Every organization has its own folklore. Every department does too, and that includes the learning space. At PepsiCo, we love to share common wisdom among our global teams, talent management partners, and other employees. There was a time when we talked about things like completions as a critical measure of success, in-person or instructor-led training (ILT) as a learning gold standard, and travel for development as a cure for distraction.
In our fast-moving world, we rarely sit down, eat some Cheetos, drink a Pepsi, and think, “What if this ‘wisdom’ isn’t true anymore? Do we need to think about things differently? Who’s going to bust the myths?”
But that’s exactly what we had to do to turn our learning culture around.
A New Promise
At PepsiCo, our thinking changed when we got Degreed. We started to re-examine our internal catalog of learning myths and we re-defined our L&D promise to employees. Our new promise looks like this:
- We will obsess over employees the way PepsiCo obsesses over consumers.
- We will make learning available in the flow of work.
- We will help you excel in your current job and prepare for your next one.
- We will prepare you for the future of work.
You might think this sounds like a Frito Lay Variety Pack — something for everyone. But actually, it’s a promise that’s centered around a decision to inspire, not mandate, learning. We wanted our global associates to initiate their own career growth by choosing how, where, and when to grow their own skills because employees didn’t want us to select learning for them or give them a “shopping list.” At the same time, our learning ecosystem was evolving.
A New Kind of Curation
Our new “front door to learning,” Degreed inspired change and new thinking because it felt more like a playground than a running track. So we reached out to our partners on the Degreed team to figure out how we could make magic.
Our learning center of excellence, PepsiCo University, or PEP U, connected with our best content curators, encouraging them to build in Degreed to create a great content ecosystem that makes it easy for employees to find what they need when they need it. The curators started learning how Degreed works and then brainstormed the most effective ways to help employees discover new learning content.
Next, we shared these possibilities and processes with an even wider audience, allowing all employees to be experts. Our new model achieved an important milestone: By creating and sharing great content, all employees could be leaders regardless of their title or location. But we didn’t stop there. We put together a monthly forum to share curation successes and enlightening failures. Our curators now have the power to choose internal and external content with multi-modalities to engage employees.
And we no longer worry about counting completions, because we know our employees have embraced a new way of doing things, one in which they’re free to pop in and out of Degreed to quickly find an answer or explore an idea, not sit through hours-long e-learning modules.
Busted: 4 Learning Myths
Myth No. 1: We should have only one “version of the truth” on a subject, otherwise employees will get confused.
Truth: It’s ok to have a different view from each region or business unit. We should enable employees to curate their own content and share it. This reinforces autonomy, inspires curiosity, and accommodates regional and cultural nuances. One version of truth is like one book in the library. It might be a great and important read, but it won’t help employees explore a topic from all angles. To keep content organized and helpful, we teach our curators to title, tag, and write a clear description — so employees can decide if they want to dive in.
Myth No. 2: Focusing solely on creating great learning content is enough. “If you build it, they will come.”
Truth: Nope. While great content is a crucial part of our learning strategy, it’s the quality of the experience that drives the best learning behaviors and habits. Start with why and communicate across multiple channels creatively, and try to engage internal marketing or comms partners when possible. We also try to demonstrate how learning directly helps our associates become future-ready, build skills, and grow their careers because that’s a worthy goal. At PepsiCo, we have innovative product marketing teams to build customer experiences. Why should learning not have the same?
Myth No. 3: Professional Learning and Development is primarily about formal workplace courses or sessions.
Truth: Amid COVID-19, we can’t do as much formal workplace learning. Working from home has helped us become smarter and realize that we all play a role in creating an engaging learning culture. With Degreed, we can now share books, videos, articles, and podcasts we love with others at the click of a button. And we can find answers to questions that pop up during the day: For example, what’s a Lean Six Sigma black belt? How can I use data to make better decisions?
If one of our employees is a subject matter expert in a particular skill, it’s easy for that person to curate a content Pathway for others to follow. Employees can also build a community around a topic, by creating and joining a Group about it and sharing content.
Myth No. 4: Reskilling and upskilling employees is 1) not my responsibility, 2) not a priority, or 3) not possible.
Truth: Now we know, due to a growing field of research, that skill-building is the best way to future-proof our organization for everything and anything coming our way. We even launched a Skill Plan called “Future Ready Workforce” with the now, next, and new skills that our research indicates employees will need to be effective in their roles, regardless of title, level, or function. To that end, Degreed allows employees to inventory and measure their skills, identify priority skills to develop, and connect to the content they need to build in those areas. The Degreed artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning component is built upon skills data; It becomes the foundation of a personalized experience for each learner.
A New Culture
At PepsiCo, we’re building a new learning culture focused on a key principle: Always question the status quo. We’ve dumped the old myths and we’re inviting many partners to help us create a new learning experience. We have new ways of thinking about learning, and we’ve got a big adventure ahead!
About the Author:
Alison started her career in human performance consulting, working with large clients to make organizational change transitions smooth. There, she learned why communication and learning programs are important and what makes them effective. She spent 10 years at a global consumer goods company in learning, recognition, and global marketing roles.
For the past five years, she’s been a director in the PepsiCo global learning center of excellence, Pep U. Her team focuses on improving the global learner experience at PepsiCo, ensuring associates have engaging learning experiences in every format and delivery mechanism. Her team provides learning program consulting to the rest of the organization and curates high priority content to prepare associates for current and future roles. In addition, her team maintains a clear view of its content ecosystem and collaborates closely with external partners to deliver learning that’s fun, engaging, and impactful.