Sargent & Lundy has seen firsthand the value of nurturing a legacy of knowledge sharing for future generations of workers. Starting with the co-founders’ decision to pull together their collective expertise gained from working side by side with Thomas Edison and Frank Sprague, the company has pushed the limits of the once-nascent electrical engineering industry. Now, the business encompasses nuclear energy, fossil and renewable fuels, and power transmission and distribution, as well as power plant design.
For 125 years, this culture of shared learning has governed how senior leadership and the workforce work together. Talented people are hired and retained at such a high level that many employees stay for as long as 15 years and are consistently prioritized for promotion. But as 50% of its staff is reaching retirement eligibility, the power generation and transmission services business become quickly aware that this culture could be in jeopardy.
Igniting future growth with direct and indirect knowledge
As Sargent & Lundy continued to grow over the years, new roles were introduced, and new hires were onboarded. While in-person meetings and online training were traditionally successful in transferring knowledge, the company realized some details were left out. No one knew how to communicate and document information that was unconsciously locked in employees’ brains.
“We recognized that our experts had this incredible, intricate, and mature web of knowledge that we could only tap into through conversations, examples, and scenarios in the moment,” reflected DeAnna Myers, senior manager of Learning and Development Program at Sargent & Lundy. “What we realized was that the tacit knowledge we were looking to claim was their considerations while making decisions.”
Sargent & Lundy began to search for a technology solution that can harness ingrained knowledge and extend it across a community of practice (CoP), comprising five generations, through enterprise-wide collaboration.
Adopting enterprise collaboration suitable for a passion for learning
After already deploying the SAP SuccessFactors Learning solution, Sargent & Lundy decided to implement the SAP Jam collaboration platform as a natural extension of the learning investment.
Myers is very quick to dismiss any notion that this implementation is just about deploying a social tool. For Sargent & Lundy, it’s all about collaboration. “Our people are not interested in grabbing the spotlight or putting up a profile picture; what they care about passionately are the topics,” she says. “Because we figured that out pretty early, we were able to organize the tool to focus on the topics as CoP groups — to fit the existing passion rather than the prescribed need.”
Now that 115 CoP groups are using the collaboration platform, 126% more employees are engaged in knowledge-sharing conversations – even in regions that never participated in the past. This approach has proven to be so effective that it is outpacing formal training attendance.
Uniting a community of confluence to energize engagement and expertise
Soon after the initial rollout of SAP Jam, employees quickly realized the significant ease in communicating and accessing the right information anytime and anywhere. “Not only does the enterprise collaboration tool document the stories told in our CoP meetings, but it also records what the resolution was and, more importantly, how the decision was made,” Myers states. “The best part is that when a person leaves the company, his or her record stays on . . . Three years after that person retires, other engineers can search for a topic under that person’s expertise to find a particular conversation, and they can make a good decision because that conversation has been recorded.”
However, not all groups in the tool are related to engineering and customer projects. In fact, it has empowered Sargent & Lundy to explore new ways to foster its gender diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, a community focused on advancing women in leadership roles has grown to more than 100 people, which includes male participants. This group routinely engages in vigorous conversations ranging from the challenges women face in the workplace and changes in industry standards to upcoming local, women-focused conferences.
But perhaps the greatest benefit is allowing employees to voice their ideas for career development and succession planning. All too often, a business doesn’t really know who is truly passionate, interested, or engaged. But with a collaboration platform, Sargent & Lundy is giving people who may not be regarded as experts right now a platform to get the visibility they need to attain that notoriety.
“When users log in, they see a home feed that shows what’s going on in the discussion groups they subscribe to, and they can drill down into a specific feed or they can browse all the CoP groups to look at what’s going on in any discussion,” says Myers. “There are no restrictions on who can post a question, article, or discussion topic, so anyone can browse or drill down into whatever interests them.”
Based on the advantages realized so far, Sargent & Lundy is planning to expand the use of the collaboration platform. “We have achieved a reliable, safe, and sustainable way to get the right advice at the right moment.” Myers concludes. “With learning, there’s no substitute for getting answers exactly when you need them.”
Discover how Sargent & Lundy is keeping employees highly engaged and empowered – even as they are scattered across more than 90 countries. Read the SAPInsider case study “Creating a Culture of Confluence at Sargent & Lundy.”