Innovation is a lot like learning. It works best when it’s just part of how you work . Here’s how BP shifted its learning culture, practices and infrastructure from courses to resources.
In 2011, BP’s Director of Learning Innovation and Technology, Nick Shackleton-Jones, noticed that the energy giant’s onboarding program — which revolved around eight hours of e-learning courses — wasn’t actually getting new hires integrated into the company. Many felt “thrown in the deep end,” and very few completed the modules. One group told him that only 15% of what they knew came from formal training. So he started to explore how people really learn. His conclusion? “People aren’t data squirrels. They don’t work by hoarding knowledge. Rather, they look for guidance when they need it.”
That realization changed everything. In 2012, BP began approaching its new employee onboarding in some radical new ways:
First, BP stopped developing conventional e-learning. “No one goes out and searches for an e-learning course,” Shackleton-Jones explains. “People go out and search for useful web sites and videos.” So he and his team started to replace courses with new kinds of resources designed to help people get up to speed more successfully, in specific moments of need — for example, step-by-step how-to guides, articles, videos featuring advice from BP employees and executives, and games, infographics and animations. A simple checklist ended up being the most popular content in the induction process.
Second, BP bypassed their LMS. Shackleton-Jones and his team wanted the solutions they came up with to be, “solutions that people choose to use …indistinguishable in quality from the best that our people see every day in their lives as consumers.” So BP designed and built an open, user-friendly portal, Discover BP, to make the content and the experience, “as simple as possible and as accessible as possible.” And they did it with a team that included marketing professionals, social media specialists, user experience designers, and digital agencies and game design studios — not just established e-learning vendors.
Finally, BP is encouraging and empowering its workers to learn like honey bees; to engage with resources, not just consume them. That’s no easy task. “Most people come to an environment like that because of what they can take, not what they can contribute,” Shackleton-Jones says. To attract learners and inspire them to contribute, he and his team started by pollinating Discover BP with 900 videos featuring BP staff from all around the business. “We’re not just pushing stuff out,” he points out. “We’re actually taking their expertise and their learning and bringing it to a central point where it can benefit everybody.”
Discover BP has has attracted 170,000+ visits and close to a million page views since it was launched, making it the most heavily used learning content at BP. In fact, its use has spread beyond new starters. Existing staff are leveraging the resources there to move into new roles within the company, too. Just as importantly, Shackleton-Jones says, “it showed that you could do something really quite different with online learning, and that did not have to be a miserable, cheap option. It got lots of people really excited.”
That, in turn, has given BP’s learning team the credibility and the confidence to invest £2m in radically overhauling the way the company develops its 25,000 business leaders and managers. The company’s new “SatNav for leadership” initiative is extending the ideas behind Discover BP with a whole new series of portals, simulations and apps inspired by Nike’s FuelBand fitness trackers. By targeting advice, information, practice, connections and feedback at major career transition points, Shackleton-Jones and his team are now aiming to reduce the time it takes to get BP’s future leaders ready for their next roles.
Here are three things you can learn from BP’s new approach to learning:
- Be a bold, decisive leader. To lead innovation, you have to take some risks. Stop doing things that don’t make sense to make room for the ones that do. Push your team to challenge the usual conventions. Inspire them to value utility as much as instruction.
- Put informal learning first. Start by asking people, “how can we help you do your job?” — not “what should we teach you?”. Design content and experiences that help them solve their work problems. Think more like guidebooks and less like textbooks.
- Experiment, learn, then operationalize what works. Work with new kinds of people and different kinds of partners. Try new things. And stay agile. Learn from your mistakes and invest behind what does work to scale up your successes.
BP is not a Degreed client, but we really admire their learner-first attitude, their audacity and their ability to really — truly — reinvent how learning works for their workforce. How is your L&D organization innovating?
Degreed is a next generation continuous learning platform that can help you put learners first and leverage the entire learning ecosystem. Click here to start making the shift.