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The pandemic has pushed companies to adjust to new ways of connecting with their customers, building relationships, and delivering business. As the Circus Street Advisory Board discussed in its latest meeting, this shift has, in the end, been a necessary acceleration.

Being forced to transition into almost exclusively digital ways of working – including professional learning – has no doubt been a challenge businesses have been under pressure to overcome quickly and efficiently.

Ultimately though, as members of the Circus Street Advisory Board revealed in its latest meeting, this shift has aligned with the strategic priorities and ambitions of their organisations – even if it has been accelerated by the pandemic. 

One Advisory Board member described how their company was looking at different learner experience platforms before Covid-19, with the first lockdown prompting them to launch a digital learning platform which has now seen their original target of active users doubled. Moving to digital ways of working and learning has supported the company’s objective to digitise and be more “virtually friendly”.

Another member discussed how during the pandemic, they relaunched their digital learning programme, which helped influence people to upskill, encouraging greater uptake among those working from home.


RB: taking the Circus Street Digital Academy to 23,000 users

For FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser (RB), the launch of its Circus Street Digital Academy has grown from a pilot of around 3,000 employees, to over 23,000 users company wide, it revealed during a special presentation in the Advisory Board meeting. RB has in fact embarked on a three-year enterprise agreement with Circus Street, allowing them to evolve the curriculum as the partnership progresses.

RBs clear strategic business objectives made it crucial that their Digital Academy launch was presented as a strategy for the wider business to get behind. 

While it centred on investing in employees’ digital capabilities to accelerate its own transformation journey, the launch also intersected across three critical points for RB this year: pandemic, transformation, and reunification. 

Covid has already shown how important digital is across many industries and markets. This has really helped us make sure our employees are getting the right skillset and development to make the right choices for how the business is going to be shaped going forward. We had to understand what our digital objectives were, and align those across entire company,” said Sandeep Gill, RB’s Head of Learning and Development for Developing Markets.

We've got our people excited behind these objectives by having our SVPs in our business launch the programme. We also worked with the Circus Street team on sound engagement plans, which worked well from senior stakeholder management involvement to our HR and digital champions on the ground as well.”

The due date for the programme to go live was in April 2020, at the height of the pandemic. A huge transformation had already been announced: the global organisation was going to move from two business units to three, with the ambition of fully splitting and reunifying by July, while still delivering the Circus Street programme.

That essentially meant RB was going to re-segment the organisation from two definitive units with different approaches to learning and business operations, and then bring them back together for a more unified approach at the top of business operations globally. 


Challenge or opportunity?

When questioned whether this would be a challenge or an opportunity, the definitive decision was that it was an opportunity, as team members were “crying out” for more opportunities to learn and stay connected with each other, added Merissa Pires, RB’s Global Head of Learning and Development.

We curated different programmes and learning paths that made sense for different parts of the business, and then went back to the business and said, "this is the opportunity,” said Pires.

We had to align our new CEO on this investment that we previously wouldn't have jumped upon, but saw the opportunity and the ambition. Once we got that global endorsement, then we had to launch across different divisions that had very different ways of operating, which required networking and influencing, more so than a top-down strategy.” 

RB is now monitoring not just engagement and completion, but “knowledge uplift” to be able to map digital upskilling of its workforce alongside business results, using a survey mechanism pre and post completion. 

From a business perspective against our digital objective, we want to see how well our changes are working,” said Gill. “Knowledge uplift in itself can provide a lot of confidence that we are going in the right direction. Business leaders are also asking for additional content and lessons, which is fantastic.


What the future of L&D looks like

As other Board members expressed, learning and development programmes in the future will likely be a balance between in-person and virtual learning, with a high proportion of content remaining in an online learning space.

For others, digital learning may be a permanent change, where they may reconsider what the position of learning and development may be within the ‘new normal’. Many agreed that digital learning in the longer term may not focus necessarily on proficiency or efficiency, but rather on understanding issues such as emerging digital trends, how to work better with AI and machine learning.

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