The Edge: “Safety First” – The New Motto for All

Episode 25 February 11, 2021 00:24:03
The Edge: “Safety First” – The New Motto for All
The Edge: A Skillsoft Podcast
The Edge: “Safety First” – The New Motto for All
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Hosted By

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

Show Notes

This week we share with you the last episode of Season One of The EdgeAlison Cowan, of Brunswick Corporation, shares insight on how the organization navigated a safe return-to-work plan amid COVID-19, while continuing to nurture the development of team members remotely.  

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 <inaudible> Speaker 1 00:00:07 Hello. It is time for another episode of the edge, a Skillsoft podcast designed for learners and leaders alike. In every episode, we strive to bring you insight on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace, through the lens of those who are responsible for overseeing it within their organizations. And specifically today, we're going to talk about keeping employees safe with a focus on workers. Who've returned to their organization's physical locations during the pandemic, but first imagined yourself working on a massive manufacturing plant floor, where you're a part of a team, including managers, supervisors, technicians, engineers, and production workers. You know, chances are safety. First has, has always been a motto for your team. I mean, I think that's a given when you're working with large, powerful, and fast moving machinery, but that motto takes on an entirely new meeting when a global pandemic emerges, you know, there's a good chance you're going to need to come back to work after all assembling and testing complex products. Speaker 1 00:01:11 Isn't something you can do remotely from a laptop, but as you plan for working on location, you're wondering how can I keep myself my coworkers and in turn our loved ones back at home, say from COVID-19 the key is education, knowing the practices and policies for keeping yourself and coworkers healthy from understanding the virus and how it's transmitted to knowing what preventative measures to take for protection. And that's where today's podcast guests comes into the story. Alison Cowan is the director of global learning and executive coach at Brunswick corporation, a $4 billion Marine technology company dedicated to defining, creating, and continuously innovating the future of the recreational Marine market with 14,000 employees across operations in 24 countries, Brunswick calls itself home to the people behind life's passions. I love that. And that mantra became all the more relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take root and affect how we live, how we work and how we enjoy life. Speaker 1 00:02:20 Brunswick was in a distinct and valuable position to help its customers pursue their passions through exceptional, innovative, driven boating experiences, but someone needed to build the boats, the engines, various technologies, parts, and accessories, and for many employees at Brunswick that meant coming back to the workplace. So what could have the company do to ensure the health and safety of its employees around the world will rather than have me tell it, I'm going to let Alison share because I don't think there's anybody who can do this better. Alison welcome. Thank you for joining us on the edge. Thanks Michelle. I'm delighted to be here and thanks very much for having me look, I, I don't think that my overview gave anyone a sense for what Brunswick really does and you're in an absolutely fascinating industry. One that brings the joy of the water to life for consumers who engage with your world renowned brands. So could you spend just a moment and share with our listeners a little more about yourself, your job. And then of course, Speaker 2 00:03:21 Brunswick is the world's leading recreational Marine manufacturer with 16 leading boat brands, mercury Marine, the largest global P and a B business and freedom boat club. In addition to many incredible businesses whose mission it is to create innovation and inspiration on the water. In my role, I lead in develop the learning and development strategy to help employees develop their careers and support successful growth at Brunswick. Speaker 1 00:03:53 I love that. And so, you know, I think a great place to start is last March when it all began. I mean, that was really early on in the pandemic, at least here in the United States. And so many businesses were grappling with how to ensure their employees could return to work safely. And it Brunswick, it involved the development of a new type of learning resource. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Sure. Speaker 2 00:04:15 The health and safety of our employees is always our top priority. And as you said, we have 14,000 employees around the world at facilities in various countries. And we had to ensure that anyone who was in the office or away from the office felt safe in our manufacturing facilities. We implemented very robust PPA programs, enhanced social distancing, provided masks and sanitizes for all employees and have encouraged any employee who can work from home to remain doing so. In many cases, the communities in which we live and work have adopted some of our safety policies and guidelines. We also launched COVID-19 awareness training to act global population through Skillsoft, combining it with a pledge for employees to sign, ensuring that they had all of the knowledge and information necessary to return to work safely. Thank you. Speaker 1 00:05:16 Th that's you know, I find it so amazing what first we're honored to partner with you on, on such a vital part of workplace learning for Brunswick team members around the world. But there's another part of this story that I find so incredible Brunswick and many of its global brands are also doing their part to help people