Student Story: Andrea Gyori – Training Lead at ICON PLC
Can you tell us about yourself and what you do in your organisation?
I’m working as a Program Lead for one of the groups in my company, Icon Plc. What we do is create larger training programs, which are usually 10, 12 or 16 weeks long. And I coordinate the digital learning and virtual instructor training. Since the pandemic we have had to adapt all our training materials to virtual delivery. This was a great challenge, but it’s been working out since we had previously used this approach for a long time. We just had to switch parts, which had not been switched before, to virtual.
That’s one part of what I’m doing in the digital learning world. And the other part is creating different types of online learning. This involves more coordination on my part, rather than physically creating courses. However, while I’ve been trained to use the different software and can do it if needed, creating courses is not my main job.
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Can you tell us about your organisation and the training programs you facilitate?
Within Icon, we call the training programs ‘academies’. I’m responsible for three of those academies for my group, which are different levels of roles in the company that are being trained. The academies are mainly instructed, with an online portion. Therefore, we could consider it blended learning.
The reason we call it an ‘academy’ is because we want to emphasise that there are live instructors involved. All academies now have the majority of the sessions delivered by live instructors virtually. But we also have online learning that backs up the instructor delivery. People go in, complete different sessions online, and then they go to the instructor-led training.
What project challenges have you had? And how have you adapted to overcome them?
The company has global standard operating procedures. This means that basically everybody has the same training needs in the same role, regardless of what country or region they are in. Since we use English in 99.9% of the cases, we don’t need to translate and don’t really use any local language version of training.
Japan is the only exception in which we have local people who translate and we don’t have 100% English language tuition. However, every other country just uses English, so language is not a problem. Time zones can be a problem because we are truly global and need to find the time to get everybody into a training session. Otherwise, we could do it regionally in order to make sure everybody is within their working hours.
What digital learning challenges did you have before engaging with the Digital Learning Institute?
We are quite lucky because we have the same IT system implemented in all of our regions. This means that everybody has the same brand of computer and same software installed on the computer. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter where everybody is sitting – we use the same equipment, same software, same everything. Whenever we create anything digital, whether it be a virtual instructor or an online learning, it reaches everybody in the company in all regions. Therefore, it’s not a problem at all.
What were some of the key drivers for Icon to invest in and upskill their staff in digital learning skills?
We typically need a lot of materials to be available online, which need to be created. This was the reason there was always a bigger need than we had people with skills to do it. A few years ago we had outsourced a lot of things. However, since a number of us are now trained, I don’t think that much outsourcing is happening now.
In what areas did you see a transformation? And what were the results and business improvements?
The digital solutions can go live much quicker now. We also have more people and the people who were selected for this program are in different areas. This means that now the different areas are covered and we don’t need to rely on those few people who were creating these digital materials earlier. We can do it for our own groups. For my group, I know I created quite a few things that would have taken much longer if I had to put it in the queue for development.
How did undergoing this training support your personal career within Icon?
I think it was a great support because I’ve always been interested in digital learning. We started digital learning quite a number of years ago and I kind of grew into it. When we first started going remote, it only consisted of a phone line. So it was a long time ago and I’ve grown into it.
Now, we have so many tools and so many different things that we can use, like web conference and video. It’s almost like face to face now compared to what we had like ten years ago with the phone line. Back then, you didn’t even know if people were listening on the other side or if they were there at all. I really enjoy it and I really like the way technology has developed, and how we are given the opportunity to test and try new technologies.
What do you think the main impact of working with the Digital Learning Institute has been?
I think we are much more confident in using these technologies. I think the whole group would agree that the program gave us a type of framework for what there is that we can use. We also got lots of tools that we might or might not have been aware of that we can use. Some of them are, of course, subscriptions – and it depends on the company and if they are willing to subscribe. However, there are some free tools that we could use and which I’ve seen others also using. So it gave us a good framework and a good starting point. The materials are always good to go back to whenever there is a new project to see.
