolta. “Our standards are that if you’re not learning, you’re not growing. We have about 20-odd thousand individuals taking courses, learning. Those are divided into internal as well as external through our dealer community, and their employees are part of the whole learning organization.”
Konica Minolta is an international operation, and the learning organization shares many of its resources with Canada, Latin America, Japan and Europe. The United States houses the company’s dealer operations, and much of the company’s learning in this area is centered on building and maintaining customer relationships. Konica Minolta has launched a number of initiatives within the past 12 months including the Solutions Learning Gateway, which Mitchell said will help reach their multi-generational employee audience and simultaneously bring the employees into close contact with customers and their particular needs. “We’re no longer selling copiers. We are in solutions, software and we need to really bump up the type of learning that we provide so that these individuals can become engaged in what it is that we’re doing and not lose interest. We’ve created a Solutions Learning Gateway where people can come into a virtual classroom online, have an instructor that has been videotaped. It’s not an instructor, but the actor totally understands where we’re coming from and what we’re trying to get across. In a very fun way, this instructor teaches the students all about the solutions and leads them to great areas within the classroom where they can learn in a real-life environment.”
This simulation-based approach to learning will begin with the legal market, with other vertical markets such as finance and health care to follow quarterly, and show learners how Konica Minolta solutions can work in this environment. “We have so many solutions out there instead of just providing information like an information dump on people. We are trying to make everything real life, showing them, ‘Hey, if you’re in this kind of a situation, and you’re talking to this type of an individual, these are the questions that you should ask, these are opportunities that you should look for, and these are the solutions that are going to help you sell in this environment,” Mitchell explained. “It’s Flash video. It’s online. They go to one place within our learning management system. Everything that we do is organized through our learning management system, whether it’s an instructor-led course, an online module or this type of interactive situation.”
The impetus for the Solutions Learning Gateway was to enable Konica Minolta to reach its large employee population, promote engagement as well as boost sales, but the rest of the organization is encouraged to visit as well. Another newly launched initiative called Log in and Learn also was developed to tap into the non-selling individuals in the organization because Mitchell said it is important to inspire employees to want to learn about the company’s products and services. “If everyone in the organization is learning and growing, it will help the company grow. It’s best if we have individuals answering the phones trying to help customers who have a better understanding of what the products are all about.”
Konica Minolta also recently launched its Learn Tracks initiative. The organized learning plans were created to build and measure multiple knowledge levels within the company. Beginning with the lower-level products, employees work up to the most highly featured units. At each bizhub or Learn Track — there are four different ones for specific job roles such as customer sales representative and application specialist — there are rewards. “Once they get through their first learning track, they will be rewarded with this really cool optical mouse with a floating emblem. It’s one of these things that’s going to be a really coveted item in the organization, and the only way you can get one is if you achieve the first Learn Track,” Mitchell said. “We’ve incorporated those beginner, intermediated, advanced levels into Learn Tracks. After bizhub Essentials and bizhub Fundamentals, we have bizhub Color, which focuses on products we use in a color environment, and then bizhub PRO, our really high-powered, high-end units in the production print environment. If you’re a sales person in the field, there will be the same Learn Tracks but more geared toward sales.”
Konica Minolta’s revamped leadership training also has helped the organization focus on its customers. Currently, there are three tiers of leadership training for management: one for the most senior leaders, one for middle management and one for self leadership for employees who manage dealer customers. “We’re teaching about ownership. How important it is for people to own the end results and own what they are responsible for,” Mitchell said. “You can’t grow as an organization, and you can’t have a growing culture if people are not willing to take ownership. We focus on direction. If you don’t identify your goals, write them down, focus on those on a regular basis and understand as an organization where we’re going and how you fit into that, then you don’t have a growing culture. Another aspect is with regard to helping other people around you succeed and helping other people do their job. You understand that you need to take ownership for what you’re responsible for. That’s one level, but you really need to assist other individuals around you in helping them to achieve their goals. That’s when things really start to take off.”
Stephen Jones, executive vice president, dealer operations, Konica Minolta, agrees and has initiated an exclusive relationship with training vendor 2logical Inc. to aid the company’s efforts to build a unified culture. “We merged Konica Minolta about three years ago. We spent our first year like any merger trying to figure out what we’re going to do. Year two we spent a lot of time trying to make the financial and business results. In my mind, I took my eye off of what we really need to address, that we need to make some real cultural changes. We had a lot of legacy issues, some good and some bad. We needed to develop a new culture and a new way of looking at our customers and partners, etc.
“I needed to get everyone on the same page,” Jones said. “I have responsibility for a pretty large organization. It’s close to a billion dollar business in U.S. operations. There are a lot of people involved in administration, sales, service, etc. We decided to use the framework of 2logical, what they call a written plan. I wanted a simple way for everybody to speak the same language and hopefully have everybody going in the same direction.”
Jones said that written plan looks at three frameworks. One, everyone in the company sets their company goals on a written plan. Two, Konica Minolta will identify critical success factors, and three, define the high payoff activities needed on a daily basis to achieve company goals. “I had every single person in my organization go to their (2logical) training. It worked out to almost a four-day class to review their goals, critical success factors and high-payoff activities. At the end of the day, every student was to design their written plan that we use now and cascade up through the organization. I’m looking for consistency, and slowly but surely I think we’re redefining our culture here at Konica Minolta. We invested a lot of time and money in this. This was not a whim thing. Now, I’ve got everybody trained. I’ve got everybody going in the right direction, and we will be reinforcing this concept quarterly.”
Jones said he will continue the process as he hires new people and give them the same training so that over time, everyone will get the message. “This is who we are, this is where we’re going to go, and this is what we will be. I made a decision about a year ago that we had to make some changes, and I’m using training as a way to change the culture of the company to more customer-oriented. The platforms that I’m setting, there are three areas that I’m focusing in on, three essential components for our success in our fiscal year from April ’06 to March ’07: open communication, ownership and overall desire to succeed. Under each one of those are the platforms of what they need to do to ensure they’re doing their very best to support our strategy and our goals for the corporation going forward over the next four or five years.”
The learning programs Konica Minolta has initiated in the past year have yet to yield significant metrics, but the company will measure customer and employee satisfaction. “I’ll also be measuring our business and how we’re doing year over year,” Jones said. “I believe that if we do all the right things and everybody is truly working together in a teamwork mode, you’re going to see better financial results. We had a very good year last year. I’m expecting an even bigger one now with the investments that we’ve made in training over the last 12 months. I absolutely believe we made the right investments. There are huge opportunities in our business right now, and I’m using training as a strategic plank to help the corporation move forward.
“I see a commonality of language now,” Jones said. “I talk about high-payoff activities and critical success factors. Then I walk in on a meeting one of my regional managers was having, and I see them using the format for our culture. I’ve absolutely seen a change in behavior from a teamwork standpoint. There was a lot of finger pointing going on a year ago. ‘It’s your fault. It’s not my responsibility.’ Now I see more of everybody trying to help one another, and slowly but surely I’m seeing a much stronger, positive attitude toward helping our customers.”
–Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org