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Spreading Best Practices Worldwide

September 1, 1996
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Related Topics: Global Business Issues, Global Outlook, Featured Article
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Just about a year ago, the folks in Eli Lilly and Company's HR department asked Sandy Quesada to step into the position of director of corporate training and development (T&D), to, in her words, "look at how T&D was done at Lilly and make recommendations on how to reinvent the function." No pressure there, huh? Luckily Quesada, who boasts a doctorate in performance technology, is up to the challenge. What she found when she had finished her review was a lot of redundancies worldwide. As far as T&D went, the Indianapolis-based company had hundreds of localized solutions to business issues, and very few that were shared across boundaries. "Our study showed that of the 45 organizations that responded, 23 of them were focusing on supervisory leadership, designing and developing [a training program] and delivering it once. We should develop it once and deliver it 23 times."

In addition, different countries do different things well. Indianapolis has an excellent catalog of training courses. Taiwan has one of the best sales curriculums. The challenge is to pluck the top T&D initiatives from a variety of affiliates and make them available worldwide. "There are best practices all over in different countries of Lilly," she says. "What Lilly hasn't had is consistency across the board... Something that's A+ in one area may be nonexistent in another."

Quesada is looking to change that with a five-pronged strategy that focuses on:

  • Infrastructure — looking at a technology-based way of ensuring global distribution, translation and a materials repository. When HR in Japan needs an instruction module used in the United States, the U.S. affiliate should be able to send it electronically with the touch of a button.
  • Deep T&D expertise — developing T&D professionals.
  • Common T&D processes — looking globally at the competencies needed for certain jobs. This includes building a skills database to track employees.
  • Curriculum architecture — Quesada discovered most curriculum could be put in one of four categories: job specific/technical, product/ service knowledge, business and cultural, and management/supervisory/personal development. This will help T&D set up more objective, companywide curriculum, and cut out redundancies.
  • Governance network — T&D units exist around the world, yet currently they're not integrated. Quesada wants to set up regional T&D councils around the world.

"Lilly has a lot of change initiatives that have a big impact on people," says Quesada. "But there hasn't really been a road map on how to best meet these challenges." Will her grand plan become that road map? Completion is a few years down the road, but Quesada is hopeful. "The culture is ripe for meeting these kinds of challenges," she says. "I've been totally impressed with the leadership in this self-examination they're going through. Here they really challenge you to walk the talk — at most places they stumble the mumble."

Personnel Journal, September 1996, Vol. 75, No. 9, p. 54.

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