At Ciena, we use a hybrid approach to human resources development (HRD) and learning. This model is closely tied to our business strategies,
The strength of learning at Ciena has a foundation based on understanding how learning affects business strategies. It obviously supports the ability and readiness of individual employees to perform at a high level, but learning doesn't stop at the employee experience. It extends outside of Ciena to support the customer experience through product quality, customer satisfaction, and better-directed sales and marketing efforts.
This end-to-end perspective positions Ciena's learning organization as the center for all company resources and activities related to the development of human capital. This encompasses strategic and tactical training, leadership development, succession planning, technical documentation, and customer education, including the management of Ciena Learning Solutions, a for-profit division that is an industry leader in advanced technical training certifications.
Hybrid learning organization
When Ciena's HRD concept was implemented in 2008, resources previously dedicated to individual groups within the company became a single, integrated organization. As a result, we saw an improvement in core capabilities, speed, efficiency, quality of program design, implementation, and return-on-investment.
The new organization, free from the confinements of traditional talent management and learning models, was plugged into the development of Ciena products at the earliest point of the company's product life cycle.
Linking closely to research and development and product development teams gives the learning organization a deep understanding of Ciena's products, emerging technologies, and how our customers use them to do business globally. This critical connection enables documentation engineers, part of the learning organization's collateral design division, to create complete and useful, clearly detailed technical documentation at the earliest possible stage of development.
The documentation becomes one element of a templated development process that yields a variety of collateral products, from technical documentation and training supporting products and customers, to executive briefing documents, employee training, and certifications.
The simultaneous development of both documentation and training from the same core assets, results in shorter development schedules, higher-quality learning collateral products, and a strategic advantage through real-time training releases to support Ciena's internal and external customer requirements. It also has enabled the development of industry firsts in technology-based certification programs.
For-profit technical certification training
Through Ciena Learning Solutions, a customer-facing branch of our learning organization, Ciena offers an extensive learning portfolio that supports products and services. In addition to this product-specific training, Ciena publicly markets technology-based certifications for Carrier Ethernet and optical networking.
In early 2009, our learning organization elected to support Ciena's global marketing of Carrier Ethernet and optical networking technologies by investing in a comprehensive learning and certification product and process. We believe that the release of high-quality certification programs driven by technology rather than by product, substantially contributes to the advancement of Ciena's core vision and value proposition. In addition, because it is sold directly to external customers, Ciena Learning Solutions successfully introduced a new and unique revenue stream.
Another product of the program is a significant improvement in the quality of internal training. The quality standards for a publicly marketed learning product are extremely high. Most internal training organizations would find it cost prohibitive to achieve and maintain this standard. At Ciena, however, this investment yields a positive return-on-investment and benefits internal learning offerings as well.
Now more than ever, managing our investment in learning is critical. This self-funding model is a key contributor to cost containment. In addition, cross-engineering of shared learning resources, content, and program offerings allows increased flexibility and a higher level of investment in quality learning products.
When Ciena launched the first Carrier Ethernet certification program in 2009, we began to demonstrate how our learning organization can help ensure that all critical employees in the company stay even further ahead of the technology learning curve. By the end of 2010, more than 15 percent of all Ciena's legacy employees had completed the first level of certification training, making Ciena's global workforce the industry's highest-trained in this emerging technology.
In 2011, the Ciena employee base will have access to an expanded suite of technology certifications supporting Carrier Ethernet, optical networking, and Converged Optical Ethernet. This represents the industry's most aggressive learning investment supporting these technologies.
The targeted goal of our learning organization is to provide a globally consistent learning experience to both our internal and external customers. We operate around the world, so we employ standards and guidelines that apply globally while retaining the flexibility of using scalable resources.
Ciena's hybrid learning model was put to the test in 2010, when the purchase and integration of Nortel's Metro Ethernet Networks business doubled the size, and more than doubled the range and footprint of the company. Ciena recognized that the human side, or "cultural integration," has defined the success or failure of many large business integrations. From the day Ciena won the bid, the senior leadership team made the successful integration of Nortel employees a business priority, and the learning organization is playing a key role in supporting the seamless blending of the two employee bases.
We provided employees on both sides the training needed to immediately address the product, systems, and process requirements essential to ensure that we ran as one company as quickly as possible. While this was very important, the crucial contribution to the success of integration was the use of the learning organization's leadership development initiative.
Ciena's Emerging Leaders program was leveraged to bring together program contributions from high-potential employees from both companies before the acquisition deal was even closed. These employees worked in mirror projects to draft a list of corporate values that would guide the new Ciena going forward.
During a global all-hands meeting on the first day as a combined company, our CEO Gary Smith was able to unveil these values. These values represent what makes Ciena the company it is, what creates the culture in which we work, and what will provide a great customer and employee experience for the future. Very few company integrations can clearly state this level of global alignment on day one, and this was a solid indication of how existing learning resources and programs can demonstrate flexibility.
A learning-on-demand culture
The speed of market change places a premium on any organization's ability to keep their employees' skills current. In the face of this increased demand for agility, the traditional approach to training and development is evolving. Good learning strategies do not rely solely on formal training, but instead use on-the-job experiences, encourage peer and mentor learning relationships, and encourage employees to become self-aware about their own development needs.
At Ciena, we are leveraging all of these strategies to create a learning-on-demand culture. For example, we offer a comprehensive library of web-based training to employees and customers that is available whenever and wherever it's needed. Currently, Ciena's online learning portfolio includes more than 800 titles, ranging from product, technical, and professional training to management and leadership curriculum.
Some training will always require traditional, classroom-based sessions, and Ciena's learning function supports customers and employees globally through the management of Ciena's Customer Engagement strategy. This includes a network of executive briefings, customer demonstration and learning lab environments, and a team of highly skilled training engineers positioned globally to support sales growth and customer learning requirements.
Ciena also takes advantage of advanced learning technologies. Many courses require interactive lab work and real-time equipment simulation. These are conducted remotely through a virtual lab or virtual classroom environment.
One of the values revealed during Gary Smith's day one presentation is "Outstanding People." Ciena attracts, develops, and rewards exceptional people. We invest in employee development to contribute to a motivated, well-trained, empowered, and collaborative workforce. While investment in our own internal human capital is crucial to organizational success, one of our greatest strengths has been our ability to recognize that our investments in learning create a strong ROI outside of employee development alone.
The creation of Ciena Learning Solutions has allowed us to leverage Ciena's expertise in helping engineers and network operators understand how to make practical transitions to networks that allow them to fundamentally change the way they compete. We've now made our mark not just by being technology innovators, but also by being technology educators, and this thought leadership position represents a very strategic use of our learning resources.