How Tech and EQ Skills Keep Intellective on the Cutting Edge

James Baldwin

COO, Intellective

August 20, 2019

Intellective is an innovative technology consulting firm that helps our clients drive the digital transformation of their business. Our globally distributed teams help companies leverage software automation technologies and processes to accelerate how they do business. To stay on top of the latest technologies and empower our teams to collaborate effectively, our learning & development team plays a key role in keeping our workforce skills ahead of the game.

Our digital business transformation work

We help our customers—which include large insurance companies, banks, and government agencies—replace legacy systems by providing system and process architecture consulting, development services, and proprietary software to automate business processes. Our customers are able to replace legacy applications with new business automation software and modernize processes in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years.

We recently helped a large insurance company transform their underwriting approach for corporate customers. The combination of our software, new thinking, and application modernization improved compliance while reducing the time to produce a multinational insurance quote from days to hours. These are the kind of successful business transformation projects that define Intellective’s success.

Constantly changing technology stacks drive upskilling

The digital business automation industry is constantly changing and evolving. As a result, we make sure to keep our technology stacks on the cutting edge.

Software robots or robotic process automation (RPA), AI, and machine learning are at the heart of what we do. We have many team members who’ve been working in this industry for 20 years, with a deep knowledge of process management, process engineering, and case management. But we need to make sure they’re well versed on the latest AI and automation technologies, so that we can maintain our differentiation as a company moving forward. To stay ahead of the game, we reassess our technology, product, and service offerings every three to six months. Our business promotes a continuous “refresh cycle” of what’s working, what’s not, and what customers are looking for, creating a need for continuous technology training of our workforce.

Our business focuses on creating business value from technology innovation. We also use and implement a great deal of open source technology. We need to do very specific technical training in products like TensorFlow and Kafka. Rapid access to training on cutting-edge technology is one of the big differentiators and reasons why we ended up choosing Udemy for Business. With some other providers, there’s a lag in providing the latest technology training because they use a slower publisher model. In contrast, Udemy’s more dynamic Marketplace model enables experts to upload the latest technology training. In addition, our employees need to hold certifications such as CISSP, COMP TIA, and PMP, and Udemy ticks all those boxes. Find out how Udemy for Business can help your organization keep up to speed on the latest technologies.

Don’t hire experts, create experts

Tripling in size in three years, we realized we couldn’t just keep hiring experts—at some point, we had to start creating our own. We wanted to start off with a baseline of skills to create a common understanding. For example, we have baseline training (communication skills, Emotional Intelligence, Microsoft Teams) that must be completed within the first 5 days, 15 days, 30 days, and quarter. 

To promote continuous learning and upskilling, we also have four specific career paths: Software Development, Architecture, Management, and “Other” (QA, business analysis, and support services training). For each of these paths, we created a curriculum using Udemy for Business content. Let’s say someone arrives on day one and they’re a developer. They are expected to complete the entire development starter track within their first year. We distributed the training in small chunks over time to enable flexibility, but we also added a rigorous process to ensure people learn and retain the new knowledge. 

We set long-term goals for individual employees (i.e. improve written communication, gain a certification) and structure a monthly goal to complete a module or course. Each monthly review has a specific focus like “What did you learn or practice this month?” If the individual didn’t feel like they grew, we address why (time, resources, content access, interest) and focus on fixing that challenge. The overall goal is to create measurable, habitual learning. We also monitor uptake and success via Udemy for Business analytics and are starting to share everyone’s growth progress across the company. 

Soft skills training connects our globally dispersed team

Soft skills are also extremely important to us, and we leverage Udemy for Business’s robust soft skills training extensively as part of all our career training paths. We wanted to give our globally dispersed workforce a common language and culture by providing soft skills training in topics like communication and management styles. We’re a small-to-medium business with around 150 associates, but we’re a truly global company. Around 40% of our associates are in North America, 30% are spread across Europe, 20% are in India, and the rest are scattered around the world. Within our 150 associates, over 100 consultants are all specialized in digital business automation with a smaller portion focused on product development.

It’s unique for a company of our size to offer 24/7, broad geographic capability, and that’s part of the reason why we have global Fortune 500 customers—we can support them globally. Our approach of using fully matrixed global teams differentiates us from most of our competitors. Almost every project has team members from different regions working across multiple time zones. We don’t offshore work, we bring the best resources together, wherever they are. To achieve this, we’re largely virtual. On any given day, 10% of our associates work from an office, 20% might be at a client, and the rest work from home. However, because we’re not all located in one building and encompass several different global cultures, we focus on building an effective company culture through many initiatives, including training on Udemy for Business.

