Nationwide Insures Quality Learning

Nationwide is putting a premium on how to meet the rapidly evolving needs of its customers today and tomorrow. Its workforce Future Capability Model rests on two foundational learning components: “Live Our Values” and “Leverage Your Expertise.”

Nationwide’s evolution over the last 90 years has provided a strong foundation for success. Yet, the pace of change in the insurance and financial services industries has accelerated. As Nationwide looks to its centennial in 2026, it is laser-focused on how best to meet the rapidly evolving needs of customers. This means transforming customer solutions and experiences while also driving more efficient operations requiring new workforce capabilities.

Live Our Values

Nationwide Learning teams all focus on aligning talent development initiatives to the business strategy. Nationwide has set its sights on selecting and preparing associates and leaders who will be a strong Workforce of the Future, driving success on key strategic imperatives.

The company has identified Key Future Capabilities critical to achieving customer engagement, including:

Lead: Energize others and share leadership

Innovate: Solve needs in ways people have not yet imagined

Adapt: Anticipate and embrace change

Talent recruitment, management, and development practices all are aligned to accelerate these Future Capabilities.

Nationwide’s Future Capability Model rests on two foundational learning components: “Live Our Values” and “Leverage Your Expertise.” Nationwide’s senior leaders wanted to ensure “Live Our Values” was firmly in every associate’s mindset and skill set before they tackled developing Future Capabilities for the Workforce of the Future. “Nationwide’s caring culture is distinctive and a key asset to support resilience, collaboration, and a growth mindset,” notes Nationwide Vice President of Talent Management and Development Kathy Smith. “The goal was to start this transformative journey celebrating and building upon cultural strengths.”

In 2017, Nationwide Enterprise Learning launched the NSuite (N for Nationwide) learning program aimed at strengthening the company’s “One Nationwide” culture and helping associates personalize the company’s core values and behaviors, while leaning into new opportunities and overcoming unconscious bias. In addition to face-to-face class/ workshop options, NSuite modules incorporate modern learning techniques such as self-assessment, experiential exercises to create insights tied to key course concepts, self-reflection and action planning, microlearning, curation, and social communities. Each module comes with reinforcement resources/post-session leader discussion guides for embedding NSuite behaviors into the team.

NSuite laid the foundation for the Workforce of the Future—Future Capability learning in 2018 by ensuring a clear understanding of what “Live Our Values” means and providing insight into key behaviors related to Nationwide’s culture and values. “We are now ready to extend our caring culture into the future for our customers with shared behaviors that set a positive context for every associate to grow in his or her ability to Lead, Innovate, and Adapt,” Smith says.

Leverage Your Expertise

The pace of change in the insurance and financial services industry dictates that leaders and associates must be agile learners, always striving to keep their expertise up to date and able to gain new skill sets quickly. It is essential that this type of learning agility is foundational to acquiring specific future capabilities for Nationwide’s Workforce of the Future, Smith notes.

A good example of this agile learning was designed, developed, and delivered by Nationwide’s Property/Casualty Learning team in response to expertise gaps identified in annual Audit reports. The Property/Casualty Learning team partnered with Compliance and Quality Assurance teams to more effectively address front-line quality and audit feedback. A digital training reinforcement plan that included targeted microlearning topics was developed.

This project has pioneered microlearning as an effective tool for Learning Loops at Nationwide, particularly double loops. Double-loop learning is used when an organization wants to ensure performers use the best mental model when performing their jobs. In double-loop learning, the feedback is not only used to directly influence performance, but also to form a second loop where the mental models/rules are improved, thus improving the feedback. Microlearning, with its short, specific bursts, as well as on-demand nature, seems to be valuable to the double-loop approach because of its flexibility and easy, responsive updates.

Nationwide also tried learning loops for the first time in 2018 for technical onboarding, incorporating them into the Predictable Journey for Member Solutions/Services new associates. Predictable Journey is designed to build the skills and confidence necessary to deliver a quality member experience.

Predictable Journey accomplishes that through a cadence of training and evaluation (assessments help associates track their progress) and support and feedback (associates and leaders receive performance feedback through formal learning loops and microlearnings). Quality results are tracked monthly and shared with the Learning team so new microlearnings can be continuously assigned and developed to target specific quality issues.

  • As a result of this learning approach aimed at helping associates better leverage their expertise, in Direct Sales, measurable improvements occurred in key audit categories following the use of microlearning. For example, after releasing the Wildfire Risk microlearning video, the Sales organization improved by 4.89 points compared to January 2017.
  • In 2017, the Predictable Journey microlearnings were piloted across Nationwide’s call center locations and were compared to a control group of training classes during the same timeframe the prior year. The results showed the pilot associates demonstrated a faster speed to proficiency and ability to resolve caller needs in the first call.

