Daniela Proust: Empowering Growth Through Innovative Learning

Daniela Proust | SVP | Head of Global Learning & GrowthSiemens
Daniela Proust | SVP | Head of Global Learning & GrowthSiemens

In today’s fast-paced business world shaped by technology and globalization, learning and development are crucial for organizational success. By providing employees with the skills and knowledge they need, organizations can improve their performance, attract and retain top talent, and create a culture of continuous learning. Daniela Proust (SVP, Head of Global Learning and Growth) is one such leader integrating a learning and growth-oriented work culture at Siemens.

Siemens is a global technology company focusing on innovations to transform the everyday and renowned for its innovative solutions across multiple sectors. Siemens has not only celebrated its 175th birthday but also reached the 100-year milestone in learning and development. Throughout its history, Siemens has recognized that learning is key to constant improvement. Today, more than ever, Siemens invests in upskilling and reskilling its workforce to maintain a competitive edge in the dynamic business landscape.

As a trailblazer in learning and development, Daniela’s vision and dedication are instrumental in making Siemens a place where people can thrive, contributing to Siemens’ continued success and global impact. Under Daniela’s leadership, the company has embraced a transformative learning culture that empowers its people and strengthens its competitive advantage. By providing personalized learning opportunities, she ensures that the workforce stays future-fit and resilient in an ever-changing world.

Let’s delve into how Daniela drives transformative learning initiatives to empower their people to thrive in the digital age.

A Learning Journey

In 2008, Daniela became a part of Siemens and since then, her career has been akin to a vast chamber filled with several roles and responsibilities. About four years ago, her path led her to the People & Organizations division (previously known as HR) and she delved further into the realm of education. Presently, Daniela is accountable for the Learning & Development of all Siemens people worldwide.

As the Chief Learning Officer Daniela spearheads Siemens’ digital learning transformation. She shares, “In my role I am supporting Siemens businesses and all Siemens people to develop the right skills and competencies to be successful and future fit.

Her role required driving the Learning & Development function to new heights while transforming the way the division itself operated. Daniela needed to reinvent learning at Siemens, so she built an innovative learning and growth ecosystem that creates a future-ready, individualized learning experience for Siemens’ diverse workforce.

Reinventing Learning in a Digital World

The digital age brought both challenges and opportunities for Siemens’ Learning & Development function. Daniela says, “The greatest challenges lay in the changing needs.” As the pace of technological development and digitalization reduces the half-life of expertise, continuous learning and upskilling of the entire workforce is fundamental to Siemens’ ongoing success.

She also adds, “Hence, I was tasked to reinvent learning at Siemens and extend its reach to meet the needs of a resilient and skilled workforce. Workplace learning was changing, too.” The more individualized career paths became, the more learning had to be individualized.

The instructor-led, classroom system of learning was not sufficient at addressing all its learning needs anymore. It was not scalable and offered limited access and types of learning opportunities. Learning was also fragmented with no cohesive user journey. A new, holistic learning and development strategy was required, putting the learner in the center, leading to the fact that the whole Learning and Development function had to transform dramatically.

Daniela led the transformation, she shares, “As a department, we were undergoing a massive disruption from a service provider for learning to a global digital learning and growth ecosystem. When the pandemic hit, we had to shift to digital learning almost from one day to another.

A different challenge was the Siemens workforce, which is diverse, comprising 311,000 employees across 190 countries.  However, they were not a uniform monolith. The workforce is global, multi-lingual, multi-generational and differently skilled. Also, a large part of the workforce is factory-based workers, whose learning needs and access are completely different from that of office-based workers.

To understand the needs, mindsets, motivations and barriers of this diverse audience, initially surveys catered best to the needs. Supporting the same, Daniela expresses, “Bottom line, our L&D landscape had to be designed to cater to a diverse range of needs, access requirements and audiences, converting every visitor to a learner – every single time.”

