Language learning insights for companies

Diversey Case study: Overcoming the challenges of organizational change

“As a private equity-owned firm, we need a partnership and EF really sold us on that. We receive so much support for our learning and development program that I feel like they are part of our team internally! I don’t have another vendor that I work with the same way.”

Diversey, Inc. is a provider of smart sustainable solutions for cleaning and hygiene products. Headquartered in North Carolina, USA, Diversey works internationally, with 9,000 employees worldwide.

Today, a stand-alone company, the organization has been through many phases of transformation in recent years as they have moved through various forms of ownership. The latest acquisition was made in 2017 when Bain Capital Private Equity purchased the Diversey Care division to be managed as a stand-alone company.

We had the opportunity to interview Melissa Narron, Human Resources Project Manager, and Deanne Kissinger, Head of Talent at Diversey, to find out how they managed a learning and development initiative, corporate language training, through the transition.

Out with the old, in with the new

When Bain Capital purchased Diversey, budgets were tight. There was a need to implement zero-based budgeting to recognize what was essential to the business. Learning and Development budgets were centralized rather than localized, as had been the case prior to acquisition. “This was completely new to us as we previously could not tell how much was being invested in learning and development globally.”

“Once we separated as a stand-alone company, we had to consolidate all budgets into one so that we could see what was happening globally. This represented a significant shift of mind, as we had to understand the business needs, recognize who needed training and determine what was most important for each function and department. We needed to see the bigger picture altogether.”

Identifying business needs

After reviewing the global spend on language training, it was clear to the global team that English training was a big investment across the world, and that the organization would benefit from a new approach.

Diversey had many different vendors for language training programs in different regions, which meant there was no consistency in quality, cost, invoicing or tracking the ROI of the programs. Additionally, HR managers were unable to identify which members of staff required language training and were often providing training as a benefit instead of treating it as a strategic investment. There was an urgent demand to define business needs and communicate it to the whole organization.

“A lot of our teams bought onto the idea that English training is not just a benefit, but they didn’t really understand what we identified as a business need. If an employee occasionally receives an email in English; the HR manager would see a business need there regardless of the frequency of interaction this person needs to make in English. So, there was a case to make our employees understand that only if someone receives email communications in English frequently or has face-to-face interactions in English, then that’s what we consider a business need.”

When defining the audience for language training, they prioritized employees in customer-facing roles, followed by employees in global roles who are required to communicate across borders in English. “We looked into local customer service teams around the world and identified who was at the escalation level that will be able to take a call in English and therefore, would require English training. Instead of training a group of 20, we would reduce it to 3.”

Choosing the right provider

As a private equity-owned firm, Diversey considers several options whenever they go to the market to search for a vendor. We wanted to find out more about their journey choosing the right language training provider.

Like most other companies, they were looking for a simple cost structure that would make sense. “It was a long process, but we got there. We investigated the top learning providers, and there were a couple of things that we really liked about EF. Cost was a very important aspect for us, as budgets were tight. Working with EF, we managed to reduce costs by 70% annually. It’s a huge win to be able to say we have consolidated and are now able to track that!”

“The fact that EF has been in the market for over 50 years, and had no problem working with our complex environment with different languages and locations, is something that really stood out. Also, we loved working with the team at EF. As a stand-alone company, we really needed a relationship of support and partnership, instead of just hearing: ‘Here’s our system, figure it out’. ”

“I’ve had great partners with EF. I even had a colleague asking me where our Customer Success Manager from EF sits because we communicate so often that everyone thought she worked for Diversey!”

Getting buy-in from local hubs

Since each regional team had previously managed learning and development projects in their own way, it was essential for the central team to make their case as to why certain training programs were being removed or modified.

The case for merging all language training programs under one global training provider was strong. Diversey was able to provide data and insights the local markets previously did not have.

Running a standard proficiency assessment for the whole organization enabled training managers to select the right students to enroll in the program, and a single reporting center keeps track of learner progress and helps measure return on investment on a global scale.

“Being able to see the level where people start the training at and the level they should be achieving by the end of the program, it is incredibly beneficial to us.”

Employees in certain regions were initially resistant to an online language training course because they were used to enrolling in face-to-face courses at various schools and universities. However, the lack of flexibility in terms of time and place of study resulted in many unattended lessons. Switching to the new virtual training program allowed learners to study wherever and whenever. Without disrupting their personal lives or work schedules.

“We have been running an EF language training program for a while now with over 350 learners. We can see that our employees are engaged and committed to their online training more than ever. I certainly feel they are learning and developing and their perception towards online training has changed. This is important because perception is reality for most of our employees”.

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