My Future, Our Success

Following ongoing foundational learning through NSuite aimed at living the values and foundational learning aimed at leveraging expertise, in late 2018, Nationwide launched My Future, Our Success, a digital learning experience for all associates and leaders to self-assess against Nationwide’s Future Capabilities. “They then target their personal results with appropriate learning and playlists launched through our learning management system,” says Nationwide Chief Learning Architect Diane August.

More focused leader enablement for sponsoring and developing their teams on these capabilities will be launched throughout 2019. For example, in the first half of the year, Nationwide will launch leader enablement resources on such topics as “Innovation Through Inclusion,” “Sponsoring New Ideas,” and “Encouraging Abundance Thinking and a Growth Mindset.”

Innovation and Customer Engagement

In 2019, Nationwide Enterprise Learning primarily will focus on helping associates and leaders develop two capabilities from the Future Capability Model: Innovation and Customer Engagement.

Investments include hiring a chief innovation officer conducting learning around innovation in the core, adjacent, and transformational innovation spaces. NVision, an NSuite module on innovative behaviors aligned to Nationwide’s values, has laid the groundwork for 2019 learning on “Innovation Key Actions.”

The impact of the NVision module already can be seen. For instance, the company’s Information Technology function has heavily embraced NSuite learning, and tracked results of projects that were influenced by learnings from NSuite participation. An IT Operation team participated in NChange, an NSuite module focused on managing change. Successful collaboration across key IT areas enabled automated infrastructure self-provisioning for a development line. Before automation, it took roughly 150 days to provision servers. After automation, it took just hours to provision servers. Before automation, testing time was eight hours; after automation, it was 53 minutes.

Lead and Adapt

The company also is boosting its already strong leadership development approach. Leadership development at Nationwide takes place at four levels of learning: Executive, People Leader, Associate, and Emerging Leaders. “We have learning initiatives to address each audience’s needs,” says August. “Lead” recently was identified as one of the company’s Future Capabilities. “What is new and somewhat unique about this capability and the related learning is that the underlying philosophy is that all associates need to lead from their position. We all need to demonstrate this capability through our work, not just designated leaders,” August points out.

Leadership development and succession planning have proven effective. “Our high-potential pipeline is deep and diverse as a result of strong sponsorship and targeted learning initiatives at every career level,” Smith says.

Nationwide has had a strong focus on “Adapt” through its Team Effectiveness learning programs and resources and now is putting a Workforce of the Future focus on this capability by preparing leaders and associates to use new key actions. These key actions emphasize guiding through disruption, continually learning, resilience, and agility.

Associate Value Proposition and Engagement

Nationwide has a strong associate value proposition. “We long have recognized that associate engagement is key to performance and have invested in engagement-related action planning and learning,” Smith notes.

A key part of having engaged associates who will embrace future capabilities is having a Human Resources (HR) technology system that supports their needs. Nationwide’s state-of-the-art, next-generation, cloud-based Human Resources (HR) system integrates HR functional tasks, Career Management, and Talent Management into one associate and leader experience.

In July 2018, Nationwide launched an integrated digital adoption platform to prepare 31,000 leaders and associates to successfully use this system. “In past technology learning initiatives, we put heavy emphasis on creating/curating resources, including classes, videos, and job aids,” August says. “For this system installation, we used an innovative approach, embedding most learning in the system, allowing for on-demand, in-the-moment learning.”

August says this approach made the most sense because users may only need a process once or twice a year and can’t be expected to remember how to do it.

“Our approach saved thousands of hours of productivity, furthering our mission to deliver member value,” adds Smith.

Nine months before deployment, the Learning and Development team designed, developed, and implemented embedded learning/performance support that included onscreen learning/demos at the moment of need; messages that encourage interaction at key points; smart tips at points where users often make mistakes; and resources, videos, and performance support tools accessible at the point of need.

In addition, Learning and Development set the stage for success by:

  • Completing four cycles of stakeholder rehearsal: Users tested the system and provided feedback used to improve embedded learning and enhance the user experience.
  • Leveraging a change champion network of 600 coaches to encourage system adoption
  • Staffing virtual “coaching” booths when performance support was most needed

The attention to detail and the involvement of such a wide team of people paid off in high use of the training, August says. Nearly 100 percent of 31,000 employees used the embedded learning; 97 percent of users utilized learning more than once; and walk-throughs were viewed more than 238,000 times.

From July 1, 2018, to August 31, 2018, 94 percent of learners successfully completed their first-time use of an HR process against a vendor benchmark of 82 percent successful process completion for users with embedded learning.

“We know success comes from our ability to enable learning, not just deliver it,” Smith says. “A hallmark of our investment is a strong commitment to leaders, which provides them with the skills to create an engaging culture and position their teams for success. We’re proud of the impact learning has on associate engagement and, therefore, our business performance results. We will carry this approach forward into our Workforce of the Future.”


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