on the front lines, in the fight against COVID-19. So I think it'd be great. If you could tell our listeners some of the wonderful things your company has been doing as the pandemic continues to unfold. Speaker 2 00:05:49 Sure. Well, we have an ACEs strategy. ACEs stands for autonomy, connectivity, electrification, and shared access. The E is where this comes in. Our advanced systems group is home of some of the leading brands in the Marine industry, including master volt, who creates batteries and battery power for the Marine industry, RVs trucks, and basically anything on the road. There are TV stations in the UK, like the BBC who use our muster volt batteries to power their live trucks on location. They are used to power mobile hospitals, mobile ships, et cetera. Batteries can replace a loud, an expensive generator on most on-road vehicles. So we are working on the on-water part of it as well, and launched our fathom system during the CES show last year, which is also been very popular in the marketplace. Speaker 1 00:06:47 Yeah, I th I think that's, I think that's tremendous and it's great to see what Brunswick has done during the pandemic. And we know the effect goes beyond just, you know, goes beyond the supporting the community, supporting society, but, but really when we look at consumers, its effect on how people live and engage with one another has had a tangible impact on consumer demand for the recreational Marine products that Brunswick specializes in. So perhaps you can take us through the, the impact that COVID-19 has had on your business. Speaker 2 00:07:22 March hit. We were all dealing with plant closures and uncertainty, you know, but as we moved into April concerts were canceled, no sports, no camps, no school, no vacations. People were turning to the water in record numbers. It's one of the most socially distant activities you can partake in spending time with your family on the water, creating memories. We saw an enormous increase in participation last summer in particular, and a big increase in women and minorities on the water while our industry is up. Brunswick is over-indexing in both cases. Many of our leading brands sold out through 2022 because of record retail and wholesale demand. We have seen people who have never been on a boat before buying their first boat. We are seeing some who have timed out of the industry, getting back into the industry. We have a robust parts and accessories business, and because people are on the water more than ever, they too are feeling the increase. Speaker 1 00:08:27 And I don't think that this is something that is going to change when the pandemic, um, when, when we emerged from this, I really do feel like this concept of being outdoors and spending more time together, socially distant on the water, um, outside. I hope this continues, but you know, it all, it also comes back to, um, shifting the way that we operate our businesses, in fact, how we train and, and, um, uh, teach our employees. And, you know, I know a significant part of your role at Brunswick is leading the company's leadership development program. And I think it would be great to talk a little bit about how and why you created the program, what it entails and you know, what aspects have made it so valuable for Brunswick's leaders over the years. And then we'll shift to the pandemic piece in a moment. But I think just the program itself would be great if you could give us some insight into, Speaker 2 00:09:26 But we have an, and have created a contemporary engaging learning experience for our senior leaders. And it focuses on the issues they face. It anticipates that they've got a lot of experience and it reinforces what they already know builds on the insights into themselves and their self-awareness and immediately gives them skills that they can take back to the workplace straightaway, growing them as leaders and also inspiring their teams to perform at the highest levels possible. I would something that, uh, we created a couple of years ago and we're running at 98% attendance and 98% satisfaction. So we've been really pleased with how it's gone. The response has been very, very positive. Speaker 1 00:10:16 That's fantastic. And you know, I also know, and, and you know, you, and I've talked a little bit about this. You've made the decision, especially as the pandemic began to take root to re-imagine this program given it's in person format, and you've been working on creating a virtual version to roll out to Brunswick's leaders in the near future. Uh, tell us a little bit about it and, and your vision for how it will work, because I am sure that there are other companies that are thinking through this exact same thing. Speaker 2 00:10:45 Sure. Well, I've always believed Michelle that you've got to create the pull with any, uh, learning experience. And, you know, when something like a pandemic happens, we did reimagine it because there was the obvious point of we can no longer do in person learning. Um, the timing for any reimagination had to really be aligned with our leader's needs. And the early days of the pandemic, there were things that they just needed to get done, but yet the volt of a time. And so, um, as we've taken the program, um, virtually we've had to shorten the sessions, you know, you can be in a room and do have a really engaging experience all day. And the energy is different when you're sitting in front of a computer. So whilst we lead engagement was high for that, you can't automatically cut and paste that online. So we've shortened the sessions, um, lots of engagement with them, lots of reestablishing, what they wanted to keep getting that permission, uh, to, to, to keep doing this, had a couple of test sessions just to see how things would, but making sure that the engagement piece was high. Speaker 2 00:11:56 This is not a torch program. It's not a shut up and listen, it never has been. And, and making sure