In the past four weeks, I have been writing about the various aspects related to PLM Education. First, starting from my bookshelf, zooming in on the strategic angle with CIMdata (Part 1).

Next, I was looking at the educational angle and motivational angle with Share PLM (Part 2).

And the last time,  I explored with John Stark the more academic view of PLM education. How do you – students and others – learn and explore the full context of PLM (Part 3)?

Now I am talking with Dave Slawson from Quick Release_ , exploring their onboarding and educational program as a consultancy firm.

How do they ensure their consultants bring added value to PLM-related activities, and can we learn something from that four our own practices?

Quick Release

Dave, can you tell us something more about Quick Release, further abbreviated to QR, and your role in the organization?
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Quick Release is a specialist PDM and PLM consultancy working primarily in the automotive sector in Europe, North America, and Australia. Robust data management and clear reporting of complex subjects are essential.

Our sole focus is connecting the data silos within our client’s organizations, reducing program or build delays through effective change management.

Quick Release promise – PDT 2019

I am QR’s head of Learning and Development, and I’ve been with the company since late 2014.

I’ve always had a passion for developing people and giving them a platform to push themselves to realize their potential. QR wants to build talent from within instead of just hiring experienced people.

However, with our rapid growth, it became necessary to have dedicated full-time resources to faster onboarding and upskilling our employees. This is combined with having an ongoing development strategy and execution.

QRs Learning & Development approach

Let’s focus on Learning & Development internally at QR first. What type of effort and time does it take to onboard a new employee, and what is their learning program?
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We have a six-month onboarding program for new employees. Most starters join one of our “boot camps”, a three-week intensive program where a cohort of between 6 and 14 new starters receive classroom-style sessions led by our subject matter experts.

During this, new starters learn about technical PDM and PLM and high-performance business skills that will help them deliver excellence for or clients and feel confident in their work.

Quick Release BoB track process – click to enlarge

While the teams spend a lot of time with the program coordinator, we also bring in our various Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to ensure the highest quality and variety in these sessions. Some of these sessions are delivered by our founders and directors.

As a business, we believe in investing senior leadership time to ensure quality training and give our team members access to the highest levels of the company.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, we moved our training program to be primarily distance learning. However, some sessions are in person, with new starters attending workshops in our regional offices. Our sessions focus on engagement and “doing” instead of just watching a presentation. New starters have fed back that they are still just as enjoyable via distance learning.

Following boot camp, team members will start work on their client projects, supported by a Project Manager and a mentor. During this period, their mentor will help them use the on-the-job experience to build up their technical knowledge on top of their bootcamp learning. The mentor is also there to help them cope with what we know is a steep learning curve. Towards the end of the six months program, each new starter will carry out a self-evaluation designed to help them recognize their achievements to date and identify areas of focus for ongoing personal development.

We gather feedback from the trainers and trainees throughout the onboarding programs, ensuring that the former is shared with their mentors to help with coaching.

The latter is used to help us continuously improve our offering. Our trainers are subject matter experts, but we encourage them to evolve their content and approach based on feedback.

 

The learning journey

Some might say you only learn on the job – how do you relate to this statement? Where does QR education take place? Can you make a statement on ROI for Learning & Development?

It is important to always be curious related to your work. We encourage our team members to challenge themselves to learn new things and dig deeper. Indeed, constant curiosity is one of our core values. We encourage people to challenge the status quo, challenge themselves, and adopt a growth mindset through all development and feedback cycles.

The learning curve in PDM and PLM can be steep; therefore, we must give people the tools and feedback that they can use to grow. At QR, this starts with our onboarding program and flows into an employee’s full career with us. In addition, at the end of every quarter, team members receive performance feedback from their managers, which feeds into their development target setting.

We have a wealth of internal resources to support development, from structured training materials to our internally compiled PDM Wiki and our suite of development “playbooks” (curated learning journeys catering to a range of learning styles).

On-the-job learning is critically important. So after the boot camp, we put our team members straight into projects to make sure they apply and build on their baseline knowledge through real-world experience. Still, they are supported with formal training and ongoing access to development resources.

Regarding Return on Investment, while it is impossible to give a specific number, we would say that quality training is invaluable to our clients and us. In seven years, the company has grown from 60 to 300 employees. In addition, it now operates in three other continents, illustrating that our clients trust the quality of how we train our consultants!

