At Novartis, a health care products company responsible for well-known brands including Gerber, Bufferin and Maalox, learning is embedded into the organization’s cultural DNA. With operations in more than 140 countries, Frank Waltmann, Novartis International head of global learning, said the research-based company believes in the value of management education and training on a fundamental level.
“All of our management training programs are sponsored by a member of the Novartis senior leadership team and should be completely aligned with the goals and objectives set by the executive committee,” Waltmann said. “We really align our training programs with the overall company strategy.”
All Novartis employees worldwide have access to learning offerings, but the majority of the learning organization’s efforts center on 5,000 global managers. An additional 50,000 employees of the organization’s 100,000-member workforce participate in training programs delivered via a blended methodology, including e-learning, instructor-led and self-paced learning.
Waltmann said the management training department is focused on an instructor-led delivery style but not the oft-used lecture format. Instead, Novartis uses more of a case study learning style.
“At Novartis, we don’t like the word ‘university,’” Waltmann explained. “The corporate learning department is a kind of university, but we don’t like that kind of ‘certification and long-term curricula’ approach — we like a kind of immediate response to business needs. In Europe, ‘university’ has a different connotation. Lecture-style seems very old-fashioned and classic.”
Waltmann said that in the past, leadership and business acumen presented key challenges for the company. To address them, he and his team customized training for different levels of management, and they designed and delivered training programs based on different experience levels, including first-line managers, managers of other managers and senior managers with responsibilities involving strategy, profits and loss.
Novartis’ corporate learning department is responsible for setting and controlling standards. Having made the decision to meet business needs with learning solutions, it’s natural metrics and analytics would play a role in the learning process. For instance, the company employs worldwide leadership standards, as well as values and behaviors taught in various programs.
The centralized learning function also is responsible for assessments and setting standards such as 360-degree assessments and other tools.
“We control the quality of the tools that we’re using and how we measure the programs,” Waltmann said. “We also have standardized tools for how we assess training quality. We give first-level Kirkpatrick model evaluations, like ‘smiley feedback,’ directly after a program. Six months after the program, we follow up by telephone. Depending on the program, we check to see if the training improved their performance, if it changed their behavior, etc.
“Every second to third year, we have an external assessment of all training functions. You have ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) in the U.S. There’s a similar organization in Europe called EFMD, European Foundation of Management Development, which has a very rigorous assessment process in place. They assessed us about three years ago, and I think they’re going to do it again by the end of the year. Last but not least, we run global surveys. We ask specific questions about the quality of leadership and how it has improved over the last five, six years. We have enough global, standardized tools that we can use to measure the success of our training programs.”
Waltmann said the ROI of learning is important and over the years, heavy investments in leadership training have elicited observable, continual improvements in the company’s quality of leadership. Survey feedback and improved audit reports also bore evidence that business acumen had increased among the company’s leaders.
“The biggest changes will come in the area of leadership training,” Waltmann said. “We have to focus even more on leadership skills for a few reasons. Novartis is growing, and our approaches are getting more and more global with a very complex or challenging project structure. Many of our employees have to work in a matrixed organization. They have to learn to manage without formal authority, how to manage across cultural and geographic boundaries, how to team work better. These kinds of challenges we have to address in our training programs. The second challenge is diversity and inclusion. By ‘inclusion,’ we mean inclusive leadership styles, how to value differences better, how to deal with differences in our company.”
– Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org