Magazine article Talent Development

A Healthy Dose of Formal and Informal Learning

Magazine article Talent Development

A Healthy Dose of Formal and Informal Learning

Article excerpt

Whenever companies embark on ambitious business plans, the onus is on a number of corporate departments to ensure their success, especially the learning function. At Cigna Corporation, a bold initiative to transform the health insurance giant into a world-renowned, customer-centric global health service brand has the firm's learning team in overdrive.

"We are looking to create a category of one," says Karen Kocher, Cigna's chief learning officer, of the new strategy. "We want to be the global health service company that people think of for a personalized, high-quality customer experience and service." Kocher's job is to prepare Cigna's 39,000 employees to help customers in 30 countries improve their health, well-being, and sense of security.

To pursue that agenda, the Bloomfield, Connecticut-based company with its 125-year pedigree is growing rapidly and organically through acquisition while instilling a continuous learning culture that stresses collaboration and innovation.

Initiatives are being mounted on multiple fronts within the learning function as part of its own reinvention that began five years ago. Included is a new emphasis within Cigna University on boosting employee agility, with formal learning activities reoriented around customer needs rather than insurance products.

Meanwhile, a dramatic new collaborative learning initiative is creating a culture that capitalizes on the expertise of Cigna employees everywhere. The mission is to instill within Cigna employees an eagerness to become as collaborative and social as possible so they can learn from and with one another.

The backbone of the initiative is a redesigned and re-engineered corporate intranet that fully embraces informal learning. Known as "Your Cigna Life," the portal was launched in January 2012 to give employees instant access to everyone else in the company. Multiple search capabilities enable quick connections with peers and subject matter experts based on location, area of expertise, and other factors. Tabs on the homepage link to content that is either corporatewide or locally relevant.

The site also encourages the use of blogs as a prime method of sharing expertise and showcasing new ideas. Employees are free to pose questions for all others to see without being moderated--a risky move for the large company in a heavily regulated industry. But an accompanying change management plan educates employees on the purpose of blogs, while a clearly articulated social networking policy is prominently displayed.

The multilingual site debuted in English and Spanish. Korean has since been added--one of seven additional languages to be added within the next year.

One of the site's most important benefits is a collaborative learning feature that uses internal expertise to help all employees work smarter. During the concept's pilot rollout, the learning team asked employees to participate in collaborative communities. Specific sites were created with names such as Bold Ideas and Colleague Resource Groups. The rollout included input from subject matter experts, discussion boards, and links to learning content and reference materials.

The company has been delighted by employee reaction to the corporate portal, Kocher says. "We had no trouble getting traction on the site. People really want to work and share together." More of a challenge, she says, is enticing individuals who are not fluent in English to collaborate with their English-speaking counterparts. …

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