e-Learning in multiple languages developed by employees


The Japanese company Bridgestone, the biggest tyre manufacturer in the world, had a highly decentralised organizational culture until 2014. However, Japan wanted to give autonomy back to the regions. ‘As a result, we were able to think about how we would tackle payroll, recruitment and performance,’ says Evelyne Van Vosselen, responsible for talent & performance management, leadership development, culture & engagement and learning & development at Bridgestone EMIA. ‘In 2017, talent management was also centralised at EMIA level and we implemented a learning management system.’

In addition to tires, the current range also includes products and solutions for the sport sector, especially golf, as well as aviation and construction. The company uses Webfleet for handling fleet management, and with Bandag it retreads old tires so that they can be reused. Given that Bridgestone is fully committed to sustainability, the latter is becoming increasingly important.

The Challenge

‘But of course, with a learning management system you have not yet tackled the actual learning itself,’ she continues. ‘I drew up a business case with my team and it showed that training courses taught in classrooms were too static, too complex and too expensive to set up. What’s more, in a decentralised context, it is very difficult to align the content so that we convey the same message with the same mission in every ‘class’,’ Evelyne Van Vosselen says.

She therefore had a fair amount of challenges to deal with – and not just budgetary ones. EMIA is a large geographical region with huge cultural diversity and many different languages. In the 17 factories in that region, employees do not walk around with a tablet or a PC to follow a training course. The adoption of new tools and systems therefore takes place at different speeds. ‘e-Learning looked like a good solution. We were looking for partners who could build a module for us, but that soon turned out to be too expensive as well. What’s more, we ourselves had to invest a lot of time in writing scenarios and delivering and checking content, and remained dependent on an external partner.’

FLOWSPARKS does what it promises

The business case resulted in Evelyne Van Vosselen and her team being able to purchase an online catalogue in 2019. ‘It was within budget, but had standard content that remained very generic. The need to get started by ourselves continued to exist,’ she says. ‘So we explored the market and discovered FLOWSPARKS,’ Evelyne Van Vosselen continues. ‘It looks great, it’s personalised, it’s fast, it’s easy to use, and we were also able to offer it on our own learning platform.’

FLOWSPARKS does what it promises. You have complete control, there is full flexibility to give it our own house style, and we can easily create our own content without having to call on technical talent. Another thing that is very important to us: it’s very easy to launch translated versions of your e-Learning modules.’

‘Our team is very enthusiastic about FLOWSPARKS. We started out small and then started expanding gradually to cover needs as they appeared,’ Evelyne Van Vosselen explains. At the end of 2019, Bridgestone developed the first training courses for strategic and practical onboarding in order to explain the philosophy behind their remuneration system and in support of functional needs, such as launching a new tool, as well as to replace the roadshows organised by procurement and the train-the-trainer courses.

Quote icon

Anyone can create e-Learning

Sharing knowledge in a large organisation with multiple locations is a given in today’s digital world. But in many cases, well-known learning solutions are often developed only for specialist employees in L&D. With FLOWSPARKS, things work differently. You don’t need to be an instructional designer to create or adapt e-Learning solutions. This means that at Bridgestone, we can focus on what really counts – the content.

Window of opportunity

‘From HR, FLOWSPARKS is now gradually finding its way throughout the organisation. The ‘consumption’ of our training courses, also at employees’ own initiative, continues to increase.’ The versatility of FLOWSPARKS is turning out to be an important asset for Bridgestone. ‘Before we started, we very often worked with material and slides from Japan, and it was noticeable that they didn’t meet our expectations for an attractive workshop. Now we can easily embed our own videos, add questions, and so on. It’s a very low-threshold way of reaching your people from Finland to Botswana.’

One thorny issue at Bridgestone was how to involve the blue collar workers more in the FLOWSPARKS story and how they could access the learning system. Here, corona appears to be an ideal window of opportunity for getting them on board as well. ‘We have given two factories access to our learning system so that they can create training courses themselves. At the factories in Bilbao in Spain and Tatabanya in Hungary, employees are now making their own short modules in FLOWSPARKS to support their colleagues with specific rules that apply to working safely after corona,’ says Evelyne Van Vosselen. ‘As newcomers to the system, we sometimes need to search for the most suitable templates to display certain content, but we are very well supported in this by the FLOWSPARKS team.’

