As a revenue generating activity, sales can’t get much closer to the bottom line. Simply stated, more sales equals more money. The line from the learning function to the bottom line isn’t always so clear.
Chuck Battipede, vice president of learning and development for global information technology company Hewlett-Packard (HP), has helped to clarify that line, thanks in part to his skill as a salesman.
From East to West
Battipede began his HP career in sales in 1983 in New Jersey. Eight years into the role, he moved to California for a two-year rotation assignment to consult with the corporate training organization about the sales organization’s needs. After a year and a half, he took over sales force development for the Americas and subsequently worldwide sales force development before going back to the field as sales general manager in enterprise sales for the western United States.
Battipede eventually left HP for competitor Cisco Systems, where as senior director of sales support programs he was responsible for learning for the sales organization and systems engineers. A stint as chief learning officer at Avaya followed before he returned to HP in 2008, taking responsibility for all learning in 2010.
With 326,000 employees from different cultures, speaking different languages and with different learning styles and needs ranging from professional to sales to technical aptitude, Battipede has had to specialize and scale the company’s learning offerings, employing a variety of delivery mechanisms and developing the infrastructure needed to support a complex learning system.
Regardless of how learning is delivered in the 170 countries where HP operates, Battipede said the key is the output learning provides. He said helping employees do their jobs well and advance their careers is both rewarding and challenging. “You really have to think outside the box when you have all these different types of learners. You need to be state of the art, but there are deliverables. Those deliverables are then implemented and you can start to see the results.”
Aligning Ability to Execution
HP has a business learning development team that works with leaders within specific businesses to identify learning needs, skill gaps and business priorities. Those needs are brought into a center of expertise — HP learning has a delivery arm and a development arm — which then builds appropriate learning solutions.
Mike Dallas, vice president of HR for HP and Battipede’s peer on the HR Executive Council, a senior advisory board for the company’s HR charter, said Battipede has brought clarity of purpose to HP’s learning. “Chuck embraced our HP HR model around productivity, cost, quality and engagement to create a balance that had learning solutions focus on each element,” he said. “He’s looked to maximize employees’ ability and align that ability to execution — learning as applicable skills to business solutions versus just nice-to-do programs.”
Dallas said Battipede has brought focus to outcomes. “He’s introduced a new rigor in measuring the impact of learning and development within the company, from program creation or total learning hours toward program impact, and he’s challenged the designers to design for usability,” Dallas said.
The company also has aligned metrics by job type. Field sales representatives are measured on time-to-quota achievement and engineers are assessed on time-to-innovation. That focus has led to improvement in sales university experience and in service delivery, Dallas said.
He said Battipede also has enabled local markets to create their own learning using virtual learning forums, a physical space for the sales university and communications vehicles such as social networking. HP also leverages learning communities based on roles or specific interests, which enable participants to share tacit knowledge with others in the company.
Though it offers more than 9,000 courses — which Battipede said is not a lot considering the extent of product information, as well as technical, professional and support functions — he said HP “is not a catalog training company where we’re just creating a lot of training courses. The No. 1 component that we had when we developed our learning model was to make sure that we are 100 percent aligned with key business initiatives. There’s a leader for each business, our enterprise sales organization, our personal solutions group, those people dot line into me, and they follow line into the HR leader for the business.”
For example, HP launched its License to Practice program and developed a sales management curriculum to increase product and business knowledge for account general managers working the largest enterprise accounts, all of which feature complex sales and sale environments. A sales university evolved to help promote sales transformation for related roles and identify and advance core competencies.
“We’ve delivered a faster time to selling productivity over the past several quarters than we have in the prior period,” Dallas said. “We’ve maintained the balance of extreme cost efficiency in the labor without any detriment in time to market on innovation or customer satisfaction. It’s a balance of ability to hit a budget goal and not just deliver less service for less money but improve service while maintaining cost effectiveness.”
Measurement: Effectiveness and Results
To ensure learning remains focused on business priorities while also weighing cost, Battipede said a two-pronged strategy for career development training and business-specific initiatives is critical, as is the ability to measure learning effectiveness.
“We look at it a couple of different ways. We look at whether it’s a productivity type of measure or increased revenue measure or cost measure,” Battipede said. “We’ll implement a level 4 evaluation model from Kirkpatrick, and then we’ll select specific key initiatives to take to level 4.”
In on-boarding inside salespeople in call centers, the company first uses the Kirkpatrick model to test if employees are acquiring and applying new knowledge.
“Then we measure their productivity, time to first three sales, time to quota. We find people that have been on-boarded effectively actually achieve their sales results in a much quicker time frame. We invest the time and the resources to track that so we make sure that what we’re tracking is valid. Then, obviously we try to improve upon the metrics that we’ve set for ourselves.”
Battipede said every one of HP’s learning offerings has at least a level 1 or level 2 metric attached, but sales is one of those 15 or so initiatives that receive a more advanced measurement look. Sales managers who have gone through the Licensed to Practice program achieve higher results than those that have not.
“The customer satisfaction on those accounts they support [is] also higher,” he said. “We’re all proud as an organization that the work we’re doing is not only liked by the salespeople or the employees, but there is actually a business impact and people can be developed and more effective in their jobs.”
HP will continue to expand its reach and focus on individual development needs to ensure learning is as much a part of what employees do to build their careers as it is applicable to their actual jobs. Battipede said the company wants to raise awareness of what learning is available and make sure it is relevant and easily implemented. That will mean using more mobile learning, smart devices and social learning.
“It’s a very exciting time,” he said. “More learning will come from each other than from taking a training course, [and we will] facilitate that. When you’ve got the number of employees that we have at Hewlett Packard you have to be able to employ those types of technologies to get people sharing ideas, teaching each other, building on that knowledge because it’s not just training courses. There’s learning from experience, and [we have] to make sure we have more vehicles and programs in place to allow people to have more experiences, more stretch assignments to broaden their exposure and help with their own development.
“If I start from the very beginning, our mission was to be recognized by business leaders and employees for maximizing business performance by developing a best-in-class workforce. That’s the core. The principle behind that was that 100 percent alignment with the business priorities but also to help impactful best-in-class learning solutions utilizing appropriate delivery mechanisms. It’s not one-size-fits-all, it’s making sure we have the right technology to address the specific need and the objective that you have.”
Kellye Whitney is managing editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at kwhitney@CLOMedia.com.