Daniela adds, “Together with my team, we are leading Siemens’ transformation into a learning organization in the digital age. My ambition is to make Siemens your place to thrive.” Under her leadership, the Global Learning and Growth unit has successfully implemented the Siemens Learning & Growth Ecosystem.

Leading the Learning Transformation with Siemens Learning & Growth Ecosystem

Daniela’s mission was to create the right learning and growth environment to empower the people to stay resilient and relevant and to enable them and the organization to reach their full potential. Her strategy was to build on a platform-based ecosystem for speed and agility, to increase scope and reach, leverage ​digitalization and analytics at scale and finally better anticipate ​innovation and change.

The ecosystem consists of the 2020 launched ‘MyGrowth’ program with the learning experience platform ‘My Learning World’ at the heart – the single point of entry to inspiring, personalized and relevant learning experiences. This platform offers more than 130,000 learning opportunities in 29 languages and various formats, covering a wide array of topics like digitalization, sustainability, leadership, but also functional learning, technology or market related learning.

She mentions, Our people are using the most comprehensive platform-based learning ecosystems on the market – My Learning World.” The platform offers a personalized and engaging learning experience, with AI-driven learning creation and a comprehensive range of internal and external learning resources.

Daniela says, “We are continuously improving learning, career development, and growth opportunities to positively impact our people.” She also adds, “We have developed an extensive portfolio of lifelong learning opportunities to empower our people and help them acquire relevant skills to stay resilient and relevant in an ever-changing environment.”

Under her leadership another fundamental innovation has been rolled out globally. The so called ‘Growth Talks’ replaced the traditional performance management processes. These agile, ongoing, forward-looking, strength-based conversations boost both individual and organizational growth, performance and well-being between leaders, employees and teams.

What has been a challenge in the past turned out to be a great opportunity for everyone. Danila annotates, “By providing an environment for individual growth at scale we empower our people to stay resilient (as human beings) and relevant (as professionals) on the market as well as guide the business to stay resilient during disruptions. Because when we grow, Siemens grows.”

Expressing proudly, Daniela says, “We reached 97% of our global workforce with digital learning. Even 87% of our people feel well-equipped for the future. Finally, with our platform-based ecosystem, we are able to steer strategic learning initiatives and can benefit from network effects that also apply to learning.”

Democratizing reskilling and upskilling

A navigator tool for personalized skills development called ‘My Skills‘ is accessible through the My Learning World portal. It is a decentralized, skills-based learning approach. My Skills enables employees to assess their own skills, identify skill development needs and receive personalized recommendations for learning empowering them to create their own customized learning plans and take charge of their own development.

In addition, businesses and functions within Siemens can leverage My Skills to define required roles and specific skills needed for each role. So far, Siemens has reached more than 51,000 employees with My Skills, managed by 400 skill managers around the globe.

Through applications like this Siemens democratized reskilling and upskilling, enabling employees to continuously develop skills relevant to their current positions and future roles.

She mentions, “Of course, there is no ‘one size fits all’ for a company of this size and complexity.” The skill of data analytics quite likely means something different to a salesperson than to a communications professional. To this, Daniela adds, “That’s why we provide a learning environment for our people and organizations to steer strategic learning initiatives.”

Nurturing Leaders

Leaders are key to shaping the future together with their teams. To make it happen, leadership is more important than ever. Recognizing the importance of effective leadership in shaping Siemens’ future, Daniela and her team provide a range of leadership development opportunities and courses.

Siemens offers various training programs at different levels, including the ‘L.E.A.P.’ program, which stands for ‘Lead; Empower; Accelerate; and Practice.’ empowering leaders to take action with their teams, customers, and partners. Daniela says, “In addition, we provide a dedicated learning program for our first-time leaders that focuses on ten moments that matter which we identified.”

Additionally, Siemens emphasizes strengths-based development and fosters an inclusive environment for leaders to exchange ideas and grow together.