that some of the critical success factors of sharing, sharing experiences and information, higher engagement, uh, making it worth their while and giving them takeaways of that, some of which were shared with them, some of which they came up with themselves that they could take away and use on the job the very next day. So that's been super important as I think that's important as you, as you consider any kind of learning experience by the before, or even during on an indeed after the pandemic. Speaker 1 00:12:33 Yeah, that's great. I mean, I, look, I think, I think we're all eager to know what are the things that we can employ right now? What can we take away and immediately will have an impact. So I think that's, I think that's wonderful, but you know, when we, when we talk a little bit about learning and growth in your role in particular, there's that other element of executive coaching that is, that's a major piece of what you do at Brunswick. And I think, um, you know, what would be really interesting to understand is, um, what kinds of feedback you've received from your executives about the types of learning they need in the pandemic Arab? Because I would imagine that it has changed significantly in the year that we've been grappling with this. Speaker 2 00:13:22 Well, yes, Michelle, and, you know, the, the move to virtual leadership hundred percent of the time was new for everybody. And so that was an unexpected and real shift that everyone had to make overnight. And it's, that's not unique to, to Brunswick, of course. So what we've been doing through the coaching sessions is just demystifying that because I think anything that's new can seem strange. Um, and so helping our leaders think about how do I keep in contact with, uh, with my teams, how do I maintain authenticity? You know, avoiding, just having transactional conversations, focusing on engagement, belonging, uh, maintaining the connection and ensuring that leaders are able to continue to motivate and inspire their people. Even if they're having to do it in a different way, Speaker 1 00:14:15 Alison, you know, our company's histories, um, they, they go way back together. And, um, you were among the first customers to migrate to Skillsoft Percipio, which is our intelligent learning platform. And, you know, it is designed to deliver a very engaging experience for learners. But when you think about that experience both now and in the future, what are the critical must haves for Brunswick? Speaker 2 00:14:41 Well, a number of things, Michelle, the first is always going to be contemporary content. Lots of these areas of, uh, leadership, uh, are evolving really quickly. We've talked about one today, virtual leadership, and there were other, uh, contemporary content around diversity and inclusion. These are things that our, our employees want to know right now. We also wanted something and we found this in Percipio, that's easy to navigate. You don't want to spend time searching for stuff that's difficult to find, right. It looks great. It's a really clean product. We've had that feedback from our employees. And the fact that there's an app is a real plus because, uh, you know, people are having to shift to exercising outside or exercising in their homes in ways that they, they, they, they didn't imagine when they, when they used to go to the gym every day. So just enabling through the app, for example, being able to add content to a playlist and then listen to it offline through when you're, when you're in a gym or not, most of us are not in the car very often, but that's been real real plus for us. Speaker 1 00:15:47 Fantastic. Um, and, and, you know, I think that, that, uh, we have seen that adoption, that growth in, in mobile, in particular, um, accelerate as a result of the pandemic. But, you know, let's, let's sort of think even further ahead, because as we, as we imagine the learning and growth needs of our employees going forward, how, how do you think we Skillsoft and, and the platform in particular can help you address those needs? And I think that, again, it's in this era where work is, is really been re-imagined and reshaped by the pandemic, Speaker 2 00:16:25 The things that we really appreciated when, and that collaboration with skill was that, um, there was COVID-19 training in the moment when we needed it. That was one of the things we appreciated the most, and that really underlines how having a partner like Skillsoft that is really reading the market, understanding the themes that are emerging. I think as we, as we start to come through this, there are, um, ongoing, ongoing need to think about how do we move forward? Do we navigating the hybrid workplace potentially on a full-time basis? That's going to be near important. I think our, particularly our leaders are going to want even more content on how do they lead in different ways. Um, we've done it a hundred percent virtually recently, how to make sure that you can re-engage with people. And how do we start to think about helping people through the anxiety that they have felt and continue to feel through the pandemic? Speaker 2 00:17:23 You know, the, the unknown, the adaptability, and how do we take some of the things that we've realized we can do? We've realized how we were able to adapt overnight things that we, we not just Brunswick, but I think lots of organizations, uh, moving to working flexibly could have taken 10 years if we try to do it outside of a pandemic. So keeping and realizing just agile, we can be. And how can we reflect on that and take it forward as a new skill for the future. So all content around these topics is going to be really important for us in the future. Speaker 1 00:18:02 Yeah. I agree wholeheartedly, especially now, because I think people are starting to evaluate, what is the model? Is it virtual first? Is it hybrid? What does that look like? And so there's an opportunity for us to really, and I also