DDI’s Virtual Classroom Helps Drive Connections

Client Story

Virtual Classroom Helps Drive Connections for Leading Remote Teams

In DDI’s Virtual Classroom, a global auto manufacturer found a solution that met its limited budget.

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The Need

A global auto manufacturer needed to develop 60 high-potential operational leaders from around the world, including in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

The Solution

A curriculum of leadership development courses delivered in real-time using DDI’s Virtual Classroom.  

The Result

53 percent improvement in leaders displaying the targeted behaviors.  

Leading remote teams becomes a model for developing leadership skills on a limited budget

A global auto manufacturer needed effective leaders in emerging global markets. And among the most critical of these were 60 high-potential operational leaders. They came from 25 countries around the world across five continents, including in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Many of these leaders were leading remote teams.

The manufacturer needed to apply a common approach as they needed these leaders to be prepared to step up to roles with greater spans of responsibility.  Unfortunately, travel budgets were frozen, so just like their teams, the leaders needed to learn remotely.

DDI worked with the manufacturer to leverage technology in a way that would connect leaders and help them build skills no matter where they were in the world. The program included a targeted curriculum to help high-potential leaders accelerate their skills, and develop a common leadership language across locations.

The right courses

The curriculum consisted of courses from DDI’s award-winning Foundation Subscription® leadership development system.

Participants learned about the concepts at their own pace through web-based training in three key courses. Afterward, they participated in virtual practice labs to test and build their skills with one another. 

Leaders then participated in four additional courses through DDI's virtual classroom. Virtual classroom is a real-time learning environment designed to mirror the live presentation and interaction of an actual classroom. Participants connect from their location via a web-conferencing platform, and experience the course together as a DDI facilitator leads them in learning.

Virtual Classroom made it possible for the manufacturer to bring together a geographically dispersed population of leaders and provide them with an effective leadership development program. The program included the skills needed for leading remote teams. It also gave them opportunities to interact with each other in real time—with no travel costs.

The leaders’ levels, locations, and functions were diverse. But they required a uniform set of leadership skills. These skills  were consistent with the manufacturer’s vision, values, and culture, and its global business.

The talent champion behind the program was the manufacturer’s Africa, Middle East, and India Regional HR manager. She says the organization recognized the importance of developing the high-potential leader population, including those leaders charged with leading remote teams.

“We needed a program to help all of the leaders be at the same level of expertise,” she says. “We also wanted to be able to take them to the next level of leadership through a program where we could bring them together and help them create connections.”

The leaders were tucked away in all corners of the globe, making it logistically challenging, prohibitively expensive, and time-consuming to bring everyone together for training. In this way, developing these leaders was like leading remote teams, with some of the same challenges and limitations.

She also points out that a robust leadership development curriculum would require them to gather for multiple sessions, with time built in between the sessions for them to practice, apply, and hone their new skills through on-the-job application.

“All our budgets for travel were frozen and we needed to do something. So, we started looking for alternatives to develop our talent.”

Optimal training efficiency

Three of the courses in the curriculum were delivered as web-based courses. The courses were supported by virtual practice labs, where participants engage in interactive activities with their peers and receive facilitator guidance and coaching. They also receive valuable peer feedback on their skills. DDI’s Virtual Classroom technology was used to deliver the other four courses in real-time. 

During the courses delivered via Virtual Classroom, participants could ask and respond to questions, just as in a live classroom. They also could interact using feedback tools, such as virtual white boards, annotation tools, and online polling questions. The Virtual Classroom platform even enabled the facilitator to partition participants into small groups to complete team exercises and engage in role plays.

Best of all, the Virtual Classroom is designed to drive behavior change. It's just as effective as a traditional classroom course or a self-paced web-based course. DDI research shows that courses delivered through the Virtual Classroom are equally effective at changing behavior.

Another important component built into the program was DDI’s Leadership Mirror® multirater feedback tool. Participants were able to use this tool prior to going through the courses to identify their own individual strengths and development opportunities. This helped them target the specific skills imparted in the courses that they most needed to develop.

The 60 high-potential leaders were divided into three cohort groups of 20 that met virtually eight times, about once a month. Prior to the first session, the participants completed a 30-minute orientation session on the Virtual Classroom platform.

“Exciting and interesting”

The 20 leaders who made up the first cohort group hailed from 10 different countries and none of them had ever met one another. Each leader was asked to introduce himself or herself to the cohort group. They also provided a photo, which was uploaded to the virtual classroom platform. This enabled participants to associate a face with a name and a voice during the course sessions.

The relationship-building proved real, as participants began interacting and networking with one another, even though the courses were delivered virtually, 

“We had people from Australia who started the modules at 8 p.m. their time and finished at midnight. I was really concerned for how to keep them motivated using remote technology for four hours, when they were starting that late,” recalls the manufacturer’s global HR manager. “But because it was really dynamic, the technology allowed for lots of interactions, and the facilitator really pushed everyone to participate.”

Participants developed such a high level of comfort with the virtual classroom experience and with each other that they would even engage in off-topic conversations—with their co-participants that they had never actually met—in the time they were waiting for the course sessions to begin.

Participants raved about the Virtual Classroom experience, including one who felt that the virtual classroom captured many of the advantages of a live course. “Most of the time we did not feel the distance between the teacher and the learners. It felt like all of us were sitting in the same classroom. That was helpful.”

“You could interact in real time even though you were in different countries,” said another participant. “You could see what others were putting on the board. You had the functionality of working with a group of three, four, five people at time. And you also could learn about their roles in the different countries.”

Results comparable to the classroom

The manufacturer worked with DDI to measure the program’s effectiveness at changing leader behavior in targeted skill areas such as listening, providing feedback, and having effective conversations. These results were compared with the average measured behavior change realized from classroom delivery of DDI leadership courses.

After the training, there was a 31-point improvement in the percentage of participants who said they displayed the targeted leadership behaviors (from 54 to 85 percent). This was almost equal to the 32-percentage-point improvement that had been realized in the average classroom delivery.

Observer ratings showed an even more dramatic difference. Observers said the percentage of leaders displaying the targeted behaviors jumped by 53 percent after the Virtual Classroom training. This was much higher than the 17 percentage-point average gain in observer ratings for leaders who completed the courses in a traditional classroom setting.

Learn more about DDI’s Virtual Classroom solution.