by Shayne Thomas
14 Apr 2020
GSI Puts Learning and Development in the Hands of Team Members
Since its founding in 2002, GeoStabilization International (GSI) has tirelessly pursued its mission to develop and install innovative solutions that protect people and infrastructure from the dangers of geohazards. Being a leader in this field means that all team members must have the necessary and up-to-date certifications to do their jobs effectively. This makes ongoing learning and development, whether done in the office or in-field, even more critical.
- GSI had no formal learning and development program in place whatsoever.
- Learning and development information related to hundreds of mandatory certifications (i.e. safety, code of conduct, crisis management, ethics, etc.) was managed manually through a manual system of spreadsheets and file folders.
- The majority of GSI’s workforce is remote, making it difficult for many team members to complete computer-based training and certification requirements in a timely manner as well as be able to rapidly build skills proficiency from the field.
A company as specialized as GSI must ensure its team members, especially its in-field workforce, are experts at repairing virtually any slope stability or foundation problem in any geologic setting. This requires an ability to react quickly in potentially destructive or catastrophic situations. GSI is “one of the coolest companies you’ve never heard of,” says Patrick Sorensen, GSI’s head of Learning and Development. “Sometimes the only way an employee can get to a job site is by having a helicopter hoist them up into the air and drop them off."
To ensure GSI’s team members are always ready for the unexpected challenges they could confront, they knew they had to streamline their overall approach to learning and development. Cornerstone was offered a unique opportunity for GSI to build a central hub to manage all aspects of training, certifications, compliance, performance management, and development efficiently—including general skills-based learning for all team members. Even more, they were able to make this all accessible to the company’s predominantly in-field and remote workforce.
Cornerstone came to GSI’s rescue with Cornerstone Learning, an all-in-one learning and development solution (later dubbed “GSI Learn” for the company’s 450+ team members), helping to achieve the company’s primary learning and development goals and giving business leaders new and better ways to monitor and measure proficiency, progress, and success.
Increased automation. The GSI team had relied heavily on spreadsheets to manage all training and certifications as well as being able to identify team members with the appropriate certifications to tackle specific jobs. “We were managing thousands of professional certifications with spreadsheets,” says Sorensen. “Now, it’s as simple as running reports, sorting by certification type, and identifying qualified team members for specific jobs. We now have the ability to build crews and client solutions around those certified to do specialized tasks.”
Rapid employee adoption. GSI has an ambitious goal for 100% of its team to have development plans in place. “Only six months ago, no one had a development plan,” says Sorensen. “Today, there are over 432 development plans in Cornerstone, including 50 that have been completed in full. This represents a total of 350 team members, some who have created multiple plans for themselves. We will be able to hit our goal much faster than we initially expected.” Getting to this ambitious goal has been further enabled by the creation of development plan templates and other tools allowing team members to manage growth on their own. “Because of Cornerstone, we have succeeded at building a culture of development in a very short time.”
“We recently launched a series of in-house compliance videos for Code of Conduct (COC) and COVID-19 training. Completion rates for GSI-created curriculum is very high: 100% completion for COC within 90 days and 60% completion for COVID-19 within one week.”
— Patrick Sorensen, Senior Leader, Learning and Development at GSI
Reduced time-to-proficiency. “We have closed the gaps and minimized the barriers to proficiency,” says Sorensen. With the help of Cornerstone, GSI has added transparency to the development process, directly putting goal-setting in the hands of team members. By integrating development plans with the in-house GSI Journeyman Trades program, for example, GSI has been able to standardize benchmarks and assessments for preparing crew members for specific in-field activities. A good example of this is the Shotcrete Nozzleman certification, which requires a minimum of 500 in-field hours of shooting shotcrete. “There’s a huge advantage here: the faster our team members can acquire skills, the more opportunities and pay they’ll receive in return,” continues Sorensen. “We have improved time-to-proficiency by 50% already and expect to see that number continue to shrink over time.” This has been a true game-changer. Team members can now advance their level of proficiency around various specialized skills much faster than ever before, which, as an added benefit, gives them even more motivation to develop and grow their careers with GSI.
Standardized measurement. “By standardizing measurement and reporting across the company and within teams, we can now easily see where improvements are happening and focus our energies to overcome the challenges that arise,” says Sorensen. GSI knew it needed a better way to measure success across the board. By providing each frontline manager with a consistent metrics dashboard, managing cross-functional success has truly become a breeze.
Fostered stronger team relationships. Cornerstone has helped us “create a whole new level of conversation between team members and managers,” says Sorensen. “This is a direct result of both their increased engagement with technology and greater awareness around potential skill gaps.” Because managers can now understand and track competency in an entirely new way, they can help their team members develop faster and in ways that were not possible before.
Now that GSI has had a taste of what Cornerstone can do to transform its business, they are looking to double down on learning, what they are calling “Learning 2.0.” Part of this roadmap includes creating or implementing the following:
- New development plan templates on specific job functions or skills-based learning
- Advanced succession planning capabilities
- Deeper integration between Cornerstone and other GSI systems for streamlined, simplified, and comprehensive reporting across the company.
- New series of micro-trainings focused on business-relevant safety topics
Additionally, GSI is launching Cornerstone Performance for goal-setting early this year and will expand that into the company’s mid-year and annual review cycles as well. This truly makes GSI a perfect example of how Cornerstone Learning and Cornerstone Performance can go hand-in-hand to drive success in noticeable ways.