This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted special guest Michael Kessler,
Chief Learning Officer at BAE Systems, a British multinational defense,
security, and aerospace company, that has over 85,000 employees including
35,000 spread over 30 US states. He
was interviewed by i4cp co-founder and CEO Kevin Oakes and i4cp Senior Research
Analyst Tom Stone. Here are some highlights from the call:
- At BAE, the
combined L&D and OD team was already virtual and spread around the
country when COVID-19 hit. What changed was that after a 4-6 week
adjustment period, the team saw an increase in pull for their services
from across the organization.
team listened carefully to what their customers (learners across the
organizations) were saying they needed. Their focus then became to provide
solutions that were timely (good is better than delayed perfection),
relevant (fit for purpose), and worthy of people's depleted energy and
- Overall, the
organization broadened their listening strategy, increasing the number of
surveys (with some timely topics such as remote work, safety, etc.), while
also conducting 1:1 conversations with a broad range of employees, not
just those at the top.
noted several things have surprised him in 2020, starting with how quickly
people have adapted to change: there was less time for planning and people
needed to let go of decision-making perfectionism. Employees have also
really taken care of each other via frequent check-ins and a well-being
team has focused on what he calls "hybrid leadership," meaning
leaders who have some employees on-site and others that are remote. How do
you create a safe, inclusive, and inspirational workplace for such a
varied team? The resources and workshops they've created focus on this,
and also enabling leaders to take on new challenges with new thinking.
- BAE Systems
diverted some funds to support their employees via an employee relief
fund, focused on COVID-19 related hardships.
- A new
leadership program has been created called "Leadership in Five".
Each topic covered includes a "Facts in Five" information
segment, a "Discuss in Five Minutes" aspect, and blog postings
on the topic. One of the more popular areas covered of course has been
well-being, though the organization is careful to delineate that they do
not expect their managers to become therapists, and to refer employees for
help where necessary.
- BAE Systems
has continued to hire employees, with approximately 6,000 new hires in
2020. To do so, they had to pivot the process to be virtual. The challenge
going forward will be to preserve the best of these changes while settling
into a hybrid hiring and working model.
- On the
diversity, equity, and inclusion front, BAE Systems responded strongly to
the events of 2020 with a three-level approach. They first defined their
purpose, their why, as an
organization and this included a moral imperative around racial
equity. They established a leadership commitment via powerful and open
storytelling from Black employees. And they provided employees support via
the CARE initiative, which stands for Colleagues Advancing Racial Equity,
which included seven vision teams to recommend actions to the organization
for 2021 and beyond.
Please also see the i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center for new research and next
practices to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.