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Case ABB: Lifewide Learning is a Prerequisite to Business Success

Competences, skills, and knowledge that carry you through your entire career require constant updating. Anu Saarelainen and Ismo Laukkanen from ABB explain how collaboration with Aalto EE helps ABB facilitate the lifewide learning of its personnel.

Joanna Sinclair, 23.02.2021



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ABB Finland is one of Aalto EE’s largest corporate customers. The collaboration ensures the continuous competence development of ABB’s personnel. ABB also has versatile cooperation with Aalto University, spanning for example research partnerships, recruitments, and development projects.

“Our partnership with Aalto University dates back over 130 years. ABB Finland’s founder Gottfrid Strömberg was known as the father of electrical engineering studies in Finland. The first professors of electrical engineering at Helsinki University of Technology, part of Aalto University, were Strömberg’s students,” says Ismo Laukkanen, Head of Learning and Development at ABB. 

The transformation of work life calls for agile learning

Enabling lifewide learning is seen as a prerequisite to business success at ABB. Recently the focus of competence development has shifted from individual skills to the proficiency of teams, the organization, and ecosystems.

“Competence development has always had a stronghold on our company’s agenda, but the accelerating change of work life has raised the bar in terms of how agile and fast learning must be,” explains Country HR Manager Anu Saarelainen.

Laukkanen and Saarelainen emphasize that the speed of change has increased every year. The amount of new information is staggering, and a company needs to be able to cherry-pick relevant information for new business development.

“Data-analytics and AI do not answer this challenge alone. We also need our entire personnel to be agile learners, and resilient. Our collaboration with Aalto EE and Aalto University helps ensure that our staff has this kind of learning capability,” Laukkanen notes.

Customized training and participation in open-enrollment programs

ABB and Aalto EE’s collaboration includes versatile training customized for ABB Finland’s needs. In addition, ABB management and personnel actively participate in Aalto EE and Aalto PRO’s portfolio of open programs. In recent years ABB’s competence development has focused on for instance leadership, digitalization, new business model innovation, service design, and lean.

Saarelainen points out that both customized and open-enrollment programs bring networking benefits to individuals and ABB alike:

“When we send an individual to Aalto MBA or to learn the ins and outs of data-analytics, our employee partakes in professional dialogue with people from other industries and networks in an academic context. In our customized programs, internal networking is naturally always a benefit in a company as large as ours.”

Over 20 years of ABB Manager programs

At ABB, offering development opportunities to personnel and monitoring competence and potential is seen as an integral part of business management.

ABB Manager is a customized program that Aalto EE created for ABB already in 2000. Currently, the thirtieth ABB Manager program is ongoing. The program’s structure has not changed much throughout the years, but the content is continually updated to answer ABB’s varying needs.

“ABB Manager is meant for leaders working in our different management teams and people rising to that level. The program is an esteemed and much awaited opportunity internally. Over 550 leaders at ABB Finland have already participated in it,” Saarelainen remarks.

”Expedition projects in which participants seek solutions for challenges presented by our business are central to our customized programs,” Laukkanen underlines.

In ABB Manager, future prospects are highlighted: this year talents will work on for example business opportunities that the Green Electrification theme brings to both ABB and its customers.

“Green Electrification aims at creating new sustainable solutions that can significantly decrease carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency. Business Finland granted ABB funding for this venture, in which Aalto EE and Aalto University will have a strong presence – for instance through the ABB Manager program,” Laukkanen adds.

Hybrid work, diversity, and a sustainable future are central to collaboration in 2021

A partner that knows ABB well can support it strategically in research, development work and training.

“We value our cooperation with Aalto EE and Aalto University. It gives us strong academic perspective, world-class training, and the very latest scientific knowledge,” Saarelainen affirms.

“In 2021 three themes will be highlighted in our collaboration: leading hybrid work and well-being at work, further developing diversity and inclusion, and creating business opportunities around Green Electrification, which combines digitalization and sustainable development,” Laukkanen concludes.

With 50 years' experience, Aalto EE develops world-class Customized Solutions to help our clients address current and future business challenges. Our jointly created and designed solutions are based on a combination of solid expertise, customer insight, concrete action, and an experimental approach. Read more

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