Leaning into Learning: How Treasury Wine Estates is Supporting Employees Through Learning

May 7, 2020

Leaning into Learning: How Treasury Wine Estates is Supporting Employees Through Learning

The talent and capability team at Treasury Wine Estates, one of the world's largest wine companies, has always believed that learning should be a key part of any successful business. But when COVID-19 hit, learning and development’s proverbial seat at the table grew substantially, seemingly overnight. Grace Kenyon, Global Capability Coordinator, and Kirsten Dale, HR Director, Global Talent and Capability, saw this shift as a massive opportunity for their team to support employees through an uncertain time.

Kenyon and Dale’s team recognized that employees were facing a variety of challenges, depending on both how their role was impacted, and how they were dealing with the changes personally. The team got to work laying out plans to use blended online learning programs they could leverage to support each employee through whatever challenge they may be facing. 

Learning through times of change

As employees at Treasury Wine Estates suddenly faced new ways of working, mental health concerns, and a shift to all things virtual, the capability team was uniquely positioned to fill key knowledge gaps through learning initiatives. The team pivoted existing initiatives and worked to set up webinars, build toolkits, and create live virtual sessions to address the new and emerging needs of their employees. 

In such a dynamic environment, speed was key. The team was able to leverage existing courses on LinkedIn Learning to get resources out to employees. “We’ve been pulling together lots of toolkits to support people’s mental health and working remotely, and we’ve leveraged a lot of the content from LinkedIn Learning as a part of that,” Dale said.

Quickly curating resources and pushing them out to employees was a key first step to ensure that all employees had immediate support. The team has seen a 350% increase in hours of LinkedIn Learning content viewed between February and March as employees have been able to leverage a variety of courses to meet them wherever they are at. “People are working from home and they’re looking for resources to support them in these new ways of working,” Kenyon said. “The hours of learning completed in March shot up in a vertical trend.” 

Learning new ways of working

Treasury Wine Estates traditionally runs functional academies for job training and onboarding. These academies have always been in-person, but recently needed to shift to a completely digital format. Kenyon and her team leveraged existing courses on LinkedIn learning to create learning pathways to help support these teams as they transitioned learning online. 

“We’re looking at creating learning pathways so employees can have the topics laid out and housed together. That can then be shared more broadly with a  simple link,” Kenyon said. 

Her team has tried to think creatively about how to make these experiences as impactful as possible, so they’ve leveraged Microsoft Teams as a way to keep learning social. Employees will take a course together, then discuss what they’ve learned through chat. Blending these online learning experiences helps keep learning social, and can help build a community centered around learning. 

Learning how to reskill and upskill

One group that was hit particularly hard by COVID-19 was Treasury Wine Estates’ Direct to Consumer team. They typically work in hospitality or at the cellar door, so when shelter-in-place orders went out, their day-to-day roles completely shifted. The team quickly pivoted to phone-based customer support by leveraging online learning.

“Many employees on this team have been redeployed to support the Treasury Wine Estates’ Outbound Sales Team whilst various sites are closed. The team moved to phone-based support, leveraging LinkedIn Learning,” Kenyon said. “Our top course at the moment is Phone-Based Customer Service, and that’s directly due to that Direct to Consumer team moving to a phone-based job.” 

The team has been building new skills that the business needs by leaning into learning. This has not only helped the business, but it has also ensured that those employees still have an active role to play at the company. 

Sally Scott, Area Sales Manager for Treasury Wine Estates, explains, “As we’re still concentrating on business development with our customers via phone call and emails, we are really building our skills in listening and communication, phone sales, brilliant questioning, and balancing home & work life. By learning new content online one day, and putting it into practice the very next day, we are able to create new, productive and efficient habits. Using our new skills has also taught us to think in new ways, and find new ways of increasing profit and revenue for Treasury Wine Estates & our customers.”

Learning in challenging times

In times of uncertainty or change, learning can be a productive use of time. Kenyon has tried to message many of their initiatives in this way so that employees see learning as a support they can lean on. “You might just have more time at home and be looking for additional things to do. It doesn’t have to be work related. You can literally go onto LinkedIn Learning and learn how to play the banjo. It’s just another thing you can do to invest in yourself over this slower period of time,” Kenyon said. 

The team is also looking at ways to support managers who may be having tough conversations with their direct reports. Communicating business changes can be tricky for managers in a normal situation, but having to do it all virtually adds a whole new challenge. “We’re working on creating pathways for managers who are having to have tough conversations, both to support them emotionally and also to train them to be able to have those conversations virtually,” Kenyon said. 

As learning supports employees through change, new habits are formed

Digital training and online learning have been key in allowing Kenyon and Dale to support their teams through this time of change and uncertainty. Although they are looking forward to things getting back to normal, both hope that their employees will take away some new learning habits from this time. For example, many employees who might have been skeptical of online learning as a legitimate tool for training have now activated their accounts and are leveraging many of the resources Kenyon and Dale are creating. 

“Some employees might be on a team that’s been directly impacted by COVID-19, so they have a lot more time on their hands, or they might just be more interested in investing in their development during this time,” Kenyon said. “It’s brought in a lot of people who didn’t originally sign up, and when those people start engaging with LinkedIn Learning they quickly see how beneficial it is and become regular users. People are building up more learning habits now and I think that they’ll really see the benefit of it.”