Driving Robust Social Learning at Cigna

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Employees at global health insurance firm Cigna are no strangers to leveraging social media for self-guided learning. Several years ago, the company’s L&D function launched a global intranet site on SharePoint, Cigna Social, which gave all employees the ability to post comments and blogs on topics of their choosing. It was the company’s first foray into social learning.

Then, in May 2015, Learning Manager Chris Davis implemented a new learning management system called SuccessFactors. The new LMS included the social collaboration tool Jam, which allowed Cigna’s learning team to take social learning to the next level. An enterprise-wide initiative to transform performance management (PM) created the ideal scenario for reaching out and educating leaders and employees about the change.

Connect for Growth Debuts on Jam

The new approach to PM was called Connect for Growth (CFG). Learning Manager Karla Shores and her team oversaw the program’s roll out to the company’s 38,000 employees globally. “We included the Jam component,” says Shores, “which connected users to all the training that linked into the LMS, all the guides for employees to access, and what Jam is known for—the social collaboration piece.”

Because Cigna’s performance management system moved from a traditional annual review, interim review, and ratings structure to quarterly check-in conversations between employees and managers, the change was dramatic. The rollout on Jam helped smooth the transition.

“Employees could access Connect for Growth’s Jam site, they could become members of the online CFG community, or they could just go there to learn about the changes in PM,” Shores explains. “Jam enabled anyone to access all the tools, guides, and research; they could also connect with other employees, or ask questions of the CFG project team.”

Karen Kocher, Cigna CLO, wanted to change the organization’s learning culture so that it viewed Cigna University (the company’s branded name for learning) as a central place people took greater responsibility for their own individual development, and where they could learn with and from each other as opposed to just making learning event-based.


To support that culture shift, Davis’s focus moved from implementing the tool that enabled social learning to one centered on designing activities to engage employees and encourage their adoption of Jam. “Our employees were experiencing learning in a different way. We designed activities to increase adoption and engage them in collaboration across the different Jam groups, or communities, that began to sprout up,” he says. “Connect for Growth is a big one, and now has thousands of members.”

Piloting Yammer

Today, about 2,500 Cigna employees are involved in a new pilot project using Yammer to link members of learning communities in a less-formal environment. Yammer is intended to be an easy-to-use enterprise tool that isn’t tied to a specific business function. “Anybody can create a group on Yammer,” Davis says. “With Jam we’re looking for more of a business reason to start a group. Do you have a sponsor? What are your metrics? How are you going to measure what’s happening in the group? What are people contributing? For us, I think Yammer and Jam are somewhat complementary.”

Davis likens the Jam and Yammer experiences to the appeal of different newspaper sections. “There are sections of a paper that deal with business or politics or editorials, and others that focus on books or cooking or other lifestyle elements,” he explains. “When I’m in Jam, the atmosphere seems more serious, like the business section of the paper. Jam has a learning focus, and community members there are largely learning- or business-oriented.”

In Yammer, he says, the atmosphere is still rich in learning opportunities, but more relaxed: “I might go to Yammer to listen to a podcast or go to the book club book. It’s informative, but also fun.” He also believes that Yammer helps to cut across silos or functional areas. “It’s good to see what other people in the organization beyond the L&D group are doing, what they’re talking about, and catch up on some of the things we’re doing as a company. It gets me out of my L&D silo.”

It’s All Connected

Shores, Davis, and other members of the L&D team continue to introduce new capabilities and upgrades, and work to bring Kocher’s vision of a vibrant learning culture to life. With more than 60 learning communities established on Jam, employees actively piloting Yammer, and intranet capabilities still alive and well on SharePoint, Cigna is driving significant success in social learning and enterprise-wide collaboration. Interconnection among the tools makes it easy for users to shift from one to another to access the learning content they need or to find internal experts who can share know-how and offer guidance.

“Content on the SharePoint site is typically non-interactive web content,” says Shores. “But you can also click on a link and go to Yammer from the homepage. Or you can access the LMS, which connects with the social-collaboration tool Jam. So it’s all deeply integrated.”

To better understand the strategies and practices talent development leaders are using to leverage social learning effectively, check out the ATD Research report, Social Learning: Developing Talent Through Connection, Contribution, and Collaboration.

About the Author
ATD Research tracks trends, informs decisions, and connects research to performance. By providing comprehensive data and insightful analysis, ATD Research Reports help business leaders and workplace learning and performance professionals understand and more effectively respond to today's fast-paced workplace learning and development industry. Our research reports offer an empirical foundation for today's data-driven decision-makers, containing both quantitative and qualitative analysis about organizational learning, human capital management, training, and performance.
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