For the last 85 years, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has been helping people protect what’s most important to them.
In that time, the company has grown from a small auto insurer owned by policyholders to a global insurance and financial services organization. Change is a key part of that kind of growth, and not just in business strategy but also in learning.
Jason Gallourakis, Nationwide’s vice president of talent development, said part of what makes the company’s learning function elite is its sharp focus on modernization at all levels. That means alignment, efficiency and effectiveness remain top of mind.
“We’ve really focused on the learner experience and creating more impactful learning, whether that’s learning provision or learning enablement,” he said.
Learning leaders are no longer the company’s sole learning providers. Now, the goal is to make sure development occurs even when they’re not there.
That has led to creation of communities of practice, mentoring programs, coaching tools and myriad on-the-job experiences that equal a culture of learning, not just a department to provide courses and computer-based training.
Why? Because a savvy company adapts to the winds of change.
“It has a lot to do with what’s happening societally,” Gallourakis said. “People now no longer want; they actually expect to have things on demand, to have things at their fingertips, to not have to devote significant amounts of time to looking for what they need, or sit through a course to get the one or two insights or skills they’re looking for.”
Now learners want information and resources modularized. They want things at the point of need, and Nationwide has responded with an equally nimble learning strategy.
The company begins with the work itself, then thinks about just-in-time, just-enough, just-for-me development. It has restructured so when consulting with a client group that has a performance gap or a learning need, it breaks that gap down and considers the outcomes and the most efficient way to get there before determining the best way for learners to acquire the knowledge or skills they need.
That means pushing away from traditional classroom or lecture-based learning, which makes sense given how busy everyone is these days. Gallourakis said learners’ time and members’ money — Nationwide customers — are precious resources.
“If we think of those two resources as precious, how do we rethink learning as a result?” he said.
These changes have been brewing for the past five to six years as the company reviewed and absorbed new opportunities, themes and patterns, and the learning strategy crystallized over the last two to three.
Gallourakis and his team have been rethinking instructional design, strategy and, of course, being ever mindful of what the organization is attempting to accomplish.
This enterprise approach to learning solutions, considering expense management and never losing sight of member value, are all tied together with the company’s human resources strategic agenda and then analyzed to determine what this means for learning.
“When we start consulting, it’s really start with the end in mind,” Gallourakis said. “What performance are we trying to influence? What business or people outcomes should be changed? That’s what we target, and that’s what we measure.”
A significant part of that consulting concerns technology enablement. For instance, the company changed its LMS iDrive — as in “I drive my development” — within the last year to something more robust that includes social learning. Users can create material, bring communities of learners together around specific topics or content, share ideas through blogs and wikis, even publicly rate the value of the learning material being shared or provided.
In this culture of learning, it’s all about ease of use. Information is easy to find, easy to search and, of course, easy to share. That meant upgrades to the company’s virtual delivery platform to accommodate remote learners and enhance engagement, and a progressive move into video, mobile — the list goes on.
The thing about modernization is if the company is to continue to advance, then that cycle of continuous improvement never really ends. Fortunately for Gallourakis and the rest of the Nationwide learning team, they have unwavering support and sponsorship from senior leadership.
He said even during the recession when times were lean, Nationwide did not do what so many organizations did — cut learning.
“They believe in it, they see the value in it, and they support it. I know how fortunate we are to be in a company that values what we do,” he said.
Kellye Whitney is Chief Learning Officer’s associate editorial director. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.