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Blended learning for leadership skills at Coats PLC

Coats PLC logo

About Coats PLC

With a rich heritage dating back to the 1750s, Coats is the world's leading industrial thread and consumer textile crafts business.

Key project features

  • Blended learning icon

    Blended learning

  • LMS icon


  • Leadership development icon

    Leadership development

The challenge

Replicating face to face learning online

Coats PLC set new strategic goals aimed at increasing its focus on product innovation. This made it essential for them to build leadership capabilities from within. Coats PLC partnered with Kineo and The Oxford Group to implement a global leadership program for frontline and middle managers, many of whom never had formal leadership training.

Cotton reels on a blue background


A blend of approaches

The blended solution involved a smart use of technology, while also building in appropriate face-to-face time, mentoring, and support for leaders. The 18 month blended leadership development program opened with a two-day face-to-face workshop with managers gathering together in cohorts of 20 from all over the world to learn the basics of Coats' leadership framework.

Characterisation and personas

Over the next 16 months, participants are introduced to eight core leadership competencies. Each competency is given a two-month window, during which individuals complete about 45 minutes of self-paced e-learning modules, broken into a series of shorter resources. The e-learning provides an introduction to key concepts within the context of the Coats' environment. Four virtual characters, each based on different Coats personas, are the key players in the e-learning program, providing fertile ground for realistic examples and scenarios that people can apply to their situation at Coats.

The Coats course

Extend the learning

Activities within each module provide learners with the opportunity to extend their learning outside of the program and take it into the real world. For instance, in the module on decision making, the learners are asked to download the decision making toolkit from the resources tab, identify a decision that they need to make, and then use the toolkit to work through each step. This bridges from the learning experience into sustainable real world business application.

When a participant completes the e-learning program on a particular competency, the learning management system sets up a triggered event: a coaching session for the learner with his or her manager. Conversation guides and tools are provided to help the manager coach and support the employee going through the program. Once the manager signs off on that employee's progress, he or she can then move along to the next stage in the curriculum. So the manager's vital role in coaching and mentoring is baked into the solution.

Building the relationship section of the Coats course on a tablet

Added support

To provide the extra layer of support, all the course participants are assigned cohort groups within the LMS, along with a 'buddy'. Through forum discussions in the LMS, peer-to-peer sharing sessions, and regular real-world check-ins, participants stay connected and share their experiences with each other. As learners progress through the program, webinars are made available to the course delegates on topics ranging from performance management to providing better feedback.

Halfway through the curriculum, a review and consolidation webinar is convened. These instructor-led virtual classrooms provide insight into tools and methods, give the learner a chance to check-in with an instructor, and keep the leadership concepts alive and omnipresent. Once the e-learning portion of the program is completed, participants reconvene in their original group for a one-day consolidation workshop.

A phone displaying a multiple choice quiz from the course


A fully integrated blend

As of July 2014, 280 managers have begun their MCD (Management Capability Development) learning journey, with an additional 60 participants to be added in late 2014. MCD is now fully integrated in all parts of the business, with active cohorts in every region.

By the end of this year, there will be two MCD cohorts in North America, two in Latin America, four in Europe/MiddleEast/Africa, four in South Asia, three in North East Asia and two in South East Asian with many more cohorts launching in all these areas in 2015 and beyond. It is also the winner of a Bronze award in the category of Blended Learning in Brandon Hall Awards 2014.

"MCD provides a perspective of a leader's behavior in a variety of situations. Most often than not, these behaviors will lead to an increase in productivity, a better co-ordination amongst team members, higher achievements and an overall high satisfaction in one's work."

Adhip, Marketing Manager, Coats India

"The content is clear, it can help me to identify my management style as well as staff style to apply to right person and develop people. Through this [MCD eLearning] module I now change my style by spending more time for a dialogue with staff, develop people through staff style."

Nguyen, HRIS Manager, Coats Vietnam