L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (July 2022)

Training magazine taps 2022 Training APEX Awards winners and Training Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at Collaborative Solution’s Week of Learning.

Collaborative Solutions’ Week of Learning Motivates Global Workforce to Construct a Learning Culture Together

Learning is built into a corporate culture when it’s lived and breathed by everyone in the organization through a common set of attitudes, beliefs, and actions. It happens when learning is not perceived by employees as something that has to be done, but rather something that is desired to be done (attitude). A learning culture is set in motion when employees from the CEO to the newest intern are challenged to be the best versions of themselves through the core belief that their own growth and development is a worthy investment (belief). It’s a feeling in the atmosphere (remote ones, included) created by employees who approach their work with an awe-inspiring curiosity that motives them to seek challenges others are afraid of, ask the questions no one else is asking, courageously bear witness to their mistakes and lessons learned, and regularly share their knowledge with others (action).

This is the type of training utopia every learning organization strives for. One of the ways Collaborative Solutions accomplishes this is through its bi-quarterly event dubbed the Week of Learning (WoL). During this five-day, 24-hour event employees, or “Collabies” as we refer to them internally, from around the world have the opportunity to share their knowledge, passions, lessons learned, etc., with other employees and their families through self-designed and curated trainings offered throughout the week—think Facebook and Instagram for learning and development (L&D). This event brings one of our core values, Knowledge, to life by:

  1. Bringing our global workforce together to inspire each other to reconnect with our love of learning
  2. Providing opportunities for Collabies to build their careers at Collaborative Solutions while also strengthening relationships with each other
  3. Empowering Collabies to become new-and-improved versions of themselves, professionally and personally
Employees take a weightlifting class from Antonia Plazibat, Collaborative Solutions’ General Counsel, and a USAW Level I Sports Performance Coach and competitive weightlifter during the company’s 2020 Week of Learning event.

The Challenge

The event is the result of pure imagination. One of the biggest challenges Collaborative Solutions’ L&D team faced was finding new and inventive ways to motivate employees to pause from their daily grind and voluntarily attend training. Since this was no easy feat, the L&D team asked itself two critical questions:

  1. Do we firmly believe we have the power to motivate employees to want to attend training? Our answer was “Yes.” This “breakthrough belief” was the first step we took to accomplishing our learning culture; it allowed us to set aside our fears and reservations, so we could imagine the possibilities without interruption. We knew we had to tap into the specific things our employees were passionate about and we knew we had to trust them enough to forge their own learning paths.
  2. How could we build a learning experience that’s so unique and intriguing it would capture the attention of even our most training-averse employees? Our answer was we must do something we’ve never done, and that’s to give our employees the creative freedom to design their own learning content on any topic they desire and then allow them to deliver it whenever and however they want. In other words, the L&D team had to surrender our traditional ways of designing and delivering training and hand the process over to our people.

A Terrifying Process

Our vision was groundbreaking, but the plan to get us there was absolutely terrifying. Our L&D team had to move from controlling the majority of the design and delivery process to letting go completely and almost overnight. Our small team of six was organizing an event that impacted our 1,300-plus-person global workforce, and we didn’t have much to do to prepare. Should we create content for each training that will be delivered that week? No, the volunteer instructors would do that. Should we schedule the timing of each course to ensure maximum enrollment?  Nope, the volunteer instructors would figure that out. Should we co-facilitate these trainings to make sure they run smoothly? Not needed. Volunteer instructors were fully capable of running their own successful trainings. The whole process was uncomfortable and unfamiliar to us.

There were things we did do, though. We championed the event every time we had the opportunity, including our company-wide Town Hall meetings, via witty promotions that used phrases such as “L&D Wants You… Yeah, YOU!” to entice Collabies to fill out our volunteer instructor application. We listed examples of professional topics such as how to become a project lead at Collaborative Solutions and how to build a rockin’ LinkedIn Profile, so employees knew training topics spanned a wide gamut, freeing them up to be creative. We also listed examples of personal passions employees could teach, including BBQing basics and watercolor painting to give the event a fun, teambuilding vibe. The bottom line: L&D knew our employees all had unique strengths and talents; we just wanted to leverage them to empower each other and fortify our relationships.

Organizing the Volunteer Instructors

A major task we assumed was organizing the volunteer instructors, our keys to success. Our first touchpoint was an e-mail that thanked them for supporting the event and included both training design best practices and specific deliverables (e.g., thematic photo of themselves, polished course description, list of supplies, etc.) we needed to advertise their course company-wide. We also used the communication to pair instructors with “advisors” from the L&D team to make sure they felt supported through the course design and implementation process.

Our second touchpoint was a planning meeting with our respective instructors to review their proposed course outline, discuss their vision for the course, conduct quality assurance on the flow and projected depth of content, and offer any design considerations we had.

