At Bridgewater, NJ-based Sanofi-Aventis, enabling busy employees to take advantage of the company's learning and development offerings is a priority. "The top challenge is people finding time to avail themselves of the many resources we provide," says Sabrina Spitaletta, senior director, people development and human resources communication. "It's about balancing the time required to conduct the highest quality training with the time taken away from the customer."
Making employees aware of their company's offerings is seen by Sanofi-Aventis as a continual effort that's for more than just new employees. "A large part is re-education around company resources," says Spitaletta. "Orientation isn't just for new hires; it's for all employees. It is not a program per se; we're focusing more on continuous improvement for our professionals rather than the traditional new-hire and/or product training. As a result, there is a clear strategy to engage our tenured professionals in their development." Educating workers about the company's history and roots, as well as training and development resources makes it more likely they'll find what they need for professional growth, she notes. "Engaging employees in terms of what the company offers in resources is part of training and development. That's developing organization-wide knowledge."
Besides giving them an incentive to stay, Spitaletta says the continual effort to educate employees about their company helps them feel more connected to the organization. As a global company, with operations in nearly every continent, feeling like part of the organization in its entirety includes a multicultural understanding. Sanofi-Aventis provides employees with an international perspective through business savvy and cultural awareness programs. A half-day event for new hires, as well as more experienced employees, the cultural awareness instruction focuses on the company's French culture. It includes "fast facts" for when employees are traveling to Sanofi-Aventis' Paris headquarters, and comes with a "tool kit" detailing common French phrases and cultural how-tos such as the right way to hail a cab and to tip, plus different communication styles. To make the program interactive, participants and a panel of employees that have lived and/or worked in France, discuss and share best practices for working abroad. At the end of the program, facilitators provide additional resources to those who would like to more thoroughly learn the French language. More than a practical help, though, Spitaletta says the guide, and the company's effort to educate its workers about its French headquarters, is based in company values.
The pace of its mobile workforce matches the speed of change that the company's learning and development department has to match to accommodate the pharmaceutical industry. The best way to do that, says Spitaletta, is by listening to employees. The nature of the pharmaceutical industry means learning, development, and training at Sanofi-Aventis constantly is challenged to evolve, particularly in the face of the increased regulatory environment, which slows down content development and an organization's ability to deliver it in a timely manner, Spitaletta notes. "It's understanding what employee needs are, and identifying them through the needs assessment we've done," she says. "As demands on the outside evolve, we do as well internally in order to continue to meet employee skill development needs."