Reaching for the stars

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 1 August 2013 in Interviews

In our series on the winners of TJ’s 2012 Awards, Seun Robert-Edomi talks to Impact International, winner of the best use of technology in learning in partnership with Thomson Reuters

A programme designed to prepare the next generation of leaders for operating globally and within the virtual space was recognised at last year's TJ Awards.

The gold award for best use of technology in learning was presented to Thomson Reuters in partnership with Impact International at November's annual event. Vodafone and InterContinental Hotels Group claimed silver and bronze respectively.

The programme, Generate, received praise for helping to retain top talent, build global capacity and develop future leaders.

Laura Overton, managing director of benchmarking company Towards Maturity and category judge, said: "Thomson Reuters' future leaders' blended learning project, Generate, is not just a traditional e-learning/classroom blend - and because of that, I think it's a worthy winner of the gold award in this category."

The project initially came about when Thomson Reuters identified a gap in its leadership pipeline. There was a clear development plan for replacing current leaders but the next generation had not yet been identified.

Using talent and performance data, the HR team identified a pool of high-potential employees, many of whom were already demonstrating leadership behaviours. Thomson Reuters then partnered with leadership development consultancy Impact International to develop Generate, a programme that would develop, challenge and engage those high-potentials, identifying a need for future leaders to operate globally and be effective in a virtual space. With that in mind, a blended learning approach was chosen.

Thomson Reuters wanted the programme to be seen as introducing a new type of leadership to the company and felt that using virtual technology would facilitate this and also enable it to effectively manage the investment of money and time it was making.

Generate was an 11-week blended learning experience, which was split over four phases. Each phase was designed to ensure learning transfer. There was a big focus on refining client skills, with a particular concentration on how to build excellent client relationships.

Participants met only once during the process so, to maintain engagement and drive creativity and teamwork, webinars were used for problem-solving projects and facilitated discussions. An online portal was also made available, offering interactive learning so people could learn while they were at work. The aim of this was to create opportunities for people to experience new emotions, challenges and situations, leading to effective learning.

As a result of the programme, 43 people (75 per cent of Generate participants) have received promotions. A further 23 per cent have been promoted twice.

Post-programme participant feedback showed:

  • 93 per cent were stretched to think differently
  • 93 per cent learned and tried new behaviours/actions that will make them a better leader
  • 96 per cent were equipped with practical skills they can apply back on the job.

The initiative also led to better talent retention, with 95 per cent of Generate participants still working with Thomson Reuters. In addition, 96 per cent are more committed to working at Thomson Reuters after Generate.

Category judge Bob Little said: "This programme raises the bar in terms of how technology can be used to transform learning experiences, not just automate them - and the important role that it can play in building leadership skills that are increasingly key to the success of UK plc today."

Ailie Carne, project manager at Impact International, was delighted to have won the award.

"It was a fantastic feeling to have won and we felt overjoyed with the recognition we received," she told TJ. "Being shortlisted on itself for us was a real achievement but to be there on the night and win was really special."

For Carne, the whole approach to the project helped make the Generate programme a winner.

"I would say that we brought a style of learning that had only really been delivered face-to-face into the virtual world. It was all about best use of technology and we used it in a new and productive way to enhance learning.

"We do a lot of work on modular programmes and we are used to working on projects like this that need to be delivered within a short time frame. There was only one face-to-face meeting during the whole process. Our combination of virtual technology and experiential learning was so powerful and, in our experience, is as good as a face-to-face learning - this led to great results in such a short space of time."

For organisations looking to do a similar initiative, it's about being clear on what your business and learner objectives are.

"There needs to be clear dialogue on what is required from the outset - if you're clear about that, it makes things a lot more straightforward," said Carne.

"Our innovative approach to utilising webinars, podcasts and online learning has enabled us to create a programme as powerful as a series of face-to-face learning experiences.

"From completing previous award submissions, success has a lot to do with results, and you can relate that back to the business outcomes."

For more on this year's awards, visit


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