GetYourGuide has always maintained a specific focus on employees' personal and professional development. Over the past year, however, this specific focus has emerged into a whole Learning and Development department. Viktoriya Vasileva, Learning and Development Specialist, discusses how her team came to be and one of its earliest initiatives, GYG Academy.
First, can you please give us a brief introduction? When did you join GYG, in which role, and how has your career changed since you joined?
My name is Viktoriya, I’m originally from Bulgaria and have been living in Berlin for the past 4 years. My journey at GetYourGuide started three years ago when I joined as a working student on one of our specialized teams in the Customer Service department. The moment I stepped into the office and saw all the passionate, engaged, and truly customer obsessed people running around me, I knew GetYourGuide was the right place for me. Later, I completed an internship in HR and Recruitment and today, I feel very lucky to be able to support individual employees, teams, and the organization’s development as a Learning & Development Specialist.
Our L&D team aims to empower all employees to design their own learning paths and develop the necessary competencies to reach their full potential and achieve job excellence. We believe our company, as well as the execution of our business plans, are only as successful as our most valuable asset - our people.
What is GYG Academy?
GYG Academy is a learning and development curriculum offering a range of high-quality trainings to all employees, such as online courses, internal workshops and tailored trainings by external experts. The series of trainings are designed to enhance, encourage, and support individual and organizational effectiveness.
How did the idea come about?
Learning is one of our core values, and as such, we relentlessly aim to foster a learning environment, boost cross-functional skills and knowledge sharing, and truly make learning a habit. Long before we even had a dedicated L&D team, we organized many initiatives such as hackathons, leadership trainings, employee training days and Summer Summits. However, as our company continued to grow, we acknowledged the need for a scalable framework that could fully support and assist our employees in their learning and development journey.
How did you decide on which trainings were needed?
One of the first steps was to assess and evaluate team and departmental training needs. This was not a one-time event, but is rather a continuous process we still tackle every single day.
For the first iteration of trainings, we met with business unit leaders and discussed training topics that would benefit their teams the most and boost performance in the upcoming year. We also conducted a company-wide survey asking employees to share their own learning needs, so we could define the core training topics.
Furthermore, we reviewed feedback gathered during review cycles, employee satisfaction survey results, common themes in our competency profiles, aspired behaviours in line with company culture, and employee and manager initiated training requests to assess which trainings would be relevant.
What types of trainings are included in GYG Academy?
Our offerings at the GYG Academy include on-site trainings and workshops where employees can interact, practice, and engage in group discussions, various remote sessions, and online courses. The topics range from trainings on purely technical skills such as Looker, Excel, and Spreadsheets, to interpersonal skills (i.e. project management, cultural awareness, unconscious bias) and job-specific (i.e. Agile sessions for our Engineers). We continuously assess the changing needs of our teams and engage more internal and external trainers to expand our offerings.
Who are the trainers?
We firmly believe in the power of learning and development activities initiated by our own employees. Who would know better how to tackle challenges from our daily work life than our own experienced and knowledgeable professionals? Internal trainers customize the learning process to our company culture by using GYG’s own language and terminology. They pass on best practices which participants can seamlessly apply to further develop skills needed to be proficient in their position. Additionally, for some specific training needs, we have built up a network of very experienced external trainers who support our learning culture.
How do you evaluate external trainers?
As an L&D team, we are willing to take risks and invest heavily in great trainings talents who support, motivate and inspire our employees! We want to make sure our trainers are passionate about our mission, culture, and are committed to going the extra mile to meet employees’ needs. The selection process is very similar to our recruiting process and includes research, pre-screening calls, meetings with various stakeholders, and reference checks.
We have some amazing coaches as sparring partners; their impact on our company culture and employee development cannot be overstated. With that said, there were times where we have had to re-evaluate our options and re-initiate a search for trainers due to participant feedback.
How do you measure the success of all trainings?
Employee training and development is one of our main priorities for 2018, so GYG Academy is part of our yearly company OKRs.
For every training we send pre and post-evaluation surveys where we assess behaviour, skills and knowledge improvement. We also evaluate participant satisfaction. Since we want to build up a network of good trainers, we evaluate the quality and quantity of trainers. And finally, we look at employee performance metrics as well as retention rates. We constantly ask ourselves if we are looking at the right data and how we can improve the status quo.
What was your biggest learning from this launch? What are the possibilities for GYG Academy in the short and long-term?
The last couple of months have been a very rewarding period. Organizing GYG Academy is a learning experience not only for our employees, but for the L&D team as well. We need to learn on the fly, spot and track trends, redesign courses at high speed, and make sure we constantly re-evaluate and challenge our needs and processes. It’s still a bumpy road full of many valuable learnings, but we believe our Academy will grow over time as we gather more feedback, build a bigger network of excellent external trainers, and further develop internal training capacities.