Silver 2017 Chief Learning Officer Learning in Practice Award  Excellence in Partnership

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets, and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles, and Lincoln luxury vehicles; provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company; and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles, and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 202,000 people worldwide.

SITUATION

For an automotive company to thrive in today’s competitive global marketplace, new and innovative ideas are required to continuously launch sophisticated, sleek, and compelling products to market. Customer demands evolve quickly; if an organization is not pushing the envelope, it risks being left behind.

To innovate more seamlessly within the Product Development organization, Ford determined that a collaborative digital engineering environment was needed. By connecting systems and tools, the new Ford Engineering Design Environment (FEDE) will allow employees to move forward quickly with innovative ideas while working across functional domains.

Putting FEDE in place presented a daunting challenge. How could Ford inject a new technology infrastructure that would promote a new way of working, without disrupting normal operations — do it fast?

Several requirements were apparent:

  • Design a significant change management initiative for a diverse, dynamic global workforce with different perspectives on the change effort.
  • Develop training for a new system/technology launch while development of FEDE was ongoing.
  •  Build a web-based portal to offer content to, and collect input from, the target audience.
  • Build another portal to focus completely on innovation and link with IdeaPlace, Ford’s internal website.
  • Connect with multiple learner generations within the target audience, ranging from recent college graduates to employees with decades of experience.

Given these challenges, Ford knew it would need external support and third-party thinking and expertise. Ford chose Innovative Learning Group (ILG) as a partner in this endeavor because of ILG’s reputation in the performance improvement industry, its experience completing similar projects with other clients, and the phased approach it proposed to complete the initiative.

SOLUTION

Over two years, a team of 15 Ford and ILG employees worked to ready the global workforce to deliver measurable business results by:

  • Conducting and continuously validating rigorous role and task analyses to connect needed skills and knowledge to critical organizational goals.
  • Conducting a cause analysis to determine why gaps existed in innovation performance.
  • Co-creating a detailed, adaptive, and one-of-a-kind learning curriculum architecture. 
  • Building multi-modal training solutions that range from deep, rigorous learning solutions to just-in-time performance support and microlearning.
  • Piloting and implementing learning solutions with target audience focus groups.
  • Designing and developing two separate user portals for independent but related use cases:
    • Innovation Portal, which focuses solely on innovation
    • Systems Engineering (SE) Portal, which focuses on systems engineering
  • Measuring new performance formally and informally with knowledge assessments and/or performance validations, depending on stakeholder needs and requirements.

WORK PRODUCTS

Design and Development of Learning and Performance Solutions

The team created custom templates and e-learning covering multiple aspects of FEDE. Functionality and approach is consistent across systems, but the look and feel is color-coded so each system has its own instantly recognizable brand. This design carries through to the SE Portal and provides an easy “you are here” reference for learners.

Once templates were finalized, the team designed instructional strategies with a performance-support mindset, enabling task-related content to be quickly accessible in the workflow. The e-learning uses a “show, guide, do” flow that ensures learners know why, when, and how to apply new skills on the job and in the new system. System demonstrations and simulations are core features of the content. Stand-alone versions of the demonstrations and simulations are also available on the SE Portal as just-in-time support.

During development of the e-learning, the team followed an agile process that allowed it to nimbly adapt to the emerging needs of the target audience as different elements of the system were released.

Design and Development of Portals 

The project team followed a traditional user experience design (UXD) process to conduct user research, create the information architecture, and ultimately build out the wireframes and final pages of both portals. The process used for the Innovation Portal showcases Ford’s energy and commitment to innovation. Spearheaded by Ford’s Vice President of Vehicle Components and Systems Engineering, a team of new engineers volunteered to serve on an innovation advisory board. They researched what Product Development engineers needed to innovate easier and faster, and also assessed the feasibility of a centralized location for information and resources related to innovation.

Working with the volunteer team, the project team gathered data by meeting with focus groups of engineers from each of Ford’s Global Product Development centers. Their research identified three key areas of interest/need:

  • Opportunities to learn through experts, resources, and events
  • Opportunities to make things through experimentation and testing, trial and error, or applying for
  • patents once something was created and validated
  • Opportunities to share ideas and collaborate with others to get feedback and insight

Based on the focus group data, the team determined there was a real need for one central location that would provide information on these three critical areas of innovation. 

From there, an iterative and rapid prototyping process was used to quickly design and develop both the SE Portal and the Innovation Portal.

Change Management Process and Communication

The project team engaged in several innovative communication and change management processes with Ford’s Internal Digital Innovation Communications group.

For example, animations and videos were released to the Product Development community to prime the pump for change and address common questions. One series, featuring stops at each of Ford’s global Product Development centers, walked employees through the organizational shift to systems engineering and previewed the future way of working under FEDE.

Key benefits of the new approach were included in all communication materials, including the talking points leaders and managers used as they worked with their employees. Videos featuring Ford leadership and success stories from the field rounded out a compelling and engaging change management campaign.

This effort not only communicated that the change was coming, it also got employees excited and created a demand for more system functionality and training to support emerging best practices.

RESULTS

More than 20,000 employees have engaged with the portals, e-learning courses, and performance support resources to date. Their feedback has led to continuous improvement and overall successful implementation of this initiative.

Employee engagement with the SE Portal is ensuring that the target audience receives timely reinforcement of key concepts covered in each e-learning module. Via the portal, users also receive updates from company leadership on the progress of system implementation, including successes, emerging challenges, and the plans to overcome those challenges. Finally, users can submit best practices to the project team via the SE Portal; this ensures the content available to the community reflects the reality of those doing the work.

The Innovation Portal is providing a supportive community and tools and resources that engineers can use to learn, create, and collaborate. Ultimately, users move their ideas into success stories, increasing pride in the Ford brand. The resulting valuable intellectual property can be marketed to enhance the customer experience.

To learn more about how Innovative Learning Group can create custom learning solutions to help improve your business results, contact us at info@innovativeLG.com.

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