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e-Learning for Smart Working

A Flexibility case study of Plantronics

Plantronics, the global leader in advanced headsets and unified communications, has been making the switch to Smart Working.  This has involved taking a strategic approach to changing what they call ‘bricks, bytes and behaviours’ – that is property, technology and the ways in which people work and interact.

Starting with their European Head Office near Swindon, Plantronics has been introducing Smart Working environments in its offices throughout the EMEA region and setting up employees to have the capability to work anywhere.

Plantronics were aware from the start that to make the most of the improved working environments and technologies, staff have to be engaged, motivated and comfortable with the new ways of working.  To achieve this, they worked with e-Work.com to develop an e-learning solution to get all staff on board and familiar with the new ways of working.


With new working environments, new technologies and employees encouraged to work more flexibly, there were several challenges to address.  Managers needed to be comfortable managing the new workstyles and in managing by results.  Employees needed to understand the rationale behind the changes and become more adept at virtual teamwork.  And all staff needed to be on board with the use of the new activity-based work settings in the office.

According to Norma Pearce, Director, Human Resources EMEA,

‘Using e-learning was very much driven by the geography of Plantronics in Europe.  It’s not practical to bring everyone together into one location for training.  It’s also entirely appropriate as part of the Smart Working approach.

‘The reason for training people is to provide the support they need as they move to new ways of working that involve different kinds of interactions between the office and other locations.  You can’t just turn people loose to work remotely, and then expect that it will all fall into place.  We didn’t want people to feel remote or isolated.  So we needed to help them understand how they can stay in touch with the company, when to use conference calls, when to use instant messaging, and so on.

‘It’s about making sure they are connected though remote. And this is not only about the technology, but about how they use it as a member of the team and of the company.’

The company was also keen to have an e-learning solution that met these needs, and one that did so in the context of Plantronics’ own implementation of Smart Working.

Working together  to build a customised solution

e-Work.com worked with Plantronics to identify which were the key areas of learning to cover, and then tailored the courses to meet the company’s needs.  Courses were based on e-Work’s key courses on Managing a Distributed Team, Working in a Distributed Team and Work Space Types and Guidelines.

Customisation includes using shots of the actual Plantronics European Head Office as ‘wallpaper’ for the on-screen facilitators who lead learners through the courses (as in the picture, top right).  The Plantronics policies, process and protocols are included within the course, and the overall branding is of Plantronics.

‘e-Work was very accommodating,’ says Norma.  ‘We had a lot of flexibility to customise the courses.  Scenes were re-shot to have the video actors speaking UK English.  This is better for us across Europe, rather than the US English of the original version.  Their approach has been to include exactly what is useful for us, rather than providing a standardised model.’

What were the results?

Plantronics’ senior managers believe that the online learning courses have played a key role in enabling a very smooth transition to new ways of working.  It reflects the attention to detail that has been given to the quality of the new working environment and the unified communications solution. The changes have been embraced by employees, and the problems that some expected before the change have not materialised.

Surveys before and after the Smart Working implementation show a 24% increase in engagement by employees, and the positive impacts on work-life balance are both actively promoted by manages and appreciated by staff.

And though it is impossible to isolate the contributing factors, it is notable that EMEA sales greatly increased in Q2 and Q3 of 2011.  This was just at the time the changes were being made, when one might most expect there to be the opposite effect on results.

Feedback from managers and employees

The e-learning courses have gone down very well, amongst both managers and employees.  Norma Pearce found especially valuable the subject expertise e-Work brought to the course and their understanding of the company’s aims:

‘For us the key thing about e-Work is that they were unique in what they offered.  We didn’t come across anyone else using such interactive online training for Smart Working. 

‘And it was great working with them as they had a level of insight into new ways of working. They offered so much support in terms of what our employees needed, but didn’t dictate at all.  So the end result is a truly Plantronics experience.’

According to Philip Vanhoutte, Senior VP and Managing Director Europe & Africa at Plantronics:

'The success of our Smarter Working journey is largely due to a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach that covered all things space, technology and people. E-work was a natural fit for Plantronics and a stream of awards speaks volumes as to the outcome.  E-work was a strategic partner from the very start, lending the vast expertise they gained from blue-chip implementations around the world, whilst responding to our precise needs and providing superb value for investment.'

At the end of every course, learners are invited to submit their comments.  The following are representative of the feedback:

  • ‘I found this to be very helpful training to support our new Smarter Working culture.  I liked that it was tailored for both managers and employees thereby addressing the different levels needs.’
  • ‘I have just finished the first course – it’s very professional looking, best of all it’s not too long.  I especially liked the fact that it was tailored to Plantronics needs and showed the new office with images of each area and workspace.’
  • ‘Very impressed with the e-Work implementation for our new “smart” way of working, well done!
  • ‘Cool training, helped a lot.  Really liked the quizzes, not too long either.’
  • ‘Easy to understand, simple to complete, very useful thank you.’ 
    (from a non-native English speaker)

What next?

The company is now rolling out Smart Working worldwide, and the e-learning courses are a feature of the global roll-out.

Plantronics are thinking also about how to build on the e-learning.  They are looking at the possibility to take the learning beyond the spaces in the office, and how to apply it to a smart home office. 


e-learning for Smart Working at Plantronics

October 2012


Further information

e-Learning is the natural way to support the transition to Smart Working.   Employees can access the learning anywhere, anytime.  And the learning process minimises the use of physical resources.

This case study looks at the experience of global company Plantronics and the way tailored online courses has helped staff to engage with the changes to their working practices and work environments.

Flexibility.co.uk spoke with Norma Pearce, Director, Human Resources EMEA, to find out more about how they developed their e-learning solution. 

Follow this link to find out more about e-Work's e-learning for Smart Working.





e-learning screenshot of activity-based work settings

Plantronics' e-learning helps introduce staff
to the new Smart Working environment,
culture and procedures




'It’s not practical to bring everyone
together into one location for training. 
It’s also entirely appropriate as part of
the Smart Working approach'







‘It’s about making sure employees are connected though remote.’






e-Learning interactivity

There are many interactive tasks to
ensure that learners are engaging
with the new working culture




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