How many Icon employees completed the program and what were their job roles?
If I remember correctly, it was twelve people. We have a group in Icon dedicated to learning, The Learning and Development Team, and within this team there are different subgroups depending on what areas they are responsible for. Some of us are responsible for different groups and different job roles within the company. But others are responsible for different types of learning within the company. There are systems trainers, trainers for job roles, and there are also the Instructional Designer Team members who are physically creating the online courses.
Could you explain how working with a wider group and more staff was beneficial?
I think that was exactly the aim of this program from the Icon side, since most of us were not instructional designers. I think there were one or two people from the Instructional Designer group. However, since they already know this and have been trained already from education or previous jobs, they might not have needed this knowledge. But since some of us were indirectly working with digital learning, we needed it more.
So I think it was a good approach because we got a really good insight, and now know what is available and how we can communicate with the instructional designers if we want something. We now know what they mean when they say things like ‘storyboard’ or ‘wireframe’ or something. Many times in the past, there were communication difficulties when they asked for something and we wouldn’t know what they meant. So we would give them something, but that wasn’t what they meant.
It was also very good for us to see the documents in the course – what they look like and how they build on each other, even if we use a slightly different process here. We were able to recognize the different steps. We use different templates of course; however, it still shows how an instructional design team thinks, how they build up the course and what we need to give them to be able to do a good course. I felt that this was the aim and this was behind sending us to your course.
How do you see the increase in skills benefiting the business over the next twelve months?
Because we now need to bring in twice as many people into our learning as we had before with the acquisition, I think it will help. The other team had a slightly different approach – not fully different – but a slightly different approach. What we learned from your group is it gives us a framework that we can use to communicate. It’s a more general framework, which is helpful when there are two companies coming together. This is because we each have our own way of talking about things and way of looking at things. During the course, we learned a generic framework that we could use as the basis of communication. I think that was really helpful. And it can be really helpful for our future collaboration with our new colleagues.
What was your experience with the course and what areas did you receive the most value?
There are things that I picked up from the course that I’ve been using ever since. For example, we talked about making a virtual training environment as interactive as possible. And I realised that, for example, if we take off the shared content, (because we tend to share a lot of content), then people can see each other on the camera. This makes it like a group discussion, which is something I really like and which we didn’t really use before. This is because previously we were a bit more focused on our content that we were sharing and that we were discussing. I brought it in and others have started using it as well. And it’s really great if you have 15 or 20 people so that you can see everybody. You would need to have two screens as an instructor and might not see everybody, but the learners can see each other, which is really great.
Another thing that I found really useful, which we had used before but the course reinforced, was having people do a pre-reading of the material. This way they come with questions to the sessions, which makes the session only about questions and answers on points that need to be emphasised. However, it is not actually delivering the content and sitting there talking. That’s something that we’ve already been using and we’ve been developing our materials around. It was interesting to see what different ways there are to make it work.
How likely are you to recommend Digital Learning Institute to another manager?
I think it’s very useful for different levels of L&D to attend. If you’re an instructor, then you get tips on how to do your sessions in a better and more engaging way. If you are a learning manager, then it can give you a lot of good ideas on how to organise a project that you need to create for your group or that your team needs to create. So I found that very useful. Your course would be very useful for people like us: instructors, training managers or coordinators, who need to have a picture in their heads of what is out there and what they can use.
Also, if you are in a position in a company where you make decisions about what to get for your company, such as what to subscribe to, what types of software, or what types of things could make training better, this course is helpful. It provides a good overview of what’s out there and what you can use. I would recommend it to people like myself and people like my close colleagues because it gives us a really good picture of what is available.
And also when you are working for a company for a long time, you get into the ways of that company. So it’s always good to have some picture of what’s outside your company and what things your company has not yet started using. This way, you know what’s there, whether it’s available, and whether it’s an option for you. So that’s always a good thing to explore.