Back to overview

A Corporate In-House Academy for Digital Upskilling

Digital Now Academy – the curated learning experience for digital empowerment at Ottobock. The programme gives the global marketing team the skills they need to effectively carry out their work. Only a well-trained team capable of continuous improvement can achieve marketing goals, and that’s what we need in order to remain global market leader over the long term. With the Digital Now Academy, learning becomes part of our company DNA, and Ottobock develops globally into a learning organisation with a focus on lifelong-learning during working hours. And that’s an important part of Ottobock’s digital transformation.

Submitted on 16 February 2023

Case Author

Saska Willich


Key takeaways

Give clear time frames

One mistake was made during the rollout of the upskilling programme Digital Now Academy at headquarters: the team was not accompanied through the upskilling journey. An end date was communicated, but not tracked. From the point of view of the GDPR, tracking  individual employees’ learning progress is not possible. We have learned from our mistakes, however. The current rollout at Ottobock in other countries foresees a joint kick-off date for each country and a joint recap date for the deadline  which accounts for the learning time. Thus, our international colleagues are encouraged to stay on track in order to finalise the learning package within the timeframe.

Repition is queen!

Don’t assume that your message will be noticed, read and understood immediately. A communication mix and regular repetition of the topic is needed so that the message really comes across to your whole target group. Repetition up to five till seven times is key.

Use leaders as multiplicators

Team leaders need to support and prioritise the learning offer, i.e. understand the added value for themselves and their team. They have to push it amongst the team but also , above all, free up time for learning. If you have the leaders on your side, and if they actively participate in the learning offer, upskilling will take off in the team.

Offer group learning sessions

Everyone learns differently and some need a fixed learning slot in the calendar to prioritise learning or to study together. Exchange in joint sessions offers learning transfer, strengthens knowledge and serves as a team-building measure. Learning should also be fun.

Engage learners

Ask the learners what they really want and how you can support the learning process. Provide regular surveys on learning content and ask for ideas on what is missing. This way, the employees feel valued and participate more, because learning opportunities are tailored to their needs.

Test new measures, it’s a process!

Test new learning measures and don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work at first. It’s a process! With new learning offers, you can test what colleagues’ needs are and learn from mistakes in order to improve the upskilling offer within your company.

Learn from other learning experts

This field of work is new, and you are responsible for the change process in the Learning & Upskilling area. Exchange with other experts helps enormously to learn from best practices and mistakes others have already made.

Key issues

The biggest challenge is the twofold mindset change within the team. On the employees’ side, learning must be integrated into their daily work routine in order for them to attain the best results. On the leadership side,  managers must make room for learning during working hours and motivate employees to develop their skills continuously. Without this mindset change employees don’t have time to learn, because they think they’re already working at maximum capacity. Encouraging employees to bring learning into their work is a process. The company’s  future success depends on this mindset shift. Prioritization is key. With the ongoing learning trend “nugget learning”, every employee can easily take care of further upskilling. And by trying out many different measures, the company can develop the best possible offer for the team and learn from mistakes.

Case target / aim / intention

The project is initiated by headquarters marketing and is currently being rolled out to further countries and departments. The goal is to train as many colleagues as possible to become digital masterminds.

Case Study

Part One

Initial Situation

In marketing, there are constantly new digital trends, tools and knowledge to learn; the field is always changing. Employees need to be up to date in order to do their best work and achieve their goals. If a company has poorly trained employees, it cannot be successful over the long term. Fortunately, the Ottobock management has recognised this in marketing and thus prioritised learning initiatives. An extra position was created to prioritise upskilling within the team, and this person developed the Digital Now Academy programme. Since the whole Ottobock team is a manageable target group that shares the same needs, the upskilling offer could be launched quickly and without much bureaucracy. To implement the programme, a number of elements had to fall into place: the concept, access to the knowledge platform Masterplan, and an employee dedicated to setting up the structure and communicating the topic internally with a great deal of repetition. Furthermore, team members needed to move continuously into the different learning paths, and Ottobock learners had to be encouraged with various measures.

Part Two

Strategy and implementation

In order to establish the programme, we first looked at the knowledge needs of the team and then developed a learning programme to provide marketing employees with up-to-date knowledge in the area of digitisation and marketing. Since the team has the same knowledge needs worldwide in the area of marketing, the same content is taught internationally. Masterplan also offers the learning content with different language subtitles so that there are no language barriers for the learners. Initially, however, each country must be convinced to prioritise learning, pay for the licenses and give employees time to upskill. This involves a lot of persuasion, because some of the countries where Digital Now Academy is to be rolled out have not yet gone through the mindset change, so they do not yet see the importance of prioritising learning in their country. And that’s what we need to establish: a worldwide learning maturity. It’s a process.

Part Three

Outcome and reflection

The programme is successful, but you have to keep the team engaged with communication and learning opportunities. Believing that simply giving access to valuable knowledge is enough for colleagues to be motivated to learn was our biggest mistake, and therefore the greatest lesson learned while developing the upskilling programme. Helpful here are learning blockers, optional team learning sessions and also to activate team leaders to be sponsors, so they prioritise learning within their team activities. It is also helpful to test new programmes in small target groups, like here in the marketing team, before offering it to a larger target group. That way, when it comes to further rollouts, you can already apply what you’ve learned and start with a better offer. The goal is for every marketing employee to successfully complete the programme, as this is the only way Ottobock can ensure that everyone on the team has the same level of knowledge.

Author's notes

Thanks for the opportunity to present the Digital Now Academy programme.