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Bayer U.S. Innovations in Learning: Goodbye Traditional Training

COVER STORY – By Renee Landry & Rachel Lamb

The needs of our workforce are not the same as they were several years ago

Click on the QR code to preview the Rise & Thrive framework.

So far, this has been a decade of change for corporate learning and development. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the past couple of years:

  • March 2020 – “Let’s take our daylong live training programs and make them day-long virtual programs! Could that be the answer?”
  • December 2020 – “Can we take those day-long virtual sessions and teach all the content in an hour? Learners will still get a lot out of it, right?”
  • April 2021 – “Why don’t we just send around an article and tell people to read it and reflect? By themselves. Does that count as learning?”

By the time we reached late 2021 and beyond, we knew the answers to the questions above were no, we could not teach the same content we taught live and make it just as effective in a virtual setting. We could not use an article or online training as a substitute for experiential learning.

The needs of our workforce are not the same as they were several years ago. As times have changed, attention spans have decreased, and screen fatigue has increased. For some workers, loneliness in the virtual world is real.

How do we bring people together, through a computer screen, and use an adult-learning approach to teach essential skills, like leadership, prioritization and empowerment? How do we connect people through a technology platform?

As senior learning leaders at Bayer, it was up to us to figure it out for the U.S. organization.

Company and Vision

“Health for all, hunger for none” is the driving force behind every move Bayer makes – in all three of its core divisions: Pharmaceuticals, Consumer HLAMBVealth and Crop Science. With locations in 83 countries and more than 100,000 employees, Bayer is focused on improving health and nutrition around the globe.

Talent Management Team and Overall Learning Philosophy in 2022

For Bayer’s U.S. operations, we knew that everyone was tired of long, required, virtual training. Together, we were ready for the challenge of overhauling traditional training methods. We learned to use our very different approaches and personalities to create unique learning experiences in the hybrid world.

“Training doesn’t have to be boring. You can build an amazing training experience by leveraging creativity, adult learning theory and innovation. Building a better learner experience was a key to our success.”

— Renee Landry,
U.S. Learning Lead

JumpStart was created to be an easy-to-use platform and fun social network to connect with peers.

Rise and Thrive Leadership Experience

Together we created Rise & Thrive, an innovative experience to prepare leaders for the challenges they face in the new world of working. A powerhouse crossdivisional Bayer Advisory Board helped make sure the leadership experience envisioned hit the mark for what leaders needed.

The Bayer team engaged two expert collaborative supplier-partners, SweetRush and Third Factor, to help create a learning experience no one had ever seen before. After analyzing thousands of pieces of data and listening to firsthand accounts of what leaders struggled with, we worked with our partners to create learning that was easy to digest: custom, bite-sized content anchored in bold
graphics and videos, pumping music, 30-second dares to put the learning into practice immediately, and rewards.

The reactions to the new leadership development program was incredible:

  • “Oh man—this is fantastic!”
  • “I’ve never been more excited about a training program in my 20 years of being a leader!”
  • “I loved the bite-sized learning – perfect and practical!”

In 2021, the content for Rise & Thrive was introduced through a three-week email campaign. More than 3,500 leaders signed up to participate.

In 2022, Bayer began the Rise & Thrive Leadership Reimagined Series with another supplier partner, BigSpeak. The team hand-selected celebrity guest speakers to infuse the program with new energy.

We successfully got people to first sign up for the speaker series, and then invited them to be part of the three-week Rise & Thrive campaign. Statistics showed a remarkable 70% conversion rate.

In 2023, we expect to see a new iteration of the program, evolving with the times, incorporating learning from the most popular social media platforms, live workshops on the Rise & Thrive pillars and, ideally, immersive experiences at farms, hospitals and consumer retail stores.

The results from Rise & Thrive were overwhelmingly positive. Based on pre- and post-assessments of how effective leaders were at inspiring their teams, balancing their workload and empowering others, numbers increased in the 50% range. With a 94.7% Net Promoter Score, Rise & Thrive was a hit.

Or, as one learner put it, “Rise & Thrive is the most articulate, bite-sized, and helpful real-time management training that I have ever had. Each dare helped me go back, slow down, and focus once again on doing the basics well.”

Rise and Thrive has been recognized internationally with numerous prestigious industry awards in the areas of innovative learning and custom content. On the heels of great success with Rise & Thrive, we were tasked with revitalizing the new-hire onboarding process, coined “JumpStart.”

JumpStart Background and Challenge

The onboarding process at Bayer was complicated, just as it is at other huge multinational companies. When we took over the day one experience, we quickly realized that new hires had a lot to learn about Bayer’s three divisions and enabling functions. New hires struggled to find information they needed in a central location. They often did not get a chance to meet their team face to face as they
embarked on their new career.

How could Bayer make new hires feel the greatness and the impact the company makes? How could new employees connect in the hybrid world outside of the chat box and a virtual breakout room? What could be done to make the onboarding process seamless and easy?

As a solution, we formed another exceptional cross-divisional Advisory Board. We also broadened the core team by bringing in additional L&D colleagues Anne Schuchardt and Sandra Lowe, to add their expertise and diversity of thought.

Together, we gathered feedback around onboarding, interviewed new hires and researched best practices in the marketplace. In collaboration with SweetRush, Bayer created a secure new-hire platform called JumpStart.

New hires were invited to JumpStart after they received a care package, filled with hand-picked items representing each division. The site solved many onboarding challenges:

  • Simplified the onboarding process and made it fun.
  • Curated all essential information for a new hire, in an organized and aesthetically pleasing way.
  • Energized new hires through bold graphics, videos and dynamic social circles to connect with cross-divisional colleagues in a unique way.
  • Inspired new hires to learn more about the breadth of work done at Bayer across divisions.
  • Celebrated how excited the company was that the new hire chose to work at Bayer.

Following the Model

Through Rise & Thrive, we learned that celebrity guest speakers were one of the best ways to educate the workforce on new initiatives and so we followed that model with JumpStart.

Feedback from those who have had a chance to participate includes phrases such as “totally intuitive,” “beautiful” and “the perfect welcome as a new hire begins their career.” The best piece of feedback, thus far, has been, “This is a game-changer – why didn’t anyone think of this before?”

“Taking what was in-person training and just throwing it onto the computer was not the answer. We thought outside the box and created something special, based on data from today.  Old analytics were not used to build our new programs.”

— Rachel Lamb,
Senior Leadership Expert

Conclusion

Long generic webinars are a thing of the past. Fun bite-sized learning, dynamic platforms and innovation are Bayer’s solutions to create excitement, growth and results.

As our world changes, our training methods must change too. Creativity mixed with adult learning theory is a winning combination.


Renee Landry is U.S. learning lead for Bayer. Email Renee at renee.landry@bayer.com. Rachel Lamb is a senior leadership expert with Bayer. Email Rachel at rachel.lamb@bayer.com.

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