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Learning as the foundation for progress: How a successful organisation future-proofs its workforce

The Absolut Company, founded in 1879, is a renowned global company with a century-long history of fine spirit making traditions. As an integral part of Pernod Ricard, one of the largest wine and spirits groups in the world, The Absolut Company is known worldwide for its famous Absolut Vodka, Malibu, and Kahlúa brands, as well as its cutting-edge production facility based in Åhus, Sweden. Driven by its guiding principle, the passion for progression, as well as its constant focus on creativity and innovation, the company seeks to lead in an increasingly digital world and leverage the opportunities that digitalisation may bring.

In order to accomplish this mission, The Absolut Company partnered with Stellar Capacity, a leader in the field of digital leadership education, to create a unique, tailored education program that focused not just on the leaders but every employee in the company, as well as to nourish and empower the organisation’s learning culture and advance its digital knowledge. Launching the program in 2019, its key goals were to:

  • Accelerate The Absolut Company’s internal learning and knowledge sharing,

  • Create excitement and engagement with digital transformation at every level of the company.

  • Embed new ways of learning and encourage the adoption of a digital mindset among all employees.

  • Highlight innovative internal leaders and initiatives and disperse this knowledge across the organisation to create opportunities for exchanges of ideas and breakthroughs.

  • Raise the knowledge levels and curiosity of colleagues across the entire organisation.

  • Create a common language and vision around the topic of digital transformation to facilitate key collaboration.

Mapping the existing digital culture and identifying the organisation’s learning needs

As a first step in creating the programs, Stellar Capacity conducted a digital upskilling assessment of the Absolut Company to gauge where it stood in its digital transformation journey, as well as to map its existing strengths and areas of potential development in digital knowledge and skills. Based on the assessment and the analysis, Stellar Capacity designed both a digital leadership program for selected change-leaders across the organisation, along with a mindset-oriented program for all employees. The programs were named the L.O. Smith Digital Leadership Program and the L.O. Smith Digital Mindset Program after the founder of The Absolut Company. As a pioneering entrepreneur, L.O. Smith was driven by innovation in the distilling and spirit business, but he also leveraged his curiosity and expertise as an investor in a variety of other industries such as agricultural and mining. These programs therefore carried his name not just to honour his legacy as the founder of The Absolut Company, but as a commitment to continue to embrace his mindset of innovation and transformation that is core to the company’s DNA.

Two complementary programs to intensify a culture of learning in the organisation

The L.O. Smith Digital Leadership Program was designed as the initiative’s flagship program. Its goal was to instil in-depth knowledge about exponential technologies, digital leadership, agile organisational structures and business transformation into the company’s leaders and advance The Absolut Company’s digital transformation journey. As a complement, The L.O. Smith Digital Mindset Program was established as a series of company-wide sessions for all of The Absolut Company’s employees in order to embed a foundational knowledge and a common understanding on how to embrace the digital mindset, empower agile collaboration, and establish a learning culture. Together, these two programs brought together the entirety of the Absolut Company to create a firm foundation for the organisation’s leap forward in digital transformation. They increased the employees’ level of knowledge and fluency in working with key concepts and trends around cutting edge technology, generated high levels of engagement and excitement at all levels to work with technological and organisational innovations, and created a common framework and vocabulary to accelerate the organisation’s digital transformation.

Key impacts of the programs and leading towards a digital future:

  • By opening the education program to the whole of the organization, instead of limiting it to only a select group of managers as is common in other organisations, the L.O Smith program generated a powerful engagement with the vital topics surrounding digital transformation and a set of common visions for the company to strive towards.

  • Training people on topics outside their domain expertise empowered their curiosity in order to propel them forward on their learning journey and prepare them for new unexpected opportunities.

  • Spotlighting the internal pockets of excellence and knowledge created a positive learning environment. Participants heard first-hand from their colleagues how they were working to adapt The Absolut Company to emerging technologies and trends. By highlighting the various experts within the organisation, this made it easier to know who could be approached to discuss different topics, and accelerated internal knowledge transfer.

  • By demonstrating that collaboration and sharing of knowledge between departments is necessary to understand a complex, multifaceted subject such as digital transformation, the L.O. Smith program embedded the recognition within the organisation that cross-functional cooperation is essential for growth in an increasingly digital future

Learning needs to be at the heart of every company’s strategy to stay at the forefront of future developments. The L.O. Smith programs are a great example of how the entire organization can be engaged in a shared vision to elevate and embed learning as a core value. By enabling and empowering each leader and employee to take responsibility on their journey of continuous learning, organisations can make future-proof investments in a world of continuous change and transformation.

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