Ciena, an American telecommunications networking equipment and software company, needed a new learning tool to support their people and make it easy and enjoyable to access learning and development within the flow of work. They were also looking for this tool to complement the launch of a new commitment to their people and culture.
This new commitment was the People Promise, developed to create an atmosphere where, at Ciena, together everyone can make a difference, are empowered, and feel included to create a culture of happiness, vibrancy, and belonging. This had been developed as part of an overarching commitment to diversity and inclusion, well-being, community engagement, and corporate responsibility.
The Ciena team wanted to give this promise life when it was launched and began looking for a new learning tool to support quick, easy access to bite-sized pieces of learning content aligned to their culture that individuals could consume anywhere, at any time.
This tool would also need to support their core value of Innovation and help build the current and future skills their workforce needed in a way that aligned with the new People Promise commitment.
They found this tool in Blue Ocean Brain’s microlearning solution.
Branch Out is born
The Ciena Corporate Learning & Development (L&D) team worked with Blue Ocean Brain to design a learning hub aligned to their company culture. Part of that was the People Promise being built around Ciena’s belief that their success is rooted in their people; just as a tree is supported by its roots, so is Ciena. Thus, Branch Out, Ciena’s internal name for Blue Ocean Brain, was born.
Ciena’s goals for Branch Out were twofold:
- By launching Branch Out at the same time they launched the People Promise, they aimed to boost engagement with the initiative by delivering a progressive approach to learning that would help individuals “bump into” and easily interact with learning aligned to who they are as a company while allowing their people to grow personally and within their careers.
- Enable their people to quickly upskill in critical areas by providing bite-sized, high-impact content consumable within the flow of their work.
Branch Out takes root
Powered by Blue Ocean Brain, Branch Out would enable Ciena to combine its overall L&D strategy with its brand-new People Promise commitment, ensuring a connection between the initiative and the people it was designed to support.
Blue Ocean Brain designed