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DCE Magazine

Educating a Global Workforce

Winter 2018

UCI's technology and training unites corporate employees worldwide

UCI's Corporate Education and Global Partnerships specializes in hands-on and experiential training, with group activities and exercises similar to on-campus courses. Programs are offered in various formats: individual courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), even university-level certificate programs—an option that Thermo Fisher Scientific found very attractive.

In 2011, the multinational biotechnology product development company partnered with UCI to develop an Integrated Marketing Specialized Studies certificate program for their 2,000-plus marketing professionals. Many of these employees were scientists by training and had limited marketing experience, so there was a need to upskill the workforce through expert marketing training.

“No one else offered a graduate-level certificate program, and we saw this as a huge benefit to our employees,” said Lara Silver, program manager for Thermo Fisher Scientific. “It's not just corporate training; our team members can benefit and advance their careers with a UCI certificate. Many of them have been promoted or moved from other departments into marketing based on their marketing education.”

Thermo Fisher's marketing employees are located in over 16 countries, so UCI was flying instructors to locations across the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Scotland, and more. Employees often still had to travel to attend classes, which became cost prohibitive since the company was now paying for both instructors and employees to travel.

To reduce travel costs and accommodate more of their global workforce, the company opted for online education. At the same time, they wanted to maintain classroom interaction, a live exchange of ideas. UCI met this need with custom delivery systems tailored for Thermo Fisher's employees.

Lara Silver“Our employees gather in virtual breakout rooms, in small groups, and team members from all over the world can participate in live lessons and lectures,” Silver said. “Each team might have members located in Singapore, Oregon, or Brazil, and they interact just like they would in a real classroom—they raise their hands and have access to white boards. We find that they learn so much from one another. Much of this would be lost in a standard webinar.”

Thermo Fisher still holds onsite UCI classes, when it's feasible, and an asynchronous option is available for those who need to catch up on lessons at their convenience. But live sessions, stacked every two hours or so, can accommodate most employees in various time zones.

“We find that live sessions work best,” Silver said. “We hold classes at different times – morning, afternoon, and evening – making it possible to accommodate employees around the globe.”

The Integrated Marketing program has been very well received, she said, and Thermo Fisher Scientific is quite satisfied with the results. Because of UCI Corporate Education, their scientists, well-versed in products and technology, are now top-level marketing professionals.

“The UCI instructors are amazing to work with and they're very flexible about customizing the curriculum,” Silver said. “They can tweak the lessons or material as needed, try new approaches to see what works best, and the delivery systems are state-of-the-art. That quality of online education just isn't available anywhere else.”

The World is their Classroom

In the fast-paced world of tech, Cisco Systems is a relentless innovator; planning for the future is in the company's DNA. This culture of innovation doesn't just apply to its products, services and solutions, but to the global workforce which makes it possible. In Cisco's journey to become an increasingly digitized organization, with tens of thousands of employees scattered around the world — many who work from home either part or full time — continuous upskilling delivered through nontraditional methods is essential.

How does Cisco bring its far-flung workforce together for training? The leading IT and networking giant relies on the same methods which have proven effective for its highly productive, global teams: a collaborative culture supported by the appropriate technology. In the education space, this translates into both synchronous and asynchronous learning methods, including virtual classrooms.

As part of its ongoing workforce training strategy, Cisco sought out UCI's Corporate Education and Strategic Partnerships, a department within the Division of Continuing Education, that has delivered world-class corporate training since 1962, based on its reputation for academic excellence and leading-edge online presence. Together with UCI, Cisco's Digital Skills Strategy Team for Data Science and Digital Process Transformation, led by Jennifer Redmon, devised four customized Advanced Analytics courses.

Jennifer Redmon“Psychological safety is essential to Cisco's culture. High performing teams understand that failure in innovation is synonymous with learning,” Redmon said. “Managing ‘failure’ is challenging enough when teammates sit next to each other, let alone on opposite sides of the world. So much is lost in communication when teams rely solely on text- and voice-based methods. In fact, many studies show that the bulk of a person's message is conveyed non-verbally.”

Cutting-edge corporate training is delivered through various modalities to best suit the needs of Cisco's diverse workforce. Virtual classrooms and collaboration spaces, such as Cisco Spark, allow team members and instructors to interact in real time as well as asynchronously.

“UCI is a tier 1 university with a well-deserved reputation for strong quantitative programs and courses,” Redmon said. “We're excited about the partnership's potential.”

All of UCI's training is delivered through crystal-clear Cisco videoconferencing systems combined with UCI Canvas learning management system. The experience comes alive through TelePresence units such as the DX80, which sports a 23-inch touchscreen and tilt-down camera for sharing physical content.

“The incredible video and voice quality of the DX80 allows you to feel as if you're in the same room as the person or people on the other end, no matter which country they're in,” Redmon said.

There are a number of advantages to high-quality videoconferencing and collaboration solutions, she noted, such as making it as seamless as possible for coworkers who live halfway around the world to develop strong working relationships. And not incidentally, Cisco saves on travel expenses while reducing its carbon footprint, a major perk for UCI corporate partners.

“Not only does state-of-the-art videoconferencing and collaboration save the company in travel expenses, it also increases productivity and promotes work-life balance,” Redmon said. “I can have a face-to- face meeting with a colleague in Brazil at 4 p.m. and, immediately afterward, play volleyball in the Cisco league on campus.”

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