August 2013
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Riding the Waves of Change at HP

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Riding the Waves of Change at HP

Learning and development serves as rudder and oar in turbulent times.

Peter Galanis, general manager for HP Enterprise Group-Canada, a major sales hub for the parent company, is captain of a ship on a stormy sea. In May 2012, HP's CEO, Meg Whitman, announced that the company would eliminate 27,000 jobs, or about 8 percent of its worldwide workforce, as part of a restructuring expected to save more than $3 billion. Since then, the layoff target has been increased to 29,000 employees. In June 2012, several senior executives left HP Canada and Galanis became managing director.

HP is on a five-year journey to turn the company around, and its recovery plan is focused on fixing and rebuilding in seven key areas: product leadership/innovation, commercialization, supply chain, operational excellence, capital allocation, HP leadership, and go-to-market. We spoke with Galanis about the role of learning and development (L&D) as he faces these and other leadership challenges.

In this time of great change for HP in general and HP Canada in particular, what role does L&D play in the transition? What key goals does it support?

This degree of change requires our leaders to be really clear about the new mission. In times of change, L&D plays a very critical role in making sure that everyone here is the very best they can be. It also contributes to their understanding that they can make a career here.

We want to position Hewlett-Packard as an employer of choice because of the professional development it provides, and L&D obviously plays a critical role in delivering on that promise. As we change the organization and position ourselves for success for the next 75 years, we owe it to our employees to equip them with new skills.

As we start to fulfill the promise of the big bets we've made in cloud and security, training will be very important for us.

When you are recruiting, are you emphasizing L&D as one of the benefits of working for HP?

Absolutely. Outside the normal table stakes of offering a competitive salary for the skill sets we're looking for, our commitment to L&D can be a tiebreaker in many cases. I'm thinking particularly of Millennials, who look for that commitment from their employers. We believe it also helps us fulfill our retention targets.

As HP moves into new areas—such as the cloud, big data, and security—what skills will be important for supporting these changes?

Sales skills are important for our part of the organization, and those are changing. Cloud isn't necessarily a specific product; it's a set of solutions. Our sales makers need an appreciation for the kinds of outcomes our customers are really looking for as they begin to implement such things as cloud and big data.

Our master sellers must have the ability to carry on the kind of conversation that transcends feature and function. It's no longer a discussion about what a product can do, but about the business outcomes it can support—things such as faster time to market, agility, and cost optimization.

Today, people's interconnection with data is tremendous. Even as the amount of data is growing, so are people's expectations for shorter query times. Organizations want to harvest and analyze multiterabyte data sets in fractions of seconds to support faster decision making. We want to be the hardware supplier for all these kinds of big data applications. That's why, for example, we have alliances with SAP to leverage its HANA platform.

What about skills for hardware and software engineers?

I think of our engineers as sales makers. Our technical people are paired up with sales makers and shoulder responsibility for a lot of the technical messaging to clients. L&D helps enhance their ability to translate technical features into outcomes. That's why L&D is critical for our engineering teams in Canada.

How has the need to build new capability at HP affected your investment in L&D?

When you're going through a period of transition and change, you have to make some trade-offs in terms of priorities and what you can afford. To support the bet we've made in the future of the company, we need to make L&D a priority—more so than you might in the best of times—for the simple reason that such transitions are hard to do. I'm going to bet we get something in return that is more than we have invested.

What are some examples of the L&D that is supporting HP's transition?

We hold quarterly competency workshops. These are four-day, off-site sessions that allow people to be untethered from work and really focus on learning.

We also hold monthly all-hands sessions on a variety of topics. These are one-hour webcasts packed with content. We've covered such topics as negotiation, how to make effective presentations, concepts of business development, and finance 101. Cathy Lesjak, our chief financial officer, has taken the lead on finance training. My role is to reinforce the importance of everyone understanding profits and loss and how they influence it no matter where they work in the company.

I believe that being visible as a leader and communicating messages that reinforce everyone's role in our transition helps drive clarity about our mission and strategy.

How does L&D help fulfill the strategic initiatives you've laid out for HP Canada?

When I wake up in the morning, there are five things I think about: our operational discipline, our lead-with-products strategy, our go-to-market plan, our financial performance, and most importantly, our people and the role they play in our results and our success.

Operational discipline means making sure that everyone understands what's expected. It's also about reinforcing how important it is that what you say you will do translates to what you actually do.

For example, we provide training in forecasting. Operational discipline in forecasting involves knowing why you're forecasting something, and knowing when and why it's going to happen. Forecasting helps us prioritize resources, run our business, and understand funding and its cadence. All of that is part of operational discipline.

We train our sales makers in a methodology called MEDDIC. It stands for metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision processes, identify the pain, and champion. It's a process for breaking down sales into a science. A lot of our sales makers think that selling is an art form. It does become one eventually, but it is a science first. MEDDIC is a training platform that we run over and over as a guidepost for how to run a successful sales company.

