Knowledge half-days at Aneo!

Written by Pierre Sinodinos, on 31 January 2022

This article describes the implementation of the "Knowledge Half-Days" program at Aneo, a firm specializing in strategy, transformation, and technology, aimed at complementing traditional training programs.

In early 2021, it was decided to establish the monthly ritual of "Knowledge Half-Days." Every last Friday of the month, all employees are invited to gather and undergo training by choosing from modules of 1.5 or 3 hours. Consultants come out of their assignments, support functions pause their activities, sales representatives temporarily set aside their phones, and so on.

At the heart of this idea is a simple starting point: employees want to learn and progress. This is the most common response given by newcomers during integration seminars, regardless of age, level of experience, or profession (technology, organization, management, strategy, etc.).

Many initiatives are already in place at ANEO for this purpose. The organization itself has been decentralized to promote cross-functionality and the natural learning that comes with it.

Meet-ups, conferences, webinars, lessons learned sessions, or after-work events are part of the daily routine at the firm and complement traditional training.

Is it necessary to go further? Clearly "yes" because the demand is there!

Knowledge, and therefore learning, are strategic for our profession: the more consultants are trained, the more they will be able to bring value to our clients and themselves. Didn't Deming say, "There is no substitute for knowledge"?

However, many questions remain.

What should we train them on?

In-depth training on their core expertise, broadening their knowledge on other subjects, or focusing on soft skills, which are so essential to our profession?

In reality, depth is already spontaneously addressed by traditional programs based on employee requests. It is everything else that needs to be cultivated to strengthen reflection (i.e., the big picture) and our ability to communicate and collaborate.

From this observation emerged the idea of structuring our Academy around these two main axes.

The first axis is aimed at helping us see things more broadly, with more perspective; what we internally call a "helicopter view" of the company and its issues.

This revolves around four main themes: strategy, organization, technology, and management (which also make up the pillars of the firm's offerings). Here are some examples of proposed modules: Strategy and revenue models, startup creation, design, innovation, Lean management, project and business management, organizational agility, and the essential information system.

The second axis, and perhaps the most important, concerns soft skills to work on our posture and the effectiveness of our communication.

Learning to better understand ourselves to interact more harmoniously with others. Learning to distinguish and manage our emotions to better address the objective dysfunctions of systems. Non-violent communication, stress management, assertiveness, feedback skills, oral presentation, personal development, etc., make up the indispensable modules in this axis.

True to the "T-Shape" model, which ultimately underpins our model, we offer acculturation modules for a maximum of half a day and "deepening" modules for 3 or a maximum of 4 half-days.

Finally, these training sessions take on various forms: experience sharing, co-development workshops, practical cases, traditional or digital training, etc. The idea in each modality is to promote interaction and participant involvement to increase retention.

Once the "what" is addressed, we must deal with the "who" and "how."

Trainers are mostly internal; the choice is guided by competence, availability, and willingness. This arbitration allows us to both valorize the trainers and better rally the teams.

However, this has the limitation of too frequently using the same trainers, thus preventing them from benefiting from the program (i.e., as participants). It also presents the problem of the time required for module design, which represents a significant investment.

The construction, implementation, and management of this program have been entrusted to the "Employee Experience" team, whose mission, as its name indicates, is to offer a quality experience to Aneo employees.

The formula works!

This monthly half-day is sacrosanct and allows employees to break away from their daily routines. A moment of decompression for some, discovery of new topics for others, employees are there and appreciate the choice of being able to learn about an original skill (How to create a digital product, how to start an entrepreneurial project...) or a soft skill (Turning stress into an ally, Mastering influence techniques...)

All modules are, in principle, mandatory (about 2 years to complete the entire program), but their prioritization remains in the hands of the employee and their referring manager, who can choose one topic over another depending on each individual's specific context.

While this flexibility is ideal for completely personalizing the programs, it becomes a real headache for organization and planning. The workload associated each month is significant, and the "Employee Experience" team is actively working to find the most balanced solution between flexibility and ease of organization.

We are gradually becoming aware of all that we lack and the steps yet to be taken to achieve a refined system.

  • An intelligent and easy-to-implement scheduling system that also allows our "expert trainers" to benefit from the system.
  • A means of verifying that the program delivers the expected value to ANEO employees and indirectly to our clients. Do the attended training sessions bring about this famous reflection, do they change our actions? The question goes well beyond a simple "on-the-spot" validation questionnaire.
  • Finally, the knowledge addressed today is by definition known (stress management, Lean Management, agility, etc.), it is the tip of the iceberg. We have no system that allows us to identify hidden knowledge or skills. How to identify, and capture "these talents" to be able to transmit them?

In summary, we believe we have taken a significant first step, especially in choosing to "sacralize" a half-day per month to come together to learn, but we believe we still have a lot of work to do to extract all the human and economic value from this program.