A Case of Learning and Success From Skills Café

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How do we cover 3000+ participants over three weeks, all geographically spread, from across functions and with particular needs while ensuring we deliver top quality learning?

Like any business thrown into the whirlwind of the pandemic, we grappled with this juicy challenge. While our hearts jumped at the prospect of taking this project on, our minds realized its enormity and what was at stake – Success and Learning! Nothing else mattered.

The Scene

A global client in the pharmaceutical industry needed two live facilitated virtual game boards to develop over 3000+ of its employees. They needed to run concurrent sessions with a minimum of 35 participants per session. They had just three weeks to complete the courses for all 3000+ odd team members!

Getting to Work!

The first few hours seemed like an eternity – plans and suggestions going back and forth, until we set upon what we believed was the best way forward. We shared the game mechanics, the storyline, back story, rules, scoring, goals and obstacles, the scene for the game, and then we took all of it and customized it to the customer’s needs. From questions to constraints, the games needed it all.

We asked questions – what were the learnings going to be? How does the debrief run? Will the participants progress through the game with a sense of motivation and intrigue? How do we set the scene to engage the entire organization? How do we ensure the servers work smoothly? How do we balance the load across them? Can we find a better scheduling plan? Should we have back-up facilitators? How do we ensure a seamless experience? How much do we customize? What needs to be changed in the boardgame architecture?

Customizing is not very difficult, however, considering the spread of team members from across the organization, we needed to customize proportionately. Hence, sales and finance, R & D and operations, and quality and project management had the ideal learning takeaways, customize to their specific needs, from the program. 

We changed servers, accommodating 3000 odd participants, along with observers, facilitators, and back up facilitators. All together, we needed 6 servers to conduct approximately 14 simultaneous sessions. We went the extra mile, in creating a back-up server, just in case. We never needed it!

Running It All Together!

With a lot of excitement and bated breath, we dived into the execution stage. We were confident of the work put in, however as they say, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating!” Content – checked, Servers – checked (maybe!), Facilitators – checked, Scheduling – checked, Participant invitations and schedules – checked.

Week 1 success – few hiccups but nothing we could not overcome, two more weeks to go and over 3000 participants to cover.

Week 2 – a few server issues that cropped up but nothing the team could not handle. The week had 28 sessions run simultaneously on most days, the lowest day had 12 sessions!

Week 3 – final push, the servers worked immaculately, facilitators and participants reported great feedback – the customer and the participants were delighted.

Success & Learning

We realized, you don’t know when change is coming – t’s the unannounced guest, sometimes unwanted! But always here for the better. We learned that we could take up this mammoth task and achieve it through persistence, an open mind to suggestions, listening to understand another’s point of view, focus on the goal and the deliverables.

The most significant learning came in the form of stepping out. Stepping out of our comfort zones, from the known – servers and organizations we were familiar with, to servers and organizations we did not realize could help us. Learning to grab the opportunity, the change, the unexplored and the unknown taught us that this is our new normal and so far, we are doing well!

As they say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Our customer reported back well above average satisfaction and learning scores.

Real success is repeat business, the true test of a customer’s confidence in us. Currently, we are conducting analysis discussions and interviews, getting ready to do it all over again.

The pudding is proof!

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Stephen Brass heads the facilitation team at Skills Cafe'. He has over 16 years of L&D experience spanning across 6 countries and has passionately trained over 18,000 learners.
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