MEDDIC starts with metrics, particularly those that tell us how customers actually measure success and how they quantify or monetize that. What does cost optimization mean from the customer's point of view? If you don't understand the metrics, that's a liability.

Economic buyer is a term that refers to customers and their requirements. Who are they? How can you get a meeting with them? What is important to them? How can you start a dialogue? Not engaging the economic buyer is a liability.

Decision criteria are the factors a client will use to judge us against our competitors. This has to be a mutual understanding, not just our assumptions. Decision processes are the ways that clients justify expenditures and get work approved. Not understanding the customer's decision criteria and processes is a liability.

The I in MEDDIC stands for identifying the pain a customer is feeling. That's often the easiest thing to recognize but sometimes the most difficult to agree on. Being unable to identify the pain attached to not doing something is a liability.

The final part of MEDDIC is the champion. We train people to identify a champion by asking, "When you're gone, who is selling on your behalf?" Not identifying a champion is a liability.

You mentioned products and a go-to-market approach as two of your strategic initiatives. Can you expand on that and tell us how L&D supports them?


We believe the way to help our customers solve their biggest problems and transform the way they do business and deploy their services is to sell them products that enable them to do that. They look to us to help them decide which solution is best for them. That requires training our people to understand the competitive differences between our solutions and our competitors' solutions.

Another strategy is our go-to-market approach. In Canada, that is very channel-centric because the vast majority of our business is done through the distribution partners and resellers in our channel ecosystem. L&D comes into play in helping our business managers understand our partner model and our products well enough to show channel partners how they can be successful and profitable by reselling our products.

Accreditations and certifications are a prerequisite to being a channel partner. The partners who invest more in their employees are able to participate in better and richer sales programs. The more our channel partners invest in L&D, the more we give them in terms of partner benefits.

What about performance?

A tremendous effort goes into the L&D surrounding the role that every employee plays in our financial performance. Really understanding profits and loss and our product mix are very important for everyone if we are going to be successful and reach our fullest potential. To do that, you need an organization that is good at selling the entire portfolio, not just certain pieces of it.

Like most organizations, we survey our employees. We ask what we can do better. We ask every level of the organization how they feel about their managers, their manager's manager, about me, and about my boss.

One thing we have learned from these health checks is that the lack of L&D is the number one inhibitor of employee engagement. Empowering employees with the right kind of L&D increases their engagement, and leads to better performance.

What leadership lessons have you learned so far in HP's transition under CEO Meg Whitman? What's the most important thing a leader can do in a recovery culture?

Meg is a great leadership role model. She and other top leaders set the tone for all of us to follow. Looking back at the past couple of years, one of the biggest leadership lessons has been the importance of making ourselves visible—in person as often as possible—and creating an environment that encourages feedback.

Another lesson for me has been to improve my skill at public speaking. Projecting confidence and communicating well are part of any leader's brand so I worked on that with my executive coach, Tony Jeary. I parse out time during the month for my self-development. I put it in my calendar. I don't leave it to chance.

Whitman has said that in the past, HP underinvested in innovation. What steps is your organization taking to support innovation now?

In the past 12 months we've refreshed and updated our entire product portfolio—networking, PCs, printers, and our service offerings. And we've created some things that are completely new.

For example, Project Moonshot is HP's strategy to lead the market in the X86 chip set for servers. We've created a new, smaller form factor that really does change the economics of data centers. We believe that over the next five years, our customers will start to migrate from general-purpose servers to those that are more application-specific. Project Moonshot allows us to tackle some of the economic challenges that CIOs face today in such areas as power, space, cooling, and application rationalization.

L&D plays a key role in supporting our engineers who must develop the hardware to support these new applications, some of which haven't even been invented yet. There is a whole new value proposition for our service organization and our sales makers to learn.

What fosters a climate of innovation where such things can happen?

It starts with Meg declaring that we are going to invest in innovation and create the capacity to innovate. We're focusing on the development part of research and development, with the goal of creating products that will be commercially viable within 18 to 36 months. You've got to make big bets that will pay off in a big way. Project Moonshot is an example of how a big investment created a new product category.

For long-term success, there really are no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts for innovation. There are no shortcuts for learning and development. You have to make them a priority if you're going to be a world-class company that fulfills its mission and is an employer of choice.

About the Author

Tony Bingham is the president and CEO of the Association for Talent Development, formerly ASTD, the world’s largest professional association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. Tony works with a staff of 130, a Board of Directors, and a worldwide network of volunteers to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace. 

Tony believes in creating a culture of engaged, high-performing teams that deliver extraordinary results. Deeply passionate about change, technology, and the impact of talent development, his focus is on adding value to ATD members and the global community of talent development professionals. He believes that aligning talent development efforts to business strategy, while utilizing the power of social and mobile technology for learning, is a key differentiator in business today.  

About the Author

Pat Galagan is the former editor-at-large for ATD. She retired in 2019 after a long career as a writer and editor with the association. She has covered all aspects of talent development and interviewed many business leaders and the CEOs of numerous Fortune 500 companies.

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