When Tietoevry, a leading IT services company headquartered in Finland, encountered a hyper-competitive market for software developers last year, they turned a tough talent challenge on its head.
“We realized it’s far more effective and actually cheaper to train our own people instead of hiring from outside the company,” explains Tietoevry’s Ari Lehtovaara.
Ari, a senior IT manager at the company, founded the Tietoevry Connect Academy in 2021, which is tied to the company’s Tietoevry Connect business unit. His mission: Create a framework to efficiently and quickly reskill the business’s employees into high-demand tech roles.
Ari and his team developed a groundbreaking program that’s part-bootcamp, part-mentorship and part-apprenticeship, one that advances learners from zero to client projects in just eight weeks.
Operating in 90 countries, Tietoevry solves a broad range of IT challenges in a dozen critical industries. The 5,000-strong Tietoevry Connect business focuses on cloud computing, so the team developed an approach to train staffers in DevOps, cloud security and cloud architecture, launching the Academy in the third quarter of 2021.
Now training its fourth cloud computing cohort since launch, we took an inside look into the Connect Academy’s innovative approach to reskilling the company’s workforce.
Connect Academy’s Reskilling Best Practices
Tietoevry's Reskilling Program
Exam prep & Q&A sessions
Hands-on support from mentor
Regular meetings with mentor
Working with the team
Knowledge sharing and Q&A sessions with mentor
Knowledge sharing with the team
Any Tietoevry employee worldwide can apply to the Tietoevry Connect Academy.
“We screen candidates just like we would interview people applying for jobs from outside the company,” says Ari. The Academy doesn’t rely on testing to evaluate applicants. Rather, a core group of managers considers how ready the applicants are for the intense training, their baseline technical knowledge, and – critical factor – their drive and mindset.
“They really have to want to do this as the next step in their careers,” explained Ari.
Once candidates are selected, their first step is to shift to their new units – even before training starts. “We want them to get to know the new team and vice versa,” says Ari.
Candidates also begin a course of self-study to prepare for formal instruction. Then they begin their training, which lasts only two months.
It’s a concurrent, three-part process:
Technical training is taught coding-bootcamp-style and handled by an outside vendor. It includes formal online classes, self-study with Microsoft Learn, rigorous exams and final certification. On-the-job learning is driven by hands-on support from an assigned mentor and by “shadowing” teammates on live client projects. Mentors also engage in formal knowledge sharing and Q & A sessions with their mentees every two weeks.
“Learners combine technical training with real-world on-the-job learning – they’re tightly connected,” says Ari. “It’s a very intense schedule and participants study on their own time and on the weekends. We found that our approach pays off and trainees are ready to start hands-on work on customer projects as soon as they graduate.”
Personal Development Plan
The Academy works with learners to create a personal development plan that they follow throughout their training, and beyond. Support doesn’t end at graduation. The Academy receives feedback from participants, managers and mentors to determine what kind of assistance learners require once they begin working in their new roles.
Mentors receive training, too. “Our mentors are typically senior-level cloud architects and they don’t necessarily have experience advising entry level technologists,” says Ari. “So we hold info sessions to share expectations and educate them on how to support their mentees in the best way possible.”
Building Internal Support
Key success factors
“Handshake” between departments
Clear business needs drive training
Senior-Level Buy In
“The critical factor for our success has been 100% support from Tietoevry Connect’s top leadership for our program,” says Ari. This has been crucial – because every employee joining the Academy means a department somewhere in the company is losing a team member.
“Every manager knows that it hurts them when people move on,” explains Ari. “But if we don’t give our employees new career opportunities, they’ll leave the company. So the Academy benefits Tietoevry as a whole.” Senior leaders have been critical in amplifying this message.
To facilitate the employee’s transition between departments, the Academy developed what they call the “handshake.” Ari explains: “The sending unit manager and the receiving unit manager agree on a schedule and a handover plan for how the employee will shift their current responsibilities before she or he can focus on the training program with their new team.”
Ari says this formal step has gone a long way to ease disruption in the sending unit, build trust across departments, and grow internal support for the Academy.
Every training cohort begins with planning based on clear business needs. Once Ari and his team determine what kinds of skills are needed, and how many people are required in which locations, they open up applications for the next Academy cohort.
Reskilling Program Benefits
Measuring Reskilling Success
How has the Academy benefited Tietoevry since its inception?
Billable hours are a primary KPI of the program’s success. The business case calculation is based on the recoupment of the company’s investment in reskilling. With this in mind, the Academy prepares participants to begin working on billable customer projects as soon as they complete their training program.
According to Ari, return on investment has been strong: “When we measured our latest cohort, billing ratios have even exceeded our expectations, and we’re quite pleased with that.”
The trainees' satisfaction is equally as crucial as business metrics. “It’s important that they use their new skills immediately,” says Ari, explaining that such a motivated group as the participants would leave if they’re not challenged.
In fact, Tietoevry doesn’t require Academy participants to sign employment contracts. They’re free to quit the company as soon as training is completed. But according to Ari, the vast majority of alumni have not. The chance to apply their new skills and tackle new challenges with their new colleagues has been retention gold, even in a lucrative job market.
Training is the beginning. The Academy provides additional learning throughout the participants’ careers. And the alumni themselves have organized their own community to support each other, share knowledge and help new cohorts.
Exceeding business metrics
Next Steps for the Academy
“The feedback about the Academy has been overwhelmingly positive from the participants, the mentors and the line managers as well,” says Ari.
Tietoevry plans to continue training participants in cloud computing and expand to new technologies in the coming year.
Check out this recent interview with Ari Lehtovaara about the Academy:
Please note: Tietoevry Connect Academy is not a reference case for Coding Rooms. The aim of this article is to share knowledge and inspiration for how to successfully set up in-house training.