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The Train Gang

New hires and their experienced colleagues benefit from Kimberly-Clark’s Skill Masters program


Some words, when paired together, are just plain cringe worthy. Take for instance, “the weekend’s over,” ‘’we need to talk” and “employee training.” The last two usually come by way of a memo that partially reads something like “In order to assure the highest levels of quality work and productivity… .” The gasps can be heard all the way from the office cubicles to the C-suite.


Still, employee training is important, and the approach is key.
As a new Director of Sales, I conducted an informal survey to see what types of learning were most accepted and valued by my teams. The results surprised me initially, with only 15 percent of the team responding that company-led classroom training was essential to their job performance. Much more important to them was collaborative working within the team, learning from others with the same job, and having a mentor or other designated person who is not your manager to lean on for advice and help.


After giving it some thought, I began to understand why people prefer a personalized approach over a structured classroom environment. Our always-on culture and access to technology have taught us to expect unlimited, free and on-demand information that can be customized to our needs. Looking for a sushi restaurant with great reviews that is open late? Check Yelp. Want to know the fastest route to the airport at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday? There are a host of apps for that. With all of these options available in our lives, why would we expect our workforce to prefer a “one size fits all” training program?


At Kimberly-Clark Professional, one of the key drivers of our business is the message around our customer-preferred brands. Scott® is the most popular restroom brand in North America, and our teams need to be able to articulate how using the products helps customers meet their business needs. If we don’t have training standards and a line of sight into how our teams do this, our message may not get through.


So how do we ensure our people stay engaged and informed in today’s on demand and personalized world? To help solve the issue, we developed a program called Skill Masters. The objective of the program is to train new hires while also giving experienced sales professionals a leadership development opportunity. Here’s how it works:


  • Each new hire is paired with an experienced salesperson called a Skill Master. We provide baseline coaching training for our Skill Masters as they enter the pairing. As part of the training, the new hire travels to work with the Skill Master for on-the-job training, and then the Skill Master goes to work with the new hire in their market. This provides a personalized training experience through real-time coaching opportunities.
  • The new hire and the Skill Master agree on a 6-month training and coaching agenda that meets a set business objective. The objective could be something like hitting a certain sales goal or improving average response time on customer requests. The training agenda and objectives are approved by Sales leadership and our capability team in order to maintain oversight of the process and ensure the Skill Master is providing the right coaching and training to reach the goal.
  • Recognition is given through internal social media networks, and success is rewarded through compensation. By documenting progress in a public forum and providing a monetary award to both the Skill Master and the new hire when the objective is met, the program becomes more than just another mentoring exercise or “one more initiative.”


The Skill Masters program allows us to utilize the skills of our top talent, while also providing our new hires with on-demand, personalized support and training that enables them to quickly learn the skills they need. Another benefit is that we start to develop a more robust leadership pipeline, as Skill Masters allows for real-world coaching experience. As you review your training and on boarding programs, I’d encourage you to think about opportunities to meet your business needs while also leveraging talent across the organization by providing personalized training.


While there may still the need for some classroom training, augmenting it with the Skill Masters program has helped us accelerate our training results.



By Sylvia Imm, Director of Sales Kimberly-Clark, West Region and Mexico