For Qualcomm, an organization that values innovation, it’s all about staying ahead of the curve.
“We are always looking for technologies, processes or new ways of doing things that push learning into a new level for our organization,” said Rita Buffington, senior director of learning at Qualcomm. “Our company is an innovation organization, so we have to look at learning in the same way.”
Qualcomm, whose products range from wireless technology to laptops, links its business and learning strategies, a deliberate move promoted by chief learning officer Tamar Elkeles.
“Part of her philosophy is learning not only aligns to the business strategy but also aligns to the culture and drives the culture,” Buffington said. “If the culture is an innovation culture, one that is cutting-edge and high pace, then learning has to be aligned to those cultural norms.”
With the technological landscape constantly and quickly evolving, learning has to move just as fast. For example, Vicki Nardone, a staff learning specialist on the leadership and development team, said in the past few years the company has had to learn about smartphone platforms in order to develop applications and other learning-specific tools.
“There’s an instantaneous need for skill building on those platforms, so our technology and engineering teams were constantly providing our folks with what they perceived as needs moving forward,” she said.
Nardone said Qualcomm offers its employees the newest technology as often as possible so that employees can use it to build on what they have already learned while simultaneously producing value for their customers.
Qualcomm uses more than 25 different technology mediums to provide learning for its employees. Nardone and Buffington said that Jive and Yammer are among the most utilized.
“The Jive tool, which can be user content driven in addition to our placing content on it, allows for extreme collaboration, document sharing and things like that,” Nardone said.
Global growth is another area where learning has better enabled business operations. The company has expanded learning into many locations to educate employees about the cultural norms of doing business in those places, Buffington said.
Another standout in Qualcomm’s learning offerings is its emerging leader program. Over a period of 23 hours in 12 weeks, employees receive e-learning, one-on-one sessions and interactive webinars. Managers, senior managers and directors also have their own learning programs in place that revolve around peer coaching.
The company also allows employees to take responsibility for their own development by offering different learning opportunities such as certifications, degrees, on-the-job training and job aids. Employees can enroll in courses that fit into their schedules and meet their individual or role-based development needs.
For instance, in the last two years, Qualcomm experienced a need for engineers and other technical personnel to work directly with customers. Engineers, who are used to working in labs, required development and coaching to enhance their customer relationship skills. Enterprise- and division-level engineers were not the only group in need of high-level customer service training. Call center personnel also received specialized learning to improve their consultative problem-solving skills.
In order to gauge the impact of its different learning interventions, in 2010 Qualcomm began using Knowledge Advisors’ Metrics that Matter, a system which provides a learning and development report card for both employees and managers. Management also can access a quick reference card to see how many employees have taken courses, view comments from learners and evaluate performance ratings.
Buffington said Qualcomm will focus on global expansion this year as well as how best to move further into the mobile technology arena to deliver learning and services. The company will continue to expand its blended learning approach to ensure employees can receive learning in multiple formats.
Natalie Morera is an associate editor at Chief Learning Officer. She can be reached at nmorera@CLOmedia.com.
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