From the Ground Up: How Curia Built a Popular Learning and Development Program From Scratch
Partnering with Skillsoft, Curia created a self-driven learning approach focusing on the company’s key competencies, leadership behaviors, and values to help colleagues reach their full potential.
Curia, a global contract research, development, and manufacturing company, lacked a structured learning and development (L&D) approach. Executive leaders and employees alike wanted that to change.
Curia’s CHRO, Joe Sangregorio, knew the organization would struggle to stay competitive without learning and growth opportunities. At the same time, an employee engagement survey revealed that many Curia colleagues were hungry for L&D opportunities.
“Colleagues were saying, ‘I want to be able to develop my career, but I don’t know how to build my skills,’” explains Terri Souder-Basa, Director of Learning and Development at Curia. “So we had this groundswell from both employees saying ‘I want this’ and leaders saying ‘We need this.’”
Terri joined Curia specifically to tackle the challenge of building an L&D approach. As a first step, she had conversations with company leaders to understand the current landscape and what skills the company needed most.
“Across all the leaders I talked with, there were clear commonalities,” Terri says. “They were looking for things like accountability, commitment, communication, collaboration, ethics, and creativity.”
Those competencies became the foundation of Curia’s Leadership Model for the organization. Next, they needed the right technology to deliver that model. Curia had already been exploring Skillsoft as an L&D partner, and Terri found that Skillsoft’s content library was a great fit Curia’s needs.
“Skillsoft had content that could help with the key leadership skills and behaviors we identified, but also with broader technical areas like Microsoft Office and Excel skills,” Terri says.
Curia implemented iLearn, a custom-branded instance of Skillsoft’s AI powered learning platform that uses Skillsoft content to help employees live into the company’s identified leadership behaviors. To ensure what they provide is relevant, aligned and approachable, Souder-Basa and her team work with leaders to organize content into smaller groups called “Leadership Journeys,” which often include tracks containing just a few courses.
“Learning and development needs to be manageable and consumable,” Terri says. “People need to be able to look at it and say, ‘I can do that.’”
Terri and her team have also developed support tools, like a simple PDF guide and a timeline to show learners how they can build their skills in just 15 minutes a day. “We wanted our people to see this as doable,” she says.
“I’ve come to think of iLearn as a little bit like a mini MBA,” says Leah Threatte, Senior Corporate Counsel II at Curia. “When I started at Curia, I was transitioning from being at a law firm for many years to an in-house role. My manager and our HR business partner put together some content to help me adjust to the new culture and sharpen some of those business skills like project management and efficient communication in a company.”
Skill Benchmarks — diagnostic assessments that measure learners’ skills and offer personalized content recommendations based on their results — have also been a useful tool for growth.
“We often hear, ‘I want to build that skill, but I don’t know where to begin,’” Terri says. “In that case, I suggest starting with a Skill Benchmark. You can gauge your proficiency, and let iLearn guide you to the right content to begin with.”
Finally, to encourage learners to put their new skills into practice, Curia has built conversation tools into many of the Leadership Journeys.
“We did not want learning to become a check-the-box activity, so journeys often include conversation starters that encourage people to think and talk about how they can apply the information they’ve learned,” Terri explains. “It gets people thinking about big questions like, ‘What did you learn? How does it fit with what we do at Curia? What can we do to improve?’
At some of Curia’s global locations, HR business partners also held in-person seminars to help learners bring their new skills and knowledge to the workplace.
"We would all get together as a group so that we could talk about what what was covered and share our reflections,” explains Josh Benavente, HR Business Partner for Curia’s California locations. “At one location, we even had employees lead and facilitate lessons themselves. That kind of peer-to-peer learning is really valuable, because it may spark new ideas or remind you of something.”
WHAT DO OUR CUSTOMERS HAVE TO SAY?
When I looked at what Skillsoft had to offer, it was a good fit with our business. It helps us with not just leadership skills and behaviors, but also broader technical areas. And with Skillsoft, there are always new improvements and constant updates to share with our colleagues.
DIRECTOR OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT, CURIA
HOW DID THE PROGRAM PERFORM?
Total accesses, January-June 2023
Total badges, January-June 2023
Total learning hours, January-June 2023
The iLearn program started fairly small, with 500 licenses. To build buy-in, HR business partners at each of Curia’s global locations spread the word through everyday conversations and meetings. Once employees started learning about the program, demand quickly surged, and Curia increased to 1000 licenses — and then again to 2500.
“Once people had a chance to experience iLearn, other people were coming forward to ask, ‘How can I get this, too?’” Terri says. “We didn’t have enough licenses, which is a really wonderful problem to have, so we expanded access.”
Leaders find it easier than ever to connect their team members with the right training for their roles.
"I can go into iLearn and look through the topics to find those things that will help my people advance in their job functions, or just as people in general,” explains Eric Miner, Associate Director of Business Development at Curia. “I can identify the skills people need — like business acumen, customer orientation, project planning — and send them links. They don’t have to go in and try to find what they need on their own.”
And iLearn has become a key ingredient in developing Curia’s next generation of managers.
“New leaders often need some extra support to develop people management skills, but it’s not practical to do in-person, individualized coaching for 60-80 managers at a time,” says Eric Vanderson, General Manager of Curia’s Albany location. “iLearn has been terrific in allowing us to get some really good core training and fundamental skills to large groups of people quickly.”
The leadership development model has also been woven more deeply into Curia’s performance management process. Employees and managers can use iLearn resources to not just talk about leadership but make concrete plans for employees to grow in their careers.
“We’ve built guides that offer practical ideas and solutions for how employees can build skills and live the leadership behaviors,” Terri says. “So people can use iLearn as a tool as they move through organizational processes like goal setting and performance conversations.”
Moving forward, Terri has plans to expand the conversation starters, creating different questions for each Leadership Journey. The aim is to align iLearn, Curia’s leadership model behaviors and the organizational values with our business needs even further.
“There’s a very strategic approach to how these all fit together,” Terri says. “That alignment helps Curia be as successful as we can be, and it helps our colleagues feel more confident and more fulfilled in what they’re doing.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT CURIA
Curia is a global contract research, development, and manufacturing organization (CDMO), offering products and services across the drug development spectrum to help partners turn their ideas into realworld impact. Curia partners closely with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to boost business performance and improve patients’ lives.