Learning as lever to sustain Employability

L&D always have been a priority for Siemens. As a responsible employer, Siemens offers a wide range of professional education to its people. Daniela says, “Because through learning we are always getting better. Siemens’ continued growth and success depends on our highly qualified and skilled people.” That’s why Siemens continuously invests in up and reskilling its people, supports their willingness to experiment and learn and helps them to develop and live a growth mindset. Siemens promotes a growth mindset in order to create an inclusive, empowering culture of growth and transformation that helps enhance people’s employability and supports sustainable business success.

In its sustainability framework DEGREE (each letter stands for an area in which Siemens has set ambitious sustainability goals), Siemens has set Digital Learning Hours as one KPI for the area of Employability. Equating Employability with Decarbonization, for example, shows the importance Siemens attaches to learning. Daniela and her team have enabled an extensive portfolio of lifelong learning opportunities that empower employees to stay resilient and relevant in the market.

Siemens knows that true transformation begins with people because any business transformation is a people transformation at its core. L&D is a major lever to drive the transformation by empowering people to stay future-fit and therefore helping Siemens to stay competitive. Even more, a wide range of learning and career development opportunities is a very good way to win, grow and bond talent. The three-fold approach to ‘cracking the people code.’ Meanwhile, L&D is widely recognized as co-owner of the transformation, not just at Siemens.

Daniela ensures that learning initiatives align with Siemens’ business goals by setting clear targets for digital learning hours. This includes the DEGREE ambition’25 by 25’– 25 digital learning hours per employee by 2025. Siemens exceeded the yearly targets, reflecting the success of their tailored approach to learning.

Foreseeing the Future

To keep the ecosystem state of the art, the company established the so-called Innovation Catalyst for regular screening and rating of trends. Daniela says, “We monitor and channel innovations from internal and external to our learning and growth ecosystem.”

She adds, “We look into emerging tech innovations and trends in learning that will reshape the future of learning, like Gen AI, VR, adaptive learning, or social learning.”

Daniela foresees hyper-personalization in the learning field, driven by technologies like adaptive learning, AI-based learning, and virtual reality. With the emergence of ChatGPT, DALLE, or Midjourney, a glimpse into the digital future will disrupt many parts of everyones lives.

Personally, Daniela’s opinion is, “I think we’re seeing more and more personalization to the point of hyper-personalization, especially in the L&D field to address unique learning needs. From a technological perspective, adaptive learning, AI-based learning creation and virtual reality will determine the next years.

As organizations become more fluid and boundless, the definition of the workforce also becomes broader. In addition to Siemens’ permanent staff, contingent workers, people working for partners, and even customers, are all contributing competency to the business.

Daniela shares, “Accordingly, we would like to take them along on our growth journey. This is why we are working on addressing the learning needs of our extended workforce, beyond our traditional scope.”

A Journey of Continuous Growth

Daniela says, “I wouldn’t necessarily tie it to the learning and growth space. I believe that any leader should be curious and open to trying new things–that’s how I do it.” For her, learning is her daily companion. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to re and unlearn things learned differently in the past. She also says, “We need open ears, open hearts and open minds!

As a visionary leader in learning and development, Daniela sets an example for continuous personal and professional development. She emphasizes curiosity, openness, and a willingness to unlearn outdated approaches.

Daniela shares, “I’m a very curious person myself. And I feel that I am learning all the time in so many ways. From new endeavors, from different perspectives, from questioning and reflecting on where we are at the moment – considering all the change around us.”

Daniela finds inspiration from podcasts like ‘Curious Advantage‘ led by her CLO peer Simon Brown, training that helped her craft a Northstar for the learning transformation at Siemens was Siemens training ‘Leading in Business Ecosystems,

Additionally, books like ‘Upgrade‘-Building the Capacity for Complexity by Rebecca Stevens and a classic ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,’ shape her approach to building high-performing teams.