How Udemy helped our teams build emotional intelligence

For the last 10 years, we were split almost 50/50 between North America and Europe. Last year, we opened an office in India, adding 20 new consultants in a short period. Today, almost every team at Intellective is global with associates from across North America, Eastern Europe, and India. Our workforce is not only culturally diverse but also less extroverted—common in many technology teams. In our case, this dynamic was exacerbated by remote work. I like to think of Intellective as being a team of elite teams—global team members who are the best in their field, coming together to form a sum that is far greater than the parts. 

Unfortunately, our rapid growth created the problem of horizontal communication—an issue that often arises when scaling expert teams. It wasn’t a language barrier, but it was one of trust and shared understanding. Needing to find a way to quickly scale trust and purpose, we focused on emotional intelligence (EQ) courses on Udemy for Business that got to the core of what we needed to better connect our teams: Collaboration and Emotional Intelligence, Developing Emotional Intelligence in Teams, and Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence.   

This meant shifting our training focus away from “delivery-focused” skills (technical, communication, management) to helping our associates connect on a more personal, emotional level. Our training focused on how our global associates should communicate and empathize with each other to help them work together more effectively. Building their emotional intelligence quotient involved getting on video conferences, talking face-to-face, paying attention to how they were feeling, and getting to know peers on a more personal level. These were some of the skills we focused on to build more collaborative teams.

The impact of EQ training on our employees

The results of our EQ training were almost immediate and obvious. Associates started working more effectively with each other. After the first teams completed the training, we noticed increased patience, more positive and productive peer reviews, and improved quality of work. Our associates also became more open to traveling to each other’s offices in different countries to work together in person. The EQ training helped build the trust and emotional understanding necessary for effective global, virtual teams. After seeing the initial impact, we’ve made EQ training a core part of our curriculum for all employees, with over 80% of consultants completing the courses. Any new employee who joins our company is now expected to complete the EQ training on Udemy for Business within the first two months on the job. 

Now that we’ve built a foundational shared knowledge of emotional intelligence, we’re testing extending this with the Udemy for Business course, Digital Diversity/Cyber-Citizen/Cross-Cultural Communication.

Virtual training platform with the latest content drives engagement

Udemy for Business’ virtual training platform is perfect for our globally dispersed workforce as we can’t offer in-person training. We also deliver internal training videos covering our Unity and Interchange products via Udemy for Business. Ultimately, our goal is to offer this training to our customers using Udemy as well. Just as we’re disruptive in technology and company structure, we want to be disruptive in the training environment. That’s part of the reason why we like Udemy because it delivers quality, measurable training quickly.

We also like the bite-sized nature of the training—it’s not just one 300-hour course. Employees can choose the level and depth of lectures. The diversity also keeps things interesting for our technical employees—Java Stream, Blockchain, and DevOps form some of the most popular topic areas, but English skills, Mindfulness, and Career Management topics also get a lot of interest.

As a result, we’ve seen continual engagement over time in learning on Udemy for Business. Since we’ve been using Udemy, we have averaged over 2 hours per person per month, with our most active 20% at over 5 hours per month. We have some people who are over 100 hours in the past 12 months.

As Intellective’s global workforce helps our clients adopt cutting-edge digital business automation technologies, we plan to continue to leverage Udemy for Business to keep our employees up to speed on the latest technical and soft skills.

About the author:

James Baldwin has 25 years' experience transforming businesses through intelligent use of their data and content, specializing in Information Management and Digital Marketing. As Intellective COO, James leads Global Consulting, Operations, and Strategy. James still works directly with customers and partners, keeping his hand in with Strategic Consulting, Enterprise Architecture, and Coaching. He is recognized by IBM as a Champion in Digital Transformation and Business Automation. James can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Intellective unlocks the value of information by transforming our customers' data, content, and processes into intelligence and action. Since 2006, we have delivered innovative enterprise solutions at a fraction of the time and cost. Our global team of elite technologists leverage their collective experience in many industries to overcome information and automation challenges. Our services and products help improve agility, enhance customer service and promote greater competitive advantage. It is our belief information and systems should work for you, not against you.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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