Case study: Creating a learning culture at Airbus

As more HRDs are turning their attention to reskilling their workforces HR magazine hears from four organisations already embracing L&D to create agile learners

Aerospace industry giant Airbus is focusing on developing the competencies of its employees to ensure it meets current and future business needs, but it’s not without its challenges.

The first, according to Mikäel Butterbach, Airbus SVP competence management, employment and learning, is the need to identify and analyse the emerging jobs, declining competencies and strengthening of existing skills.

To tackle this, the organisation has introduced a yearly process to derive a short, mid, and long-term competence strategy out of the broader Airbus business strategy, which it calls the Resource Review.

“The second challenge is to onboard all employees in this transformation and make them aware of the changes that could affect their current activities,” Butterbach explains. “We do this with complete transparency through our Global Workforce Forecast [GWF].”

The GWF is a study launched in 2018 that aims to show “the evolution of the world’s population and the workforce within Airbus”. Available to all employees in print and mobile app form, the GWF provides access to people data and megatrends going on in and outside of the organisation.

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“This allows all readers to not only gain a better understanding of how the current and future Airbus HR offering can support the competence development of teams, but also of them as individuals. This awareness is fundamental for employees to take ownership of their professional development,” Butterbach adds.

Giving employees information on the future competencies they may need and empowering them to take ownership of their learning is considered crucial to creating a learning culture. For this reason Airbus is promoting continuous learning and an agile mindset through specific culture change programmes.

For example, the ‘growth mindset’ has been a key part of the company’s agile leadership model for some time and is exemplified by a tool allowing colleagues to ask each other for feedback, rather than HR needing to launch formal 360-degree feedback campaigns.

To back up the cultural transformation Airbus has made a step change from training being 100% classroom based to a 60:40 digital versus classroom delivery split. Currently 8,000 different digital courses are offered worldwide, with the majority available to employees without any validation.

This is a significant shift from the previous formal submission of training requests and the need to go through several validation steps.

Another step to facilitate reskilling has been the development of more accessible knowledge management solutions such as social learning to enable knowledge sharing and internal crowdsourcing.

“While creating a learning culture is an ongoing task, HR needs to spot the potential for people or teams who need to pivot their competencies and skills, and talk about the successes no matter how small,” says Butterbach.

“An example of this is how the HR team worked with the business to identify 250 people who completed a data analyst nanodegree MOOC [massive open online course] in only six months. This went on to encourage a further 400 employees to follow a similar learning path.”