•   Article   •   6 mins

Same Values, New L&D: Natura Employees Now Own Their Own Upskilling

Personal care and cosmetics company Natura was always a pioneering organization, promoting positive relationships with nature since its humble beginnings in 1969. And it’s always approached sales from a standpoint of helping customers maintain healthy relationships with themselves. Its ads feature everyday women, not supermodels.

More recently in 2014, Natura was the first publicly-traded company to achieve B Corp or “business for good” certification. It’s animal-cruelty free, carbon-neutral, and helps Amazon Rainforest communities sell natural resources in sustainable ways.

So it’s no surprise that talent leaders there — in response to rapid change brought on by massive growth and internationalization — reimagined learning and development (L&D) in innovative ways. In recent years, Natura has evolved into a publicly-traded family of companies with offices in 14 countries and a global reach. That family now includes Aesop, Avon, and The Body Shop.

“We’re now a multi-branded company, and we are a multi-channeled company. These are challenges that are very new for us,” said Bruna Farinelli, training and development manager. “Five years ago, we didn’t have any of these challenges.”

To meet these challenges and prepare for the future, Natura realized it needed to develop employees in a few key areas including agile processes, digital transformation, and leadership. In addition, the company needed to make sure employees understood and maintained its culture of making positive social and environmental impacts, Farinelli said. “We needed to reskill our company, our employees, but without losing our essence, our values, everything that we believe as a company, our purpose.”

Natura for decades emphasized employees’ personal and professional growth, but L&D needed to move away from a traditional training model, Farinelli said, reiterating that Natura lacked a global approach to training. Moreover, she said, “We still had this model that was very hierarchical. It was difficult to prioritize what training was going to be for each person, with not a lot of autonomy for employees to go to the training that they wanted, and with the employees in a very passive model.”

“We had a very strong concept,” Farinelli said. “But we didn’t have the tools to do it.”

An Opportunity, Not An Assignment

To upskill staff and transform L&D at Natura, talent leaders sought to create an open learning ecosystem that incorporates instructional content from a wide range of sources inside and outside the organization. The goal was to enable employees to take charge of their own development.

It was a phased plan, and it looked like this: Deliver a variety of experiences so employees can choose what they want to learn to grow in their roles and advance their careers. Curate content and contribute even more experiences to the mix, and encourage employees to do the same so learning becomes a shared, social endeavor. And then, find ways to expand these experiences beyond the company’s walls — to consultants who work with the company, to clients, and to the broader community. 

A Phased Plan

Learning leaders explored several solutions. They were looking for a user-friendly approach to learning that is easy to manage, works well on mobile devices, connects to people outside the organization, and incorporates into one environment a wide range of learning formats including videos, articles, courses, and podcasts available in multiple languages. 

“That’s why we chose Degreed,” Farinelli said. “I was very enthusiastic.”

Natura launched Degreed in April to a subset of employees at its flagship namesake and at The Body Shop dispersed across six countries in Central and South America. It was the first L&D initiative between the two brands, raising the stakes for success. 

In addition, “HR is not recognized as a very technological department, so it was important for us to get this right,” Farinelli said. “It was a very stable launch. We didn’t have any technical problems. It was perfect. We didn’t cause any problems for the support team.”

Natura launched Degreed a month earlier than originally planned in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To get it right, the L&D team prioritized employees’ needs.

The original plan was to highlight content focused on digital transformation. But with employees suddenly and unexpectedly working from home, the L&D team pivoted to content about resiliency, accountability, emotional intelligence, and adapting to remote work.

“We knew we were launching Degreed in a context that was complex,” said Clara Perrin, regional education & development coordinator for LATAM. She helped implement Degreed in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. “We wanted it to be like an opportunity and not like an assignment.”

The Vision Begins to Take Life

The Natura L&D team anticipated that 30% of the employees would be active users after three months. Two months in, the team had blown past that goal and reached  40%. And it expected to see double-digit increases over the ensuing three months to that total and other metrics the team is tracking, including returning users and content completions. 

With Degreed, employees now have a tool they can use to steer their own development. They’re no longer dependent on the L&D team to organize and exclusively provide training. And at The Body Shop, where there wasn’t much of a history of training, “ Degreed has opened a world of possibilities,” Perrin said.

“Choosing the content you want, and being the real owner of your development, that’s something that’s very valuable,” Perrin said. 

Employees benefit from access to third-party content, Farinelli said. “We deliver a message to the employees that we don’t know it all, that we are bringing you other sources and other providers to compose this learning ecosystem. That you have to look outside us to bring insight to us. That’s what we call an ‘outside view.’ Degreed is very important to bringing this outside view to our employees. 

An Outside View - employees can look outside for content to help their upskilling efforts

“Now we are telling people, ‘You are the protagonist. Go!’ We believe that everybody can learn about everything they want. We believe the employees know what is important to them. We don’t need to say all the time, ‘Do this training or this other training.’” 

As employees are supported in new ways, so too is the Natura L&D team.

Using data it collects from Degreed to inform strategic planning, the L&D team anticipates learning more about the skills its employees have and those they still need to develop. This will help the learning leaders find new methods for engaging with employees and business units.

Already, Degreed is making the L&D team more flexible and in tune with employee needs, and Farinelli expects that to continue. For example, talent leaders recently discovered that employees are using Degreed to organically search for content on learning English. The L&D team noted this and began to communicate learning English as a benefit of Degreed. The team also integrated additional English-language YouTube channels.

L&D and Upskilling Team Benefits

“I think one of the things that has changed for me is the idea that I’m always looking for new content,” Perrin said. “Before, I didn’t have this mindset. Now, every time I find something interesting, I’m always adding it to Degreed. The other day we were at a meeting and one colleague asked something about Zoom fatigue and all these video calls, and I was saying, ‘In Degreed, you can find an article that’s very interesting,’ and I was able to share it.”

Looking ahead, another L&D goal is to engage the most active users of Degreed as “learning influencers” who can help their peers develop. And, eventually, every user will be encouraged to contribute content.

“The content that is currently being curated is being curated mostly by HR,” Farinelli said. “We are beginning to work with some teams that want to curate their own Pathways. That is one strategy that I personally believe is very important — teams working together and teams curating their own content related to the skills they want to improve.

“Our long term vision is to be one learning ecosystem where people can bring their own content that we can connect people. That is our strongest belief — to be one learning ecosystem. And we are doing it step by step.”

Natura couldn’t do it without Degreed, Farinelli said. 

“Degreed gives structure to our dream of a learning ecosystem,” she said. “If you don’t have the tools, you don’t have the how-to. Degreed is helping us make the dream come true.”

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