Our third and final touchpoint gave instructors the opportunity to bring their vision to life via a dry run. L&D advisors used this last touchpoint to commend them on their progress and give them immediate feedback on the overall experience.

Will They Attend?

After sending the event’s kickoff announcement to the entire company, including a registration link to its 20-plus peer-led courses, the L&D team eagerly and nervously watched as the enrollments poured in: tens, fifties, and then hundreds. We had accomplished our goal! Employees were volunteering to participate in training. Jackpot!

Or so we thought. The first year we hosted this event, our registration numbers were high, but only 30 to 40 percent of registrants attended their courses. Our solution during our second go-round was to bring in our reinforcements: our latest batch of volunteer instructors. The group happily agreed to send “Save the Date” invites to their respective course registrants using Collaborative’s calendaring tool to give them a visual reminder of their training commitment.  This small step proved to make a big difference, especially in 2022, as our attendance numbers jumped to 71 percent.


Since its launch in 2019, Collaborative Solutions’ Week of Learning event has evolved into one of the company’s most anticipated events, helping to secure its award-winning learning culture that permeates across teams, titles, and regions. L&D’s out-of-the-box thinking continues to generate a multiplicity of learner-centered programs and events like the Week of Learning that positively influence our workforce’s attitudes, beliefs, and actions when it comes to choosing to invest in their own growth and development. Last year alone, and amidst the Great Resignation, 82 percent of our employees reported high levels of engagement at work, 11 points higher than the professional services industry’s national average. And according to Collaborative Solutions’ March 2022 Great Places to Work survey, 97 percent of employees stated they would recommend Collaborative Solutions as a great place to work to friends and family.

We also have seen a direct correlation between our Week of Learning event and employees’ positive shift in attitude, beliefs, and actions when it comes to growth and development.

Attitude: We collect formal feedback from participating employees after every event, and our year-over-year net promoter score (NPS) of 81 signals the experience is a breath of fresh air and is appreciated by employees. As one employee wrote: “Thank you so much! I hope others took advantage of this day because it really was a bright spot during this difficult time. Not only did I enjoy participating with my kids, but I really learned something new in each class…”

Belief: The event continues to have a positive influence on how employees perceive L&D and the company’s investment in employee growth and development. As one Collabie recently wrote, “I am proud to work for an organization that prioritizes [learning], especially during this time. I enjoyed seeing the variety of courses available and how willing people were to volunteer.”

According to Collaborative Solutions’ 2021 Engagement survey, 83 percent of employees believe they’re given opportunities to develop skills relevant to their interests, and 86 percent of them believe Collaborative Solutions is a great place for them to make a contribution to their career development.

While we value metrics and the stories they tell, our L&D team recognized the amount of stress the COVID-19 pandemic had on our employees in 2020 and elected to temporarily replace our standard NPS metric with a more empathic and fitting one. We asked WoL participants how successful we were when it came to providing them and their families with positive, uplifting activities to engage in while sheltering in place. Some 70-plus percent of those WoL attendees gave L&D a 9 or 10 out of 10.

Actions: One of the beautiful things about this event is its flexibility. In addition to Collabie volunteer instructors, we’ve had business partners and spouses step up to lead courses to enrich the lives of our employees and their families. We even had a “Collabie Kid” lead a TikTok dance course! It was the partner-led trainings, however, that educated our team on how their tools enhance our clients’ Workday experience that led to our consultant team more than doubling the number of successful Workday-complimentary projects they supported in 2021, moving the needle up from 10 projects in 2020 to 24 projects in 2021.

Furthermore, 69 percent of employees participating in Collaborative’s internal mentoring tool, Chronus, have completed their mentoring goals in 2021 as a result of the Chronus team volunteering to promote use of the tool via fun hands-on demos and courses during our event.

Much of L&D’s success comes from its willingness to face challenges boldly and leverage life’s lessons intelligently. Pre-pandemic this event was in person. During the pandemic ,we, like most L&D teams, pivoted quickly to offer a virtual experience. But now that the world is reopening, we chose to learn from the negative experience COVID-19’s shelter-in-place orders had on our global workforce and create a new and improved Week of Learning event that allows for a blended experience—one that welcomes Collabies comfortable enough to return to the office to attend the event in person, while giving those who elect to stay home the option to participate remotely. This simple change not only promotes a more inclusive and compassionate work environment, but takes the company one step closer to achieving the learning culture and training utopia every L&D team strives for.

Let’s continue to think differently.

Stacy N. Williams
Stacy N. Williams is the director of Learning & Development at Collaborative Solutions, LLC, a leading global finance and HR transformation consultancy that leverages world-class cloud solutions to help deliver successful client outcomes for Fortune 500 companies, large and medium-sized organizations across industries. Williams also has a seat on the company’s Global Culture Advisory Board.