Whether inventing metals that will hold the green fuels of the future, redefining the kinds of energy that can power a mill, or building digital platforms that connect customers with products and teams, global steel pipe manufacturer Tenaris has long relied on a dynamic company learning culture. Maintaining and evolving its vision across the 30 countries it operates in is no small undertaking—and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make it any easier.
Back in 2003, Tenaris invested heavily to strengthen its leadership culture. It created the two-year Global Training Program (GTP) to serve as a launching pad for incoming professionals, providing them a comprehensive overview of the way their work would function within the Tenaris network. Hallmarks of the program included sending Global Trainees (GTs) on two rotations within different areas of the company to broaden their sense of all the ways the company operates and allowing them to interact and learn from peers and leaders from around the globe through the TenarisUniversity Induction Camp—or TUIC, as its 3,000-plus graduates refer to it.
Traditionally, TUIC training sessions kicked off when 60 young professionals at Tenaris arrived at the campus in Campana, Argentina. The GTs hailed from offices and facilities around the world, but convened in Campana for a month-long, intensive introduction to the culture, people, work, and vision of Tenaris.
After arriving in Campana, GTs experienced the heat and thrill of watching molten metal inside the Siderca mill and met with experts from all facets of the Tenaris network, including the CEO. Investing in GTs in this early stage of their development had a positive, lasting influence on their relationship to Tenaris.
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE
Because this program was so vitally important to Tenaris, postponing a TUIC in spring 2020 was a tough choice, but necessary because of the pandemic. Like most businesses, Tenaris quickly realized a speedy return to normal wasn’t in the cards for the newest batch of GTs. The team quickly pivoted from postponement to the idea of a reimagined program.
In its new form, the camp was moved online, and reduced from four weeks to two. In-person interactions were replaced with ones hosted by Microsoft Teams. The pool of Global Trainees was reduced to simplify time zone considerations, so the new batch of trainees all hailed from only the Americas.
Despite these constraints, the new training format injected new life and ideas into the TUIC. Suddenly, the experts who came in to teach during the program could be drawn from all around the world. Though in-person site visits were out, virtual visits meant GTs could explore more than one mill through new technologies: Siderca was open via Webcam; GTs explored Tamsa in Veracruz, Mexico, via Lens technology; and the campus in Bay City, TX, in the U.S. offered its virtual tour through 360-degree technology.
In order to forge the strong bonds between Global Trainees that is a hallmark of the TUIC program, trainers also created online escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and missions to bring people together.
TRYING HYBRID MODE
As pandemic social distancing requirements began to ease internationally, TUIC transitioned into a blend of online and in-person events. Small groups of Global Trainees met at the Tenaris bases in their own countries for some in-person bonding and mill visits, while they interacted with their peers and toured mills from other locations via online platforms. The hybrid TUIC was two weeks long, like the online version, and featured speakers both in-person and from sites around the world.
BACK TO “NORMAL”—THE NEW NORMAL
The pandemic push into more virtual training scenarios resulted in highlights that differed from the traditional TUIC. So when a return to the normal format was finally on the table after two years of change, rather than jump back into the past without reflection, Tenaris understood how important it would be to think about retaining what worked better in the virtual and hybrid camps.
For this past May’s first return to the fully in-person TUIC in Argentina, Tenaris kept the shorter two-week format. Usage of Microsoft Teams was reduced but not cut entirely as the ability to bring in speakers from around the Tenaris global network infuses new energy and perspective into the trainings.
The content GTs learn in a TUIC also has shifted, because the company itself has changed in the years since the program began. Tenaris has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, to lean into the Energy Transition, and to consolidate its leading global position. Business classes, mill visits, and simulations help trainees better understand the complexities and challenges this change presents. The new TUIC also emphasizes teaching collaborative working styles that build strong connections and create accountability and trust.
Lastly, the move to online learning highlighted the strength of making each participant the center of a journey, from the moment the invitation to the program is received. In the current TUIC, group networking activities help foster the all-important connections that help GTs grow into the Tenaris network. The effort and commitment the trainees put into the program are also acknowledged with a closing event that allows trainees to reflect on and celebrate the work they’ve done.
The last two years have led to so much upheaval. At TenarisUniversity, the forced changes of the pandemic ultimately have brought about an even stronger company program.