The industrial group Socomec faces strong competition from industry giants like Siemens and Schneider Electric. To keep its edge, this international business depends on the expertise of its global network of employees. In 2014, Socomec approached CrossKnowledge with a two-fold objective: to improve the performance of sales associates, and to reinforce and add value to its management culture. A few months later, Socomec Academy was born, a global platform that provides a structured, coordinated approach to training for both groups.
Socomec’s history began in 1922 with Joseph Siat, an electromechanical engineer who made switches, fuses and roasting spits in his garage in Benfeld, in the Bas-Rhin in France. Ninety years later, Socomec is still based in Alsace operating as a family-owned company. Only now it is a global industrial group with 27 overseas subsidiaries. Proud of its achievements, Socomec seeks to double its performance by 2020 through high-potential projects and external acquisitions. The company is evolving in several markets: power inverters, security and protection equipment, and energy efficiency and storage solutions.
Taking a modern approach
“Agility and family spirit are the real strengths of our company, and we feel a certain obligation to remain expert at what we do best” says Tristan Colas, Socomec’s Chief Learning Officer. The challenge is met through training. Although Socomec’s French training department was already highly organized, in January 2014, it was focused on a single goal: to harmonize and structure the group’s learning approach between head office, subsidiaries, and internal entities – whilst taking into account diverse training practices within different business units.
“Our old solution was sourced from a CrossKnowledge competitor, and featured last-generation e-learning content, in the form of long modules and a careful approach to the ‘learner environment’. It only targeted our Power and Safety Control business in France and less than 150 people were involved, explains Tristan Colas. We had to switch to a more modern approach. It wasn’t about producing training programs for narrow technical audiences anymore, but rather about developing a full range of skills across the board in all the countries where the business operates. We needed a whole new approach.”
Working in stages
The first stage of the project involved maturing the skills of 500 Socomec global sales associates, a strategy designed to rapidly enhance company performance. The group set up a range of training paths, all harmonized globally whilst taking employees’ current levels of competence into consideration. “We evaluated the different offers on the market but, from early on, it was clear that CrossKnowledge was the leader for content and available languages. They also scored high on our second criterion: user-friendliness” says Tristan Colas. Socomec opted for a blended learning approach that included an initial online evaluation.
Ten percent of overall training time was spent training the trainers. This began digitally, using both CrossKnowledge content and in-house training modules, and was followed by several days of classroom training, all ending in certification. At the same time, sales associates were given free access to a range of training modules. “We chose about 50 modules from the CrossKnowledge catalog, then added some resources developed elsewhere. Catalog access is customized according to the learner’s profile,” Colas explained.
Then, as part of Socomec’s change management support strategy, 400 group managers were provided with a dedicated learning environment on the Academy portal. Training sessions were rolled out to managers in Europe first, with full global deployment forecast for 2016. When finished, the content will be available in six languages, including Mandarin.
Keys to success
Tristan Colas acknowledges several factors as keys to the success of this project. One was the personal investment of Chairman and CEO of Socomec, Ivan Steyert, who committed to the digital transformation of training across the group. Next, was the motivation and commitment of the Executive and HR management in supporting local managers in their new roles. Finally, the experience of the project team ensured that the project was rolled out without a hitch. “Good cross-disciplinary cooperation between the teams was clearly essential for the success of the program. CrossKnowledge was very proactive” adds Tristan Colas. Initial feedback from users has been positive according to Tristan Colas. “The platform has been well-received. For example, sales managers who have embraced the program show excellent results.” Eventually, the Socomec Academy will be accessible by other groups. “We want to expand as quickly as possible, one business line at a time: from development to marketing, technicians, and so on,” says Tristan Colas.
The next big step is to integrate a user community space into the platform. “Online communities will help us share our know-how. The objective is to harness cross-disciplinary energy (sales, marketing, R&D, etc.) for key company projects. This will also reinforce the sharing of best practice within line-of business communities. The learning space will also encourage informal learning which, as we all know, is the most effective way to acquire new skills,” Tristan Colas concludes.