Why choose FLOWSPARKS?

Bridgestone had some challenges to overcome in the area of Learning & Development. First, HR was seen as the only department responsible for L&D, when in fact they were not the content experts. ‘This limits the possibilities of creating substantial  training courses on technical subjects,’ says Ozge Urek Yilmaz, Manager Learning Administration & Deployment.

‘Second, in an organization of this size – where you have 17,000 people who speak ten different languages, have different cultural backgrounds and work in different time zones – it is not easy and self-evident to share knowledge,’ she continues. ‘Specifically for e-Learning, we also found that there is a significant difference in digital maturity between blue-collar and white-collar employees. And people never have time to follow training courses, of course.’

‘Devising an appropriate response to all these challenges is more than you could expect from HR and L&D Teams alone,’ Ozge says.

The objective: a learning organization

In 2017, the first tentative steps were taken and a learning management system (SuccessFactors) was implemented. But having an LMS doesn’t mean you’ve actually set to work on the learning process. A business case was created in which Bridgestone was able to buy an online catalog in 2019. But because the standard content remained too generic, the decision was made to draw up a new strategy to make Bridgestone a learning organization. This was done in phases, of course. Initially, the learning modules were developed mainly by FLOWSPARKS, but the time has come for Bridgestone to take over the production of its e-Learning content itself.

‘We want to achieve this by giving everyone the opportunity to create digital modules themselves, quickly and easily, with respect for local needs and in their own language,’ says Ozge.

At the same time, Bridgestone aims to foster and promote knowledge sharing across the organization so that people inspire each other and share best practices. ‘We found that many countries were developing similare-Learning modules, and we explore initiatives in order to share their best practices.

FLOWSPARKS in practice

‘Initially we learned about FLOWSPARKS because we were looking for a company that could make digital training content for us,’ Ozge continues. ‘We needed to develop mandatory training courses on, for example, our procurement and purchasing policy. The FLOWSPARKS team did this for us. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, we realized we needed our own authors. They were trained by the FLOWSPARKS team to learn how to create e-Learning content themselves.’

‘Thanks to FLOWSPARKS, we were able to communicate our safety instructions and measures during the pandemic to our people and to visitors of our plants. This perfectly demonstrates the importance of being able to react flexibly and rapidly to new situations. FLOWSPARKS helped us do that.’

Structured approach

Bridgestone looked for ways to facilitate the development of e-learning modules across the EMIA region. ‘For this reason, we created a structure in which my department maintains oversight of all customized content which the various entities develop in FLOWSPARKS,’ says Ozge. ‘We also approve all e-Learning content before it is published.’

Ozge’s team has three superadmins. Each entity (which Bridgestone defines as a country or site) has one ‘advanced author’. These are people who have been trained in the use of FLOWSPARKS and have developed at least one training course. They work in close consultation with the HR department and L&D specialists. FLOWSPARKS has prepared several templates specific to Bridgestone and created tutorials on how to use these templates to build easy, bite-size modules on any topic.

The superadmins maintain global oversight. ‘When we see that Poland has developed an interesting e-Learning course that we know would be useful for our people in Italy, for instance, we aim to connect the advanced authors of the two countries.’

These ‘advanced authors’ are also the people to whom employees/departments can turn if they want to develop a digital module but experience difficulties in expressing themselves in English, for example. ‘Our blue-collar employees have a great deal of professional knowledge, but for some it is not easy to share that knowledge in English. In that case they can contact the advanced authors. They also have to keep an eye on the training needs in the entity for which they are responsible.’

‘So far, twelve authors have completed their training and we will start with a second group in September. We want to have 24 e-Learning modules ready by the end of the year. In our FLOWSPARKS community, we share updates, knowledge and best practices,’ Ozge says. And, not unimportantly, we hope a change in mentality is happening in which people are taking the initiative to create content themselves. In any case, our advanced authors and HR colleagues are already very enthusiastic about it. We are looking forward to promoting Flowsparks and letting all employees in all our regions know that they can share their knowledge and create e-learning courses in all languages. They have a great tool to support them,’ she concludes.