How to develop distance learning 💻? The Plastic Omnium case.

As part of a webinar held a few weeks ago, we had the honor of welcoming Pierre-François Tardy, Learning & Competency Development Director within the Clean Energy System division of Plastic Omnium to discuss distance learning.

A world leader in the supply of automotive parts for carmakers, Plastic Omnium employs 32,712 people in 26 countries around the world 🗺️ and has 120 plants 🏭. The Group is listed on the Paris stock exchange.

What will you learn?

  • Best practices in distance learning
  • The importance of digital onboarding
  • The future of distance learning

The key role of the HR function during crises


In a context of successive global crises, the HR function is one of the most sought-after functions within the company," explains Pierre-François Tardy. After the SARS epidemic in 2003, the financial crisis in 2008, the "Diesel Gate" in 2015, and the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020, Plastic Omnium's HR teams have had to demonstrate agility and adaptability. To ensure employee commitment and skills development, the Group has set up communication plans and business roadmaps in line with the emergence of new skills.

"We need to communicate in a very thorough way and take care of employees as much as possible," says Pierre-François Tardy. For example, Plastic Omnium has set up virtual meetings to recreate a human dynamic and encourage employees to share their experiences during confinement.

On the training side, from the beginning of the deconfinement, the group's HR teams have set up distance learning initiatives, such as English courses, for example. "One of the ways to be agile in the HR and training professions is to implement distance training 📡. It is an indispensable modality" underlines Pierre-François Tardy.

What are the keys 🔑 to the success of distance learning?

Zoom call with coffee

Zoom call with coffee

A distance learning program must meet certain criteria. First of all, this training must have a real learning strategy. In other words, it must be a performance lever for organizations, i.e. it must support the needs of the business.

Secondly, distance learning must be part of a hierarchical organization. In the case of Plastic Omnium, the HR branch follows a cascading organization in which the global organization, made up of a few players, defines the major standards to be followed (process for identifying needs, virtual classroom platform, etc.). Plastic Omnium also has a regional organization embodied by regional and on-site relays that coordinate training sessions at the regional or local level.

❗ An important point emphasized by Pierre-François Tardy is that "we must not forget to involve managers". Indeed, for training to be successful, it must include managers and use the various experts in the company who will be able to train other employees on their strategic skills.

Finally, the content of the training must be adapted to the virtual classroom. The training must therefore include e-learning modules, remote conferences, but also use an adapted platform that must meet several criteria. First of all, it must be attractive to the group and have features such as replays or the possibility to work in a group. Second, the platform must provide a high-performance, international technical service 🌍 while providing interesting technical performance (bandwidth, compression) so as not to alter the quality of the training.

Distance learning & onboarding: Plastic Omnium x HeyTeam

During the webinar, Pierre-François Tardy shared his vision of what good training is through what he does at Plastic Omnium.

To begin with, it is worth noting that onboarding at Plastic Omnium is the first distance training, which is a continuous and inclusive process. This distance training is a series of 15 training steps, each one on a theme, which aim to explain key notions and convey the company's values. Each session lasts 60 minutes ⏱️ and brings together a dozen people who have access to all the documents.

This onboarding training is improved thanks to the use of HeyTeam, which enables the link to be created with the employee even before he or she arrives (pre-boarding stage) and to build loyalty while preparing the employee's future work ecosystem.

But distance learning doesn't stop there. Indeed, in the context of the Covid-19 health crisis, Plastic Omnium has made training available on a voluntary basis to enable teams to develop various skills (Big Data, AI, emotional intelligence, etc.). These trainings take the form of e-learning modules, free MOOCS (EDX, coursera) and conferences (TED).

However, distance learning is not limited to the theoretical skills of employees. Plastic Omnium has set up a distance learning program 💻 to train its teams in corporate safety using a virtual reality module. Thus, thanks to a 30-minute session and 6 exercises, the employee following the training is immersed in a Clean Energy System plant and understands what is at stake in terms of safety in the workplace. This type of training is very positive according to Pierre-François Tardy, because it is a "user experience that is beyond what can be done with an e-learning" and it allows a greater memorization of the notions discussed. However, one limitation must be emphasized: the short duration of the training due to various ailments (nausea, dizziness) that can occur after wearing a virtual reality helmet.

XR Expo 2019: exhibition for virtual reality (vr), augmented reality (ar), mixed reality (mr) and extended reality (xr)
XR Expo 2019: exhibition for virtual reality (vr), augmented reality (ar), mixed reality (mr) and extended reality (xr)

The future of distance learning

Based on the automotive sector 🚗, it appears that the sector has experienced many crises (2008 crisis, Dieselgate in 2015, Covid-19) and that this phenomenon is likely to happen again. It is therefore necessary to anticipate tomorrow's crises and one way to do so is distance learning.

Thanks to its nature, distance training is perfectly adapted to the tense economic contexts and allows to optimize the time of trainers and experts but also to reduce training costs. Moreover, Pierre-François Tardy estimates that "75% of subjects can be covered by distance learning", and there will be even more of them in the future thanks to the use of new technologies (VR, AR etc.).

In addition to all this, distance learning has a positive ROI, whether from an economic point of view, as the training courses pay for themselves very quickly 💵, or in terms of employee commitment, as it improves the company's image among young employees 🧑. It is worth noting that distance learning is more relevant a few weeks after the employee has taken up his or her duties, because if the employee feels properly integrated, he or she will want to train to perform the tasks required of him or her as well as possible.

However, for this to work at its best, a number of points should be kept in mind 📌. First of all, the involvement of the various employees and managers must be encouraged, while at the same time promoting interaction with the trainer. Secondly, you should not hesitate to combine distance learning with face-to-face training or with personal work of the MOOC type. Finally, the synchronous video format 🎞️ seems to be more suitable, as it allows for better employee involvement while avoiding the constraints of the asynchronous training format (space required to store videos, for example).

Brainstorming over paper
Distance learning, a real asset for any company.

To remember :

  1. Digital onboarding is a key step in online training.
  2. Online training is a way to anticipate tomorrow's crises
  3. Virtual reality and new technologies must be put at the service of the human being, in order to set up training that is both innovative and of high quality.

See you soon for a new article!

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