Jennifer Saavedra Transforms Learning at Dell Technologies

How Jennifer Saavedra and her team invest in world-class content to reshape the learning and leadership development experience at Dell Technologies

Jennifer Saavedra has always been interested in understanding what inspires people at work. She recalls sitting on an airplane as a young professional and asking the woman next to her what was her name and what she does for work.

Jennifer Saavedra Dell Technologies
Jennifer Saavedra, Dell TechnologiesPhoto: Courtesy of Dell Technologies

“She laughed and said, ‘Isn’t it funny how our first question to others is always about work?’” Saavedra explains. The two spoke more about how professionals spend more awake hours at work, meaning happiness or unhappiness at work spills into all aspects of life. “This motivated me to understand what inspires people to do more than just ‘show up.’”

Saavedra’s graduate research showed how important the leader was in a person’s likelihood to be motivated and drive strong performance. Now as Dell Technologies’ senior vice president of talent and culture, she uses that passion to transform learning and leadership development through the company’s people philosophy.

The people philosophy provides a strong point of view on what it means to work at Dell Technologies, as well as what it means for the company given its purpose to create technologies that drive human progress forward.

“Just as our technology and expertise help our customers achieve their potential, our workplace should do the same for our team members,” Saavedra says. “We should be a place where a team member not only can fulfill their potential but expand it, growing the boundaries of what it means to be their best personally and professionally.”

In the past year, Saavedra and her team have taken the steps to transform learning within the company. They closely examined how corporate learning was happening by completely rethinking the entire learning experience, Saavedra explains. “We put ourselves in our learner’s shoes and examined everything from our content to our learning technology to how we delivered.”

Dell Technologies has a global workforce of more than one hundred and fifty thousand. Saavedra and her team invested in curating world-class content from internal and trusted external sources, expanding the definition of content to go beyond PowerPoint slides or long e-learning modules to include microlearning, videos, articles, user-generated content, and more.

Culture Code at Dell

Dell Technologies’ culture was not created by accident, but rather through hard work and intention. “The power of our culture is unifying, yet it allows team members to bring their full selves to the workplace,” Jennifer Saavedra explains. “They can be who they are and thrive in our culture and our company.”

1. Customers

We believe our customer relationships are the ultimate differentiator and the foundation for our success.

2. Winning Together

We believe in and value our people. We perform better, are smarter, and have more fun working as a team than as individuals.

3. Innovation

We believe our ability to innovate and cultivate breakthrough thinking is an engine for growth, success, and progress.

4. Results

We believe in being accountable to an exceptional standard of excellence and performance.

5. Integrity

We believe integrity must always govern our fierce desire to win.

“The way people learn has changed and so did our approach,” Saavedra notes. “Live” learning evolved from one-way teaching to multidirectional facilitated discussions. “With more facilitation and less teaching, learners can not only learn from their peers, leaders, and experts, but they can also share their own knowledge and experience.”

In the past year, Dell Technologies has made three key learning transformation investments to help employees achieve, develop, grow, and succeed.

1. The Dell Technologies Learning Studio

The Learning Studio is an interactive platform that enables a personalized learning experience with access to content from sources such as LinkedIn Learning, TED Talks, and EdX in addition to internal content specific to the company. Through artificial intelligence, the studio generates recommendations to employees based on their career and learning interests.

Featured pathways within the program align with future skills, professional skills, leadership skills, and business-specific technical learning. One example is the Future Insight podcast series, which provides an inside view of today’s skills and predications of what tomorrow hold through conversations with leaders, team members, subject-matter experts, and industry specialists, Saavedra says.

“Team members can access this and all other content anytime, anywhere, on any device, bringing a consumer-grade experience to corporate learning,” Saavedra explains. “More than just a digital platform, the Learning Studio empowers team members to strengthen relationships and community across the company and support mastery of new skills through practice supported by leading software and peers.”

2. Signature Leadership Development Series

Dell data has shown the impact leadership has on key outcomes, such as employee and customer net promoter scores, attrition, sales, and more. Thus, leadership development efforts are aligned around three programs: Foundations of Leadership for new leaders, Advanced Leadership Experience for managers and senior managers, and Director Leadership Program for directors and senior directors.

The programs provide immersive experiences for leaders to actively participate in workshops where they partake in simulations and hackathons, learn from each other, and get hands-on practice on how to use digital tools and technology.

“We know that leadership inspires our people to be their best and do their best,” Saavedra explains. “It’s the leadership that makes our strategy possible and culture real in each of our teams.”

3. Inspire Recognition and Performance Conversations

The third key technology investment area for Saavedra and her team is a software platform called Inspire. But it is much more than a technology platform, she notes. “This is about culture change and viewing a team member’s impact as holistic from recognition to performance to development.”

The platform is available anywhere from any device, empowering team members to seek and provide recognition, advice, and feedback. This can be private or shared depending on what the team member wants.

“We also enable check-ins to facilitate richer dialogue around impact, priorities, and development between the team member and the leader,” Saavedra explains.

These investments and their successes would not be possible without Saavedra’s agile team, which she says she is so fortunate to be part of. The team created an environment where challenges are welcome and debates positively impact the work they do.

“Importantly, they energize me, are fun, optimistic, ambitious, innovative, and make me laugh,” Saavedra says. “I’m really a coach to set the vision, help connect dots across the team, bridge relationships, and provide them with the right level of coaching, support, guidance, and challenge they need and desire to do great work.”

With a strong team and driven by the mission of driving human progress forward, Saavedra’s impact on learning development has just begun.