HRTech Interview with Gavin Book, the Global Head of Learning at Vistra

Innovating Leadership Learning: Explore insights from Gavin Book, Global Head of Learning at Vistra, as he discusses crafting impactful programs in collaboration with business leaders and leveraging digital learning.


Gavin, can you provide an overview of the customized, hybrid learning program implemented at Vistra?
Leadership Essentials was launched in response to an important business imperative that required us to equip our leaders with the skills to effectively lead their teams or refresh more experienced leaders on essential leadership skills. Our goal was to create an engaging and impactful leadership learning program which is why we collaborated with the business leaders across the organization and used the most relevant digital learning and virtual events.

How has the partnership with Skillsoft contributed to the success of Vistra’s L&D program?
Our partnership with Skillsoft has helped us deliver learning opportunities to enable our people to grow. From the outset, we wanted to forge this partnership as we knew leveraging the learning capabilities Skillsoft provided would enable us to deliver against our ambitions. We have high expectations of our providers and the team sought to understand what we were trying to achieve as an organization and discovered ways we could leverage learning to meet our goals.

What were the main goals and objectives behind implementing the culture of learning at Vistra?
In line with our value of empowering people, it’s important that all our colleagues know we are an organization where we can learn, grow, and seize opportunities. We want to foster a learning mindset at all levels across the organization which in turn drives a culture of continuous improvement and enables us to stay competitive and be globally adaptable. Our hope is that our colleagues can explore learning and multiple learning pathways and in doing so we help to future-proof our organization. We want people to learn together, grow together, and achieve more together.

How did Vistra identify the right skills that needed to be developed within the organization?
We believe that working in partnership with leaders and business units is crucial. By doing this we have been able to understand their learning priorities to curate learning which has real-world relevance. We achieved this by working with three distinct working groups which were formed to focus on leadership, learning & career development, and culture and inclusion. As a result, we have been able to deepen our understanding of the organizational needs and identify the skills needed to help us progress rapidly.

Can you share some insights into the strategies used to encourage employees to actively participate in the learning program?
We knew through our engagement survey results that we were an organization packed full of hungry learners. We needed to engage with our colleagues and start to share the world of learning opportunities available. We wanted to create a buzz of excitement, so we commissioned an upbeat and high temp learning video which was complimented with business-wide communication to set our intentions. The video was part of a carefully considered communication plan which enabled us to showcase the “Skills Portal” and our bespoke portfolio of learning developed in partnership with leaders and blending a range of learning modalities including learning journeys, videos, and audiobooks.

What were the key factors that contributed to the significant increase in hours spent learning and the number of active learners?
It was clear there was an appetite for learning here at Vistra. To do this, we wanted to engage with and enable all our colleagues to learn and grow and take charge of their own learning. We felt that having a strong launch was vital – leaders needed to be excited and bought into the vision of building a learning culture. To do this we engaged directly with leaders and leveraged solutions, including launching a series of “Feeding the Curious Mind” sessions with bespoke quarterly topics to spotlight relevant learning which saw us engage with over 50% or 2500 of our colleagues globally during our first event. These sessions helped the team to build credibility and forge a partnership with various functions which in turn enabled further “Business Learning” initiatives helping us on our journey of increasing our learning hours.

What role does leadership play in promoting a culture of learning within an organization?
Leaders play an essential role in promoting a learning culture and are increasingly being seen by organizations and leaders as an important differentiator in achieving high performance. Setting the tone from the top is vital; without senior leadership buy-in, we knew we would only be able to make so much progress in building a learning culture. We have worked with leaders globally to spotlight how they learn and to share the wisdom in the organization.

How did Vistra address the challenge of balancing the need for personalized learning with the requirements of a large, diverse workforce?
It was important to implement a variety of learning experiences so people could pick and choose their learning which was most relevant for them. We wanted to ensure that learning was available to us in a variety of modalities, and we curated four bespoke business portfolios to create pathways of development with help from Skillsoft. Through this expansive approach, we have been able to deliver large business learning projects which have enabled the business to do things they had not previously been able to do on a global scale.

What strategies did Vistra use to ensure that the skills learned through the program are effectively applied in employees’ day-to-day work?
Keeping learning alive is crucial for our learners to continually improve and we focused on developing sustainment activities to maximize the learning being applied. We developed learning materials with multiple languages to gain maximum traction and this is something that continues to be an area of focus so that learning is relevant, and the uptake is high. This is ongoing; we seek to provide learning nudges, designed to prompt people to continue their learning and utilize peer-to-peer workshops that have developed communities of practice and continue to resonate with our team here at Vistra. It’s important to provide robust and insightful learning reports to help build and maximize learning being applied in colleagues’ day-to-day work. This is an area of continued focus as we seek to maintain the momentum.

What advice would you give to other leaders and organizations looking to implement a successful culture of learning?
There are four key areas to keep in mind when implementing a successful culture of learning. It is important to co-create your learning initiatives and work in partnership with the business to maximize learning engagement. Before you move forward, understand what learning the business needs to gain absolute buy-in, prototype quickly, and iterate in an agile manner. You must also ensure that you have a strong launch to learning which leaders relate to and are brought into and utilize all the available internal channels of communication available to you.
Lastly, it is paramount to have learning metrics in place to measure the things you want to do and ensure you know why you’re using the measures you do. Pending your goals, measure metrics like meaningfulness, impact, and net promoter score to help showcase your learning results.

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Gavin Book Global Head of Learning at Vistra

Gavin Book is a successful and authentic leader passionate about formulating, transforming, and leading people and business development strategies across multi-sites globally. Gavin joined Vistra, a leading fund administrator and corporate service provider, in 2020 and serves as the Global Head of Learning. He is responsible for leading the global learning agenda for the company’s 5500 learners across 45+ multi jurisdictions.