We also carried out internal studies regarding the long-term retention of team members relative to onboarding quality. These studies show that team members who experience a more controlled and structured onboarding program are mostly more successful in roles.

Investing in education?

I understood some of your customers also want to understand PLM processes better and ask for education from your side. Would the investment in education be similar? Would they be able to afford such an effort?

Making a long-term and tangible impact for our clients is the core foundation of what QR are trying to achieve. We do not want to come in to resolve a problem, only for it to resurface once we’ve left. Nor do we want to do work that our clients could easily hire someone to do themselves.

Therefore the idea of delivering a version of our training and onboarding program to clients is very attractive to us. We offer clients a shortened version of our bootcamp (focused on technical PDM, PLM and complexity management without the consultancy skills to our clients).

This is combined with an ongoing support program that transitions the responsibilities within the client team away from our consultants towards the client’s own staff.

We’d look to run that program over approximately 6 months so that the client can be confident that their staff has reached the level of technical expertise. There would be an upfront cost to the client to manage this.

However, the program is designed to support quality skills development within their organization.

 

PLM and Digital Transformation?

Education and digital transformation is a question I always ask. Although QR is already established in the digital era, your customers are not. What are the specific parts of digital transformation that you are teaching your employees and customers

The most inefficient thing we see in the PDM space is the reliance on offline, “analog” data and the inability to establish one source of truth across a complex organization. To support business efficiency through digital transformation, we promote a few simple core tenets in everything we do:

  • Establish a data owner who not only holds the single reference point but also is responsible for its quality
  • Right view reporting – clearly communicate exactly what people need to know, recognizing that different stakeholders need to know different things and that no one has time to waste
  • Clear communications – using the right channels of communication to get the job done faster (including more informal channels such as instant messaging or collaborative online working documents)
  • Smart, data-led decision making – reviewing processes using accurate data that is analyzed thoroughly, and justifying recommendations based on a range of evidence
  • Getting your hands dirty! – Digital Transformation is not just a “systems” subject but relies on people and human interaction. So we encourage all of our consultants to actually understand how teams work. Not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in instead of just analyzing from the outside!

Want to learn more?

Dave, Could you point us to relevant Learning & Development programs and resources that are valuable for the readers of this blog?
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If you are interested in learning within the PDM and PLM space, follow Quick Release on LinkedIn as we publish thought leadership articles designed to support industry development.

For those interested in Learning & Development strategy, there is lots of UK and Ireland guidance available from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Similar organizations exist in other countries, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the USA) which are great resources for building Learning & Development specific skills.

In my research, I often find really thought-provoking articles that shape my approach and thinking regarding Learning & Development, HR and a business approach published by Forbes and Harvard Business Review.

 

What I learned

When I first discovered Quick Release as a company during one of the PLM Roadmap & PDT conferences (see “The weekend after PLM Roadmap & PDT 2019″) I was impressed by their young and energetic approach combined with being pragmatic and focused on making the data “flow”.  Their customers were often traditional automotive companies having the challenge to break the silos. You could say QR was working on the “connected” enterprise as I would name it.

PLM consultancy must change

Besides their pragmatic approach, I discovered through interactions with QR that they are a kind of management consultancy firm you would expect in the future. As everything is going to be faster experience counts. Instead of remaining conceptual and strategic, they do not fear being with their feet in the mud.

This requires a new type of consultant and training, as employees need to be able to connect both to specialists at their customers and also be able to communicate with management. These types of people are hard to get as this is the ideal profile of a future employee.

The broad profile

What I learned from Dave is that QR invests seriously in meaningful education and coaching programs for their employees – to give them a purpose and an environment where they feel valued. I would imagine this applies actually to every company of the future, therefore I am curious if you could share your experiences from the field, either through the comments to this post or contact me personally.

Conclusion

We have seen now four dimensions of PLM education and I wish they gave you insights into what is possible. For each of the companies, I interviewed there might be others with the same skills. What is important is to realize the domain of PLM needs those four dimensions. In my next (short) post I will provide a summary of what I learned and what I believe is the PLM education of the future. Stay connected!

And a bonus you might have seen before – the digital plumber: