The tobacco industry faces many hurdles, including strict EU regulations that limit its flexibility when it comes to communications. Seita’s needed to target distributors and win back market share in an ultra-competitive environment. It achieved this by setting up CampuSeita, a digital platform available to all employees.
The Société Nationale d’Exploitation Industrielle des Tabacs (Seita), was acquired by the UK multinational Imperial Tobacco in 2008, and has more than 800 employees in France working in roles, including research, production and marketing. The group decided to focus on employee development. The first step in this process was to update the skills of its sales force skills using a common language. The company called on CrossKnowledge in 2013 to set up CampuSeita, a digital platform now available to all Seita office employees in France.
Developing sales expertise
Seita had experimented with distance learning prior to 2008, but lacked in-house expertise. After Imperial Tobacco took over, digital learning programs were suspended while the group restructured. But when Béatrice Letschert stepped in as training director in 2013, she re-launched the project. “We looked at the offers on the market, and decided that CrossKnowledge was best equipped to guide us: their teams had the right combination of experience and skill” she says. The training department began working hand-in-hand with the sales force to get the project up and running. The initial challenge was to create a training academy for the group’s 170 sales associates, offering a blend of classroom and distance learning. Seita’s goals were to harmonize working practices and upgrade sales associates’ skills so they were capable of advising distributors (i.e. client tobacconists). In essence, this represented a transition from experienced sales associate to expert in the field. Given the cost involved in developing e-learning, Seita adopted a formal change management strategy. “We brought in social partners at the very start of the project, says Béatrice Letschert. We knew that we wouldn’t get employee buy-in without engaging them first. We wanted to show people that what we were offering wasn’t a repeat of our previous program. We didn’t go back to the old modules, but rather presented a completely fresh offering. When we finally introduced the learning portal, it was very well received.”
Seita has also decided to incorporate high addedvalue content developed by CrossKnowledge with lineof- business modules created in-house. Employees who are experts in a specific field, contributed their suggestions, ideas and voices. “For example, we called on our management controller, to present our Finance for Non-Financial Professionals course” Béatrice Letschert explained. Using experts who are familiar faces for employees facilitates content acquisition; it also supplements a broader training offer that features cross-disciplinary themes, such as leadership or personal development.
Opening up digital training to new target populations
CampuSeita was rolled out to the sales force at the start of 2014. The core of the portal is a blended learning cycle focused on sales, based on 360 hours of training in an e-learning format. Trainees complete digital content prior to classroom training, which is led by managers as part of monthly team meetings. To support managers in this new role, Seita first trained the trainers. Trainees also have access to a variety of themed sessions on topics including Seita group’s business lines, and changes in the tobacco industry.
A few months after the launch, the program’s success with the sales force prompted Seita to make the portal available to another key population: office workers, most of them at head office. Although the training content is the same for all users, the editorial tone and portal environment are adapted to each target group. Today, 370 employees are registered on the platform, and participation is high.
Challenge successfully met in the first year
“We have seen real skills improvement, says Béatrice Letschert. There’s healthy competition between the sales associates, who pay close attention to module updates. Associates are more at ease talking about the business lines, since they understand them better. We’re really satisfied with the results, and the popularity of the platform.”
To keep participation high, the sales director, who sponsored the project, communicates regularly with the sales force. The group designed an ambitious communication strategy with a major launch event. Employees received promotional items in the CampuSeita color scheme: mousepads, headphones, «do not disturb» door hangers, etc. “We also had lots of participation from the managers out in the field” Letschert explained, who
continues to contribute to the platform.
The next step is to bring production site employees on board. “We developed a module to raise awareness of customs fraud that we recreated at the production site. It was a test run that was very well received. We still have to smooth things out in certain areas in-house, but it is a very encouraging first step in deploying e-learning to all of our sites” Letschert concludes.