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GSK uses Imperative to provide managers with sustained social and emotional learning critical in times of change.

Executive Summary
GSK’s technical manager development program implemented ongoing peer coaching
Peer coaching addressed their need for social and experiential learning
Peer coaching was quickly oversubscribed due to employee demand
95% of participants reported building relationships they will sustain, and 94% reported that peer coaching made them more successful

ahsiya posner

AHSIYA POSNER MENCIN, Ph.D

Tech Leadership Strategy Lead at GSK

BackgroundGSK is a science-led global healthcare company that is paving the way for building leadership skills and human connection within its Global Digital & Technology workforce. Their organization has been in a time of unprecedented change, and they know that managers are the most important component in successfully managing through change. 

Ahsiya Posner Mencin, Ph.D., Tech Leadership Strategy Lead at GSK, launched peer coaching to reinforce the core objectives of their manager development program, as well as to balance the technical skills typical to data- and process-driven environments with leadership skills like reflection and empathy.

GSK’s manager development program, Brilliant Managers, was built with the 70:20:10 learning model in mind, which recognizes that only 10% of learning comes from formal trainings, while the other 90% of learning comes from social interactions (20%), and “on the job” experiences (70%).  Peer coaching was introduced to provide sustained experiential and social learning opportunities for Tech leaders and managers in a scalable way, supporting them to form meaningful relationships across their teams, as well as develop their self-awareness and self-reflection as leaders.

“We know that peer relationships are among the most valuable, if not the highest value relationships that help people to grow and advance in their careers, and yet we don't have a lot of channels that are focused on connecting peer to peer.” —Ahsiya Posner Mencin, Ph.D, Tech Leadership Strategy Lead at GSK

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Challenge: Build Human Connection in a Technical Environment

As a strong proponent of building supportive networks within a company, Ahsiya sought a human-centered method that would allow GSK managers to regularly reflect on where they were in their leadership journeys and to develop goals that supported them to keep growing and learning.

Ahsiya decided to introduce Imperative’s peer coaching platform as an experiment within GSK Tech’s broader leadership development program, hypothesizing that it would help Tech leaders and managers to achieve 3 specific goals:

1. Reinforce learnings and commit to personal action on the job
2. Save time by supporting focus and prioritization
3. Build trust, personal connections and community across Tech functions

Solution: Peer Coaching on Imperative

To build a well-rounded manager development program, GSK sought to balance formal (10%), social (20%), and experiential (70%) learning to create a flexible, sustainable program that would grow and adapt with their leaders’ evolving needs.

GSK partnered with Imperative to provide the ongoing social and experiential learning aspects of their manager development program, while offering employees a degree of personalization and choice since they ultimately decided which leadership development offerings they participated in.

To launch peer coaching on Imperative’s platform, employees began by filling out their purpose profile, which was scientifically designed to establish what drives a person at work. Then, they were paired off using Imperative’s data-driven algorithm. In each bi-weekly conversation over video, Imperative dynamically generated questions that were personalized to the purpose profiles of each person. The ongoing conversations were each focused on empowering employees to craft their jobs around their personal purpose, which in turn helps them to optimize their relationships, impact, and growth.

Employees commit to specific actions they wanted to take before the next conversation – moving from social to experiential learning. This intentional action and accountability can be directly connected to powerful behavior change and trackable growth. Then, each subsequent quarter, employees are matched with new peer coaches to continue the ongoing process of learning, self-reflection, and building new relationships across the organization.

Peer Coaching on Imperative is: 

1. Accessible to employees and requires no training
2. Easy to launch and administer virtually
3. Cost-effective to scale to every single employee
4. Based on proven research and science
5. Creates psychological safety and new networks of support

a graph saying: Why peer coaching? 1. reinforce learnings & commit to profesional action "on the job"; 2. save time by supporting focus & prioritization; 3. build trust, personal connection & community across Tech function; a piramide saying: peer coaching: 10% formal, 20% social, 70% experimental

"A huge shout out to the Imperative team, because you all make the metrics really easy for me.” —Ahsiya Posner Mencin, Ph.D, Tech Leadership Strategy Lead at GSK

Launch: How GSK Launched and Scaled Meaningful Conversations

From the initial launch, GSK was able to implement and scale Imperative’s peer coaching program from a data- and process-driven perspective. In terms of key learnings on how to build buy-in to peer coaching with a technical and/or scientific audience, see Ahsiya’s recommendations below:

The GSK team relied on the Imperative platform’s metric collection system to map data to their goals and measure success with a process driven method.

a graph sayin: Building Buy-in with a Technical Audience: 1. align with broader business and function goals - show the value, 2. start and end with data, 3. create and validate hypotheses, 4. leverage key influencers with similar technical background, 5. make it easy - no prep

Results: Increased Connections, Impactful Conversations, and Leadership Development

After running an initial peer coaching launch in 2021, GSK Brilliant Managers proved all 3 hypotheses to be true (see chart).  

These findings led to organizational support and funding to scale peer coaching, not only to Tech leaders and managers, but also to employees across GSK. Once peer coaching was made available, particularly through GSK’s Global DE&I Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), it developed a sizeable waitlist, which is uncommon to see in corporate development interventions when you’re trying to reach people who are burdened by heavy workloads, busyness, and not enough time. However, not only were GSK employees eager to seize this peer coaching opportunity, but also 95% of people who had already experienced peer coaching indicated that they intended to have an ongoing relationship with their peer coach. 

In terms of measurable impact – at the end of each coaching conversation, GSK employees committed to one action they’d take before their next session to make their work more fulfilling.

realisation of hypothesised benefits

“Once we saw these incredible results where we either met or exceeded our hypotheses, we were able to get the funding to expand peer coaching to a wider audience.” —Ahsiya Posner Mencin, Ph.D, Tech Leadership Strategy Lead at GSK

Benefits: Culture of Empowered and Connected Employees

After having peer coaching conversations, employees reported feeling they had the space to reflect on situations and grow with their team members, giving them more confidence in the workplace. The program was so popular that it generated a waiting list and people regularly continued to meet with their peer coaches even after they got assigned a new partner. Employees attributed peer coaching to helping them to develop the leadership skills necessary to make their teams thrive.

94% of participants reported that peer coaching allowed them to be more successful in their role.

“The conversations that I've had have really helped me in terms of how I progress with our team and with our business. It's really given me more confidence as well in the sense that you're not alone. As a manager, it can be a lonely place sometimes, but actually connecting on the platform— you're not alone.” —Diane Hutchinson, Product Director, Intelligent Automation, GSK

The ROI of Peer Coaching
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