think collaborate with you and other customers to say, what is needed and what can we build together. So I love that. Um, okay. You know, we are unfortunately running out of time and the, you know, I hate this because I could talk with you for forever. Um, and, and, uh, have just really enjoyed this, but at least we get to move on to my very favorite question. It's the one that I ask all of our guests. Um, you know, again, this is, this has been all about the pandemic and I recognize that, but it has allowed us to look at the world, think differently about how we do things. Speaker 1 00:18:49 I know that we have new hobbies, we have new perspectives. Um, hopefully we are, um, kinder, gentler giving more grace. Um, but so I've asked my, all of my guests, this question, it's actually a three parter, so it's a start, stop, continue. What have you started doing since the onset of the pandemic? What have you stopped doing? And you're so grateful you don't have to do it anymore. And then as we create this new normal, what's something you're going to take with you that, you know, continue to do that you might not have done before. So again, start, stop, continue. Speaker 2 00:19:22 I started to do, and it was currently through necessity. I started exercising outside. Ooh. And you know, and the other days of the pandemic, Michelle, the, I live in an apartment block and the fitness center was closed appropriately when we all went into lockdown and the thought of not being fit and healthy. And also that, you know, the, the mental need to get out of the front door was huge. And so, uh, my husband and I grabbed a flee, scrubbed us sneakers or trainers, I would call them and headed outside. And it really gave me a sense of appreciating the way the seasons evolve. I'm very lucky. I live very close to Lake Michigan, and it brings me on to, what am I going to continue doing? I'm I am not going to stop doing that no matter how we move forward in the future. Speaker 2 00:20:12 Um, I'm really appreciating a daily walk. Um, I'm apart from when it's absolute monsoon or a blizzard I've been going outside and just, you know, adapting to there's more than one way to keep fit and healthy, um, than just going into the gym. I really appreciated that. And I'm gonna, I'm gonna continue doing it. It's all, it's all about wellness. You know, the, the risk with the pandemic. And I think a lot of people felt this was that we could, we could be at our computers because work and life became work and home life became far more blurred than, than it ever been before. So the risk is we can be in front of our computers for 12 hours a day, and we know that's not healthy. So I think just having that ability to grabbing a fleece and a pair of sneakers or trainers, and obviously a face mask, and I was wiling getting outdoors, how refreshing it was both physically and mentally, what I'm going to stop doing. Speaker 2 00:21:05 And I have not missed the commute. I'm hopefully not going to be in the car as much. And, you know, I think stop, I'm not making enough time for, I think the things that matter in life now, my family is on the other side of the Atlantic in the United Kingdom. And it's, it's made, I haven't seen them for over a year now for all the reasons we know, but I think it's just given me an added appreciation of actually, although we might curse living in front of a computer screen without it, I wouldn't have seen them at all. So I think, you know, that's going to be something that I've, I think we've all appreciated the good and the bad of, of living through a computer screen. But I prefer to think about, um, it there'll be things we can start doing again, hopefully traveling when the vaccine gets a little bit more rolled out, but I certainly I'm going to continue my appreciation of the outdoors and, uh, hopefully ditch the air conditioned gym as I did all of last year and keep, uh, keep keeping mentally and physically healthy using the good, good outdoors. Speaker 1 00:22:05 I think that's some great guidance for us all. And as somebody who has been exercising almost exclusively indoors, I'm going to take a page out of your book. I'm going to go give it a shot, perhaps not when it's as cold as it is today, but, but, and, and with as much snow on the ground. But I think that's really good guidance because I do believe that we are spending a lot of time inside. I think we're spending a lot of time with these screens and it is good to remember that, you know, just lace up and get out there and get some exercise. It's wonderful. Speaker 2 00:22:37 It's also great. You know, just to, just to throw in, if I, if I may is also, as we said earlier on, um, getting out on a boat is just a wonderful way to be safe with your family and friends, um, getting out and about getting the fresh air. And, you know, it's something that, that I think is just a wonderful thing to do. And we're really pleased that Brunswick has enabled so many of our customers and new boaters to do that. Speaker 1 00:23:05 I think that's also a great recommendation for everyone out there. If you have not yet partaken in boating, this is a great opportunity to give it a go. And Alison, with that, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be with us on the edge to our listeners. Thank you for tuning into this really incredible episode is we as Alison and I have unleashed our edge together and on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, keep learning, keep growing and in light of the conversation today, take a moment to remember the hardworking people on the manufacturing floors, who are coming in each and every day to build the things that allow the world to engage in its passions, like, and remember to keep yourself informed and current on your own organization's safety protocols. I'm Michelle baby. This is the edge be well Speaker 3 00:23:54 <inaudible>.

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