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03 - 05 March, 2020

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Here’s How Wärtsilä Is Supporting Employees Through Its Digital Business Transformation with Digital Bootcamps and State-of-the-Art Microlearning App

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Digital transformation isn't just about technology – it’s also about people. As such, what digital transformation is really about is bringing together the power of technology with a culture that embraces the change it can lead for the organization.

Wärtsilä, a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets, is currently undergoing an aggressive digital transformation initiative. A big part of the company’s strategy involves investing time and money into its employees – the people that are the driving force behind the transformation – as it builds new digital competencies into its business model and reinvents itself to continuously respond to future customer needs.

Reinventing the Company

Wärtsilä is on a journey to become a digitally-enabled and insights-led company that utilizes cutting-edge technology throughout the organization. It is committed to a comprehensive business transformation as it strives to transform from an equipment maker into a smart marine and smart energy technology company following a string of acquisitions of companies such as Greensmith and MSI, and the setting up of a number of Digital Acceleration Centres in Helsinki, Singapore, Central Europe and North America.

For Wärtsilä – company that employs around 18,000 people to manufacture and service power sources and other equipment in the marine and energy industries – digital business transformation is a huge undertaking, which will indeed take many years to fully realize. In fact, back in 2017, Chief Digital Officer and Executive VP Marco Ryan made no bones about how Wärtsilä was embarking on one of the boldest, most innovative and most exciting digital transformation programs the industrial, marine and energy sectors has ever witnessed.

“Digital disruption is already affecting the energy and marine sectors and will do so increasingly in the future,” said Ryan. “We are building on decades of expertise in digital development and accelerating the pace at which we build new digital solutions, services and opportunities for our customers. Wärtsilä’s recent acquisitions of Eniram and Greensmith demonstrate Wärtsilä’s ambitions and active role in helping its customers to benefit from smart technology initiatives.”

But what about today? How is Wärtsilä’s digital business transformation program performing – and, importantly, what is the company doing to ensure its employees are onboard and keeping pace with the changes happening all around them?

Taking a Cultural Leap

“Leap” is Wärtsilä’s internal culture transformation initiative, designed to drive and support employees in their own personal transformation journey. The initiative is so named as it has been developed to enable employees at the company to take a “cultural leap” together as Wärtsilä undergoes its digital transformation. It is supported by the WeLeap transformation app, which Wärtsilians (i.e. Wärtsilä employees) can use to widen their digital awareness and knowledge.

“Leap is an initiative for supporting everyone at Wärtsilä navigate the business transformation to become a smart technology company,” said Director of Digital Transformation at Wärtsilä, Domenico Dargenio in an interview last year. “All of us Wärtsilians can gain new knowledge, challenge ourselves, enable new ideas, and take a further step into the digital world with this state-of-the-art app.”

To make the microlearning app as engaging as possible, it incorporates elements of gamification – such as challenging employees with small quizzes, brainstorming, and ideation activities that help them learn and update their knowledge in engaging, quick, and easy-to-consume sessions – as well as other multimedia learning tools. Wärtsilä says that employees are using the app to complete microlearning paths both at work and in their free time – for instance, watching videos on the bus or listening to podcasts in the car while commuting to and from work, or playing the quizzes when they have a spare 15 minutes in between meetings.

“Introducing engaging gamification with badges and reward mechanisms make it interesting for people to use the app,” Dargenio explained. “We should all be interested in growing our knowledge.” He added that though the app’s content is currently produced by and made available to Wärtsilians, in the future, some of the content might be produced in collaboration with the company’s partners, with access to it being extended to them as well. “The app can help us speak the same language and show some of the successful cases we have already developed together with our partners and customers,” he said.

In addition, Wärtsilä has also created a digital boot camp – a kind of digital academy with a leadership program designed to help develop internal managers’ skills as they are tasked with leading employees in a digitally-enabled business. According to Ryan, this means considering:

  • What tools you need to understand as a manager
  • How you use data
  • How you use analytics differently
  • The behaviours as a leader that you need to grasp
  • And the sort of questions that you should be asking of your team to make sure that they are focused on the new ways of working

Final Thoughts

For a company the size of Wärtsilä to succeed at digital transformation, it’s essential that the whole workforce is up to speed and capable of using new digital tools, and that all employees understand the importance of digital in present-day customer journeys. This is something that Wärtsilä refers to as a “digital IQ”, which the company believes staff can develop individually over time via the various learning paths it’s created. Wärtsilä understands that real transformation comes down to people. Technology is of course important, but you only get so far with it. The rest of the journey is about people. It’s about developing new ways of working, changing company culture, embracing a startup mindset, and having the willingness to test and learn what your people need to adopt to enable the transformation.

For Ryan, this comes down to developing digital skills in a way that’s fun and engaging for existing employees – something that the gamification elements of the WeLeap app excel at. “You can see who else in your team is active, who has got more points; you can discuss, you can share; and anyone can create an event and award points for people attending that. […] The next stage is then to integrate that into our HR processes and career development so that if you want to apply for a job, maybe you’re going to need a digital IQ of X, and if you want to achieve that, here are the learning tasks that allow you to do so. So, we’re trying to link motivation to career development with digital transformation.”

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