The Silver Lining


Evolution in Unusual Times

FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers, has training needs that go far beyond those of a typical insurance company. Founded in 1835, FM Global uses a unique business model based on the belief the majority of property losses are preventable, not inevitable. The insurer relies on its 1,800 engineers, many whose job is to visit policyholders’ locations to evaluate hazards and help them make improvements to their property or work practices to reduce physical and financial risk. In addition, they offer comprehensive training around risk mitigation to clients around the globe. Their comprehensive approach to learning has earned them recognition as a global leader in their space.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit and FM Global had to halt travel and in-person meetings, the company needed to rethink how it delivered training. The company certifies its engineers through a 6-week in–person certification program that occurs over three 2-week visits at their world-class learning center. But due to COVID-19, face-to-face training wasn’t possible. With 55 engineers needing to either start the company’s certification program or finish it, the learning team at FM Global needed to develop a new approach and act fast.

With over 100 classes held at their learning center, where learners enjoy activities in specialized interactive lab spaces designed to teach sound loss prevention practices — such as a fire pump room, boiler room, and sprinkler room — digitizing the certification course would be challenging.

The organization’s culture was also rooted in traditional face-to-face interaction. They’d not even widely adopted videoconferencing technology for regular business meetings. Implementing a newly digitized version of their engineering certification wouldn’t just mean quickly activating to build a program, it would mean having to create an online experience to match the classroom experience and possibly changing a company’s learning culture.

“What happened with COVID-19 was a perfect storm for FM Global. But necessity is the motherhood of invention. And invent, we did.”

Karen Freedman

Vice President Enterprise Learning,
FM Global.

With an aggressive timeline and loads of courage, the team was able to secure executive buy-in, get security approval for the necessary technology, and implement an online, interactive course that involved breakout activities for learners. In record time, the team tackled digitizing their most complex class for the first time in company history.

They combined 360-degree photography imported into a 3D modeling software to create models of all the labs in their learning center. They also used videoconferencing technology to connect the instructor and learners and created breakout room environments. Instructional designers pivoted the courseware to fit the medium, and the team launched the proof of concept course just two weeks later.

The proof of concept began on April 6, 2020, with a class of 20 engineers from around the globe. With much fanfare, the company has asked the learning team to digitize the remaining courses in the certification program. Now, with the cultural mindset shifted, the FM Global learning team is not looking back. It is evaluating their curriculum to identify the courses that will best serve this medium in the future, and the learning team is more engaged and energized than ever.