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A major change in skills development: Renault Group case study

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Faced with the major economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century, organizations and their employees need to gain new skills quickly. While skills acquisition is not a new phenomenon, it has never been needed so rapidly or on such a massive scale. Companies are involved in an innovation race to find ways to tackle these challenges, and learning tech tools play a central role in this. Patrick Benammar, VP learning & development at Renault Group, presented his vision for skills transformation at the Learning Technologies Conference. He identified three indicators, three technological benefits, and three changes that affect training managers.

The context:  The transformation of the mobility sector

The context: The transformation of the mobility sector

Mobility is changing, and with it, all the related industrial operations and mobility services. Patrick Benammar analyzed the impact of these changes on all job roles, including his own, during the Learning Technologies Conference, answering questions from Corinne Bidallier, Cornerstone VP and country manager.

“Renault Group,” he explained to provide context, “has moved from being a vehicle manufacturer to a tech company that offers mobility services. This has led to fundamental changes in our operations.” The sector is currently inventing “a circular economy of mobility.” Previously, we focused on producing and selling as many vehicles as possible. Now, the priority is that vehicles must “be more recyclable, take fewer materials to make, and consume less energy.” Furthermore, as the European Union has set a date for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, electrification has become urgent and unavoidable.

What effect does this have on skills development policies?

In order to tackle these challenges, the Renault Group drew up a strategic plan, the RENAULUTION, which includes a deep-dive into changes to job roles and the organization. Its purpose is to create a mobility service for the future. This starts with new electric and hybrid vehicles, which are already being produced. Next comes a “new complete service offering in mobility,” built on partnerships with technology firms, as part of the Software République.

For Patrick Benammar, learning and development needs to “support our employees through these changes, develop their employability by enabling them to gain new skills and help them to visualize the careers of the future” to encourage them to engage in training.

But the challenge is also in developing the training provided in order to meet these new needs. In terms of the circular economy, for example, “There are lots of general training courses around, but very few that focus specifically on careers within the industry and on design.” Therefore, these need to be created to train the Group's employees and other actors in the automotive sector, as well as other industries involved in the mobility of the future. This is the role of ReKnow University, which is headed up by Patrick Benammar.

Developing this new training offering is essential for Renault and for the rest of the industry. “If we don't do it,” Patrick Benammar continues, “We run the risk of being in the same situation that cybersecurity is in at the moment, with 15,000 job openings and no suitable candidates.” The need for upskilling and reskilling is, therefore, a strategic one.

3 indicators for monitoring skills transformation

Operationally, how can we monitor the progress made toward meeting these objectives? Which indicators should we focus on? Patrick Benammar identifies three main indicators.

  • The ability to “move employees from one role to a new role which didn't previously exist.” In other words, reskilling. He gives the example of the Refactory at Flins, “A site that used to produce the Renault ZOE and Nissan Micra, which is moving towards becoming 100% dedicated to the circular economy.” One of the projects involved creating the Factory VO — an industrial unit that refurbishes vehicles for the used vehicle market. Therefore, they needed to “enable employees who had been working on vehicle production to move to vehicle refurbishment and repair work,” providing up to 450 hours of training.
  • The number of individuals trained on new subjects. At Renault, these include “the circular economy, cyber, vehicle electrification, software, AI, and everything relating to data. We monitor training courses and progress in our LMS [Cornerstone],” this means that skill progress in all these subjects across the Group can be measured each year. Every training level is counted, from awareness to increased skills, all the way up to the most detailed specialization. And the range of training methods recorded keeps increasing as tutoring and work-based training are still not recorded on the digital training platform, Patrick Benammar is determined to “better record” these training methods “so we can model them better and offer them to employees.”
  • Sharing internal training provisions using external training devices. This indicates that the Renault Group is contributing to an increase in skills across the sector. “We have built training blocks which have been integrated into academic courses, such as at the CNAM (French National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) and the CFA Ingénieurs 2000 engineering school.” This process ultimately benefits the Renault Group by helping to train new graduates who might join the company ­— working on projects such as making electric motors.

3 benefits of learning technologies

Without the developments in training technologies, these challenges would be difficult to overcome. For Patrick Benammar, the digitalization of training has led to a three-fold increase in the company's abilities.

  • Customization of training pathways. “In the past, when we needed to do this sort of reskilling, we rolled out large-scale training courses. There was one training pathway, and everyone followed it. Today, we can look more into the background of each individual” and take this into consideration. Employees often have different starting points: “On our production lines, individuals have qualifications in electricity, mechanics, etc. To train them to work on vehicle bodywork or as a retoucher, rather than just giving them all the same 450-hour training course to follow”, we can assess their skills and develop a tailored training journey for each employee. Now, “we can manage customized training pathways for a large audience”: that is one of the major benefits of digital.
  • Immersive training in virtual or augmented reality. “As an example, our employees can now learn painting using virtual reality – we don't need to set up a dedicated painting booth for training at a site.” This has financial benefits, saves money, and it leads to improved performance. The rollout is quick, and the use of virtual reality avoids some physical constraints, such as cleaning tools for painting training. “All our sites use virtual reality to train painters,” much to the satisfaction of the trainees. Previously, “on a 7-hour day, they would spend 4 hours on training and 3 hours cleaning up...” Additionally, training can “fit into workflows. Now, if I need training on a particular technique, I can go to the training room for 15 minutes, then return to the line to work on the part. There's no need to stop the production line.”
  • The creation of content that's close to the ground. “Today, it's easy to create content and update it” with new information in a very reactive manner, using dedicated tools. There tends to be “much less time between changes” in a job role “and these changes being reflected in training.” This can be rolled out quickly, and new starters get the benefits of using the most up-to-date version. Skills transformation has sped up.

Three changes to the role of Head of L&D

Digital transformation of training has led, in turn, to a change in the role of Head of Learning & Development. As Corine Bidallier notes, today, many professionals remember a time when “training departments worked in silos, without talking to the talent team” or to any other teams involved in skills development. How have things changed? Patrick Benammar identifies at least three major changes.

  • The skills revolution. Until recently, “We thought in terms of manpower. We recruited professionals and worked on the principle that they would do the job.” For Patrick Benammar, “There's been a real shift in recent years in terms of how executives are thinking. Now they are asking themselves, 'Which skills do I need to drive my business into the future?'” and they are asking an operational follow-up question: What do we need to do to maintain or develop these skills?
  • The data revolution. Digital tools like LMS digital training platforms have removed a lot of obstacles from the path. "Lots of things that used to be impossible or very difficult are now easy: Rolling out large-scale training courses but also monitoring this rollout and reporting. A few years ago, simply consolidating training data could take up to 3 months." Now, it is possible to know the current situation immediately. This control of data has given heads of L&D "greater credibility with executives." At the same time, the profession has gained skills in this area by learning from and using the services of data analysts.
  • Awareness from executives. Patrick Benammar "has seen the arrival of a generation of executives with a different vision," who are more aware of learning and development, ready to invest in skills for the long term while avoiding short-term bumps and jolts. This is particularly apparent in an industry like automotive, which is particularly cyclical in nature with alternating periods of growth and decline. Investment in training is one of the essential levers for “smoothing out” these peaks and troughs and planning for development.

Renault has included its teams' capacity to learn and develop in the five principles of the Renault Way. The ReKnow University is, logically, managed by HR but with ongoing support from the departments on the ground. For us, this is an indication of a new learning and development model which is being implemented in companies, particularly those that are most immediately affected by the environmental shift. And this transformation is largely made possible thanks to the power of digital tools.

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