How SailGP implement values-driven L&D and global people development

December 2, 2021
June 26, 2023

Maintaining a values-driven business can be tricky when you have a remote team. It’s a problem that global sailing league and race organiser, SailGP, both experienced and overcame.  SailGP’s events see people working and travelling all across the world, after all — so their company mission and culture need to connect globally, transcending every touchpoint.

To find out how they do it, we sat down with Jon Massie and Jenna Robinson, from the People team at SailGP. Together, we discussed how they’re connecting their globally distributed team, reinforcing their values and sharing fast-paced, dynamic business developments — all with the help of HowNow’s all-in-one learning platform.

How SailGP defined its values, then used HowNow to support them

The pandemic understandably brought SailGP’s sailing events to a standstill. But the company didn’t stand still internally during this time. Instead, they took the hiatus as an opportunity to really define and establish their core values.

Using employee surveys, interviews and workshops, they settled upon five key priorities for the future:

  1. Delivering quality
  2. Breaking boundaries
  3. Making an impact
  4. Standing together
  5. Striking a balance

They then used HowNow to connect each and every one of their employees with the value set:

  • All new hires receive a dedicated welcome pack introducing them to SailGP’s values and how they play out in practice.
  • For example, when it comes to ‘Delivering quality’ and ‘Standing together’, SailGP uses HowNow to promote and deliver their employee recognition programme.
  • SailGP also uses HowNow to help employees strike a balance. With the help of yoga and meditation instructors, they host wellbeing events that are available to all team members on demand.

Measuring the understanding and uptake of these values was essential too. There’s no point building out such a strong set of values, finding innovative ways of connecting people with them and then failing to measure the impact.

Jon, Jenna and the people team use a biannual survey to gauge levels of engagement and education — do employees get what the mission is all about? Are they embodying these values themselves?

More importantly, though, they observe employee behaviour as well. We can all claim to understand and uphold a values-driven culture, but are we walking the walk? By establishing a number of new policies — ‘No meeting Fridays’ and flexible working, for example — the senior teams started to model the values in practice, which caused their colleagues and peers to follow suit.

‘Making an impact’ — actions speak louder than words

Sustainability is a huge part of the SailGP ethos and the company has a ‘Purpose & Impact’ team in-house who make sure every event fits with this core value. To do this, they host sustainability training for every event.

A dedicated space for sustainability training

SailGP events take place every six weeks and often in completely new locations. This means there’s lots of new information on site layouts, local wildlife and sustainability protocols that need to be understood.

Some people will attend these events, others won’t. Some will stay for the full duration while colleagues drop in and out. Meaning it’s critical that it can be accessed across devices, in formats that work across those devices and that people can find it on the go or from their desk.

An interesting technique used by SailGP is to ensure everyone undertakes this training, whether they’re attending the event or not. Not only does it get everyone to buy into the sustainability values and see how they work in practice, it gives those who can’t attend a sense of what the event is like for their teammates.

From route maps that help protect turtles in Bermuda and dolphins in Italy to waste disposal protocols at different venues, these all add up to a shared purpose and global values.

As well as enhancing understanding, event videos and presentations foster a sense of togetherness; the team at HQ in London still get to feel involved in the events they play a role in creating, even though they don’t necessarily attend in person.

Friendly competition

Next, SailGP takes its commitment to making an impact one step further, using the HowNow platform to create and maintain engagement.

Their competition doesn’t start and end on the water, they’ve also established an ‘Impact league’, a friendly internal league table pitting teams against each other to see who can do most for the planet and society. The L&D training and exercises teams complete on HowNow contribute to their Impact League scores, tying the two together  — and benefiting both!

Driving learning across the SailGP global team

These efforts are even more impressive and more important for a company like SailGP, whose team members are scattered across the world.

Sure, this is a team that’s been built on remote working structures since day one. But while the experience of remote working was something all employees had in common, HowNow has helped to really bring teams together and put them on a level playing field.  

Promoting L&D engagement, where employees are

How do you keep a growing, global team up to date? And how do you deliver L&D to teams who are very rarely desk-bound? One way SailGP achieves this is by sending a weekly digest — containing the company’s top content — to all employees, something Jon says has been a huge driver for engagement.

People see the digest and are signposted to other content on the platform. And because this summary of content grabs the attention, it’s helping the company to engage those team members — like SailGP athletes — who don’t necessarily sit at a desk and computer all day. That way, no one’s left out.

How to advocate for and measure L&D effectiveness

In Jon’s words, there’s no point having a really great L&D platform unless people are utilising it. So advocacy is a key focus for the SailGP people team.

Without an L&D department, though, everyone has to play a part in the sharing of learning and sharing of resources. On top of this, the company is working on an internal champion network; selecting individuals who will be responsible for their department’s engagement with and updates to the platform. The PR team can send out press clippings, the sustainability team can upskill their peers at every opportunity, and so on across the organisation.

Getting feedback from their team members on the value of the training and their overall happiness is another key part of SailGP’s learning and development process. It’s also essential to keep the company cruising in the right direction for its five-year strategic workforce planning aims: what do they need to build or buy to achieve their goals?

With one eye on learning completion rates through HowNow, SailGP regularly sends out employee engagement surveys, too. These surveys help them to get a thorough understanding of what their teams are thinking and feeling, wherever they are in the world. And comparing the scores against previous surveys indicates positive progress and any causes for concern.

The people team are quick to act upon this feedback — turning it into specific, individual learning opportunities (from one-day e-learning courses to dedicated mentorships) — and finding new ways to ensure teams feel supported.

Survey results help them to understand which training will add the most value and where to focus their attention for the months and years to come.

Want to support your distributed team to be the best they can be? Book a free HowNow demo to see what our learning platform can do for your business.