When a new top management recruit at Merial concluded that its classroom training was insufficient and inconsistent. The animal health multinational launched a process of training transformation. It created the Merial e-campus, a product and marketing education and development center whose goal is to standardize employees’ knowhow and practices. The company took its first step in this digitization project with CrossKnowledge, and has clear plans about how to build on its early successes.
A subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, and based in Lyon, Merial has made its mark in several major segments of the veterinary market with vaccines, antibiotics, and a flagship antiparasitic treatment FrontLine. The company has 6,500 employees spread across 150 countries, but is organized according to animal species instead of geographic location, due to the differences in animal pathologies and species-specific products. As a result, each business unit (BU) is independent and faces its own challenges.
Homogenizing training on a global scale
Originally, products and services training was provided by the Global Technical Directors of each BU; a complex delivery structure without true centralized control. “We had a huge problem with diversity of know-how and practices. Some countries weren’t covered at all, which meant a lack of alignment in the messages employees were delivering to clients,” recalls Corinne Girard, then Production Animal Franchises Director. As soon as she took up her new position as Production Animal Franchises Director she began pushing for a fresh training approach. Girard was chosen to lead this large in-house project. Her goal was to develop a new training program focusing on marketing staff, technicians and sales directors, all of whom in different BUs but worked in the same production animal market. The program would include more than 500 employees – a small revolution for Merial, since the company had never targeted training goals on a global scale and had little experience with digital training.
Choosing the right partner
“I knew I would be working alone with both limited resources and budget,” says Girard. “We needed a training platform that was intuitive for users, since I would not be able to provide technical support myself. After comparing the market players, the choice was easy: CrossKnowledge was the only company offering an intuitive platform. Their back office is also considerably more advanced than the other tools out there.”
As a first step, Girard asked CrossKnowledge to set up home page content for the Merial e-Campus learning portal, as well as its first blended learning program. At the same time, she trained herself using the CrossKnowledge Academy, a service for CrossKnowledge clients that teaches them how to use and manage their online platforms. “I was able to learn how the CrossKnowledge solutions worked at the same time as the project was being set up,” she explains.
According to Girard, participants took to the platform very readily. “It was surprising, because e-learning is a very new approach for our employees. However, the platform shows very good rates of participation and satisfaction.” Girard, who now manages the e-Campus independently, is also able to plan, manage and communicate program information to participants single-handedly.
Exploring all of digital training’s potential
Each training program is based on a preliminary e-learning phase, followed by a classroom session. Simultaneously, customized webinars and modules for specific lines of business are made available, covering subjects such as particular vaccines or specific medications. The programs then broaden out to address all levels of participants, using CrossKnowledge content to deliver training focused on cross-disciplinary skills development in such areas as ‘Understanding client needs’ or ‘Responding to criticism’. In all, each learning path is made up of four hours of distance learning and two hours in the classroom. “Learners are accompanied every step
of the way, using training reminders. The platform guides the learner at every step,” Girard explains. To ensure that the maximum number of employees participate, each new program is launched in-house through a streamlined communication channel that involves franchise managers and country managers. This has proved to be a key element in the project’s success.
Following the success of the Merial e-Campus with its first target audience, Merial’s pet franchise business units are next in line for the program, with 1,200 employees in total being targeted with training. “We still have lots of work to do. For the moment we are focusing on developing sales skills, but eventually we plan to move on to marketing. I’d also like to develop the platform’s collaborative aspect by exploiting forums and communities, as well as possibly using other digital formats such as quizzes or games,” concludes Girard. It all represents the start of a great digital journey for Merial.