People Innovators Summit Europe 2019: Reimagining the Future of Learning

Jennifer Juo

Content Marketing Team Lead at Udemy for Business

November 20, 2019

As organisations and their employees adapt to the rapidly-evolving landscape, over a hundred People, HR, learning & development (L&D), and business leaders came together at our first Udemy People Innovators Summit Europe in London, UK to reinvent the future of workplace learning.

Visionary speakers included senior leaders from Unilever, adidas, Salesforce, BT, Rabobank, Getty Images, AKKA Group, Naspers, Udemy, and keynote speaker Matthew Luhn, former Pixar and The Simpsons Story Artist and Animator.  

Speakers at the one-day event shared how they are reimagining learning & development to prepare their workforce for the skills of the future.

Futureproofing workforce planning

New technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation are redefining roles as we know it. But how can organisations prepare their workforce for this change? “In the telecoms space, whether you’re a call centre agent or a field engineer, the skills you need could change quite quickly in the next few years due to automation,” said Max McLellan, Head of Learning Operations and Supplier Management at UK-based BT Group.

“We want our employees to adapt to the changing landscape. Our challenge is how quickly we can get them to change and pick up a new skill,” added Max.

Organisations are responding by mapping future skills. “Part of our Techademy is that we ask the teams what skills they need today and tomorrow and create specific learning paths to develop these skills,” said Diana Ochsenkuehn, Project Manager IT Learning, CIO office at adidas, a global firm headquartered in Germany. These learning paths drive individual career development as well as futureproofing workforce planning.

Focus on skills, not jobs

With roles becoming more fluid, HR and learning & development teams are also focusing on skills rather than jobs. “I had our data scientists analyze all the open jobs at Rabobank and identify the skills we needed. We then switched to focusing on skills rather than jobs. For example, you’re not a finance person, but a person with data analytics skills that can be applied to many different areas of the business, not just finance,” explained Marc Jansen, Head of People and EVP of HR at Rabobank, headquartered in the Netherlands.  This skills-based approach allows Rabobank to help individuals grow and move to different functions as business needs change.

See our 2020 Workplace Learning Trends: The Skills of the Future for the latest skills trending on Udemy.

Developing ‘the inner game’ of leaders

This new era of constant change also calls for a new kind of leadership paradigm. “Leadership is situational, and the old way of thinking about leadership no longer fits today’s fast-moving world,” shared Tim Munden, Chief Learning Officer at Unilever. To be more agile, organisations are evolving from a rigid, hierarchal structure into more flexible networks. Leading a hierarchial organisation requires position and power, but leading networks involves focusing on relationships and influence.

To nurture this new kind of leader, Unilever is approaching leadership development in an entirely novel way. Leaders today need to bring a strong inner game and a strong outer game. The inner game is how we show up as leaders and how we manage ourselves. The outer game is what we do, when we are there with our people, leading our business. “In the past leadership development has tended to focus on skills and knowledge, or what we call the ‘outer game.’ In today’s world, we also have to focus on the ‘inner game’, helping our leaders bring their whole, best self to work. This involves developing leaders to lead from purpose, manage their ego and emotions, being willing to give up old certainties, and being open to change,” explained Tim.

How does Unilever bring out their leaders’ inner game? During a 2-day experiential training program, leaders have the space to reflect on their personal purpose, and their inner mental and emotional state, as well as develop their outer game. Unilever also offers their leaders’ an opportunity to attend a 24-hour retreat to dive deeply into how they can manage their inner game, with tools such as mindfulness and reflection available.

Building psychological safety to create fearless teams

As agile, networked teams become the driver of businesses, organisations are also redefining how these teams should operate. “For a business to adapt quickly to change, its culture must allow employees at all levels to feel comfortable speaking up and providing different opinions, so people can innovate and take risks. This is where true growth comes from,” highlighted Angela McKenna, Senior Vice President of Global Talent Development at Salesforce, a software company headquartered in the U.S. 

But how do you build a culture at the team level where employees feel psychologically safe to speak up and take risks? 

Keynote speaker and former Pixar and The Simpsons Story Artist and Animator Matthew Luhn, shared how Pixar built a culture of innovation by making it safe to fail: “Team leaders can create an environment where it feels safe to fail. Rather than pitting team members against each other, they can encourage them to pursue a common goal.  Having a common goal reinforced the idea that we were all friends and shared a sense of camaraderie. It wasn’t a competition, so we were inspired to help each other succeed.”

How can organisations replicate Pixar’s culture of innovation and camaraderie? Salesforce partnered with Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at the Harvard Business School, who coined the term psychological safety. Together with Amy, they designed a series of learning modules around what they called “Fearless Teaming,” which is available on Salesforce’s Trailhead learning platform for any team leader to use at their organisation. The vision of Salesforce’s approach is to innovate by creating a culture where people can speak up, even though they may sometimes be afraid. The goal is to create a space for inclusion, risk-taking, and growth. The learning experiences include a series of instructor-led training, online learning, and a set of team-led activities and tools that teams can use to build psychological safety. These activities include team norm agreements, individual operating manuals, and Courageous Communicator Awards for employees who publicly admit mistakes or name something in service of creating a high-performance team culture.  

Learning is the bridge to the future

Darren Shimkus, President of Udemy for Business, said “Learning is the bridge to the future” as he unveiled new tools offered by Udemy for Business to help organisations reskill their workforce for what’s next. L&D leaders can now create unique learning paths for individual employees using Udemy for Business. Learning paths can be built with online courses and bite-sized lectures on Udemy for Business as well as custom courses and third-party content like blogs and podcasts. Find out more about our new Learning Paths feature here.  Darren also shared other new Udemy for Business tools like Learning Programs to create a deeper learning experience through assessments, practice exercises, and social community and Learning Playbooks to equip customers with customisable learning launch plans, integration tactics, and marketing strategies.

We hope you have some actionable takeaways and fresh ideas to reimagine learning at your organisation. We look forward to seeing you at the People Innovators Summit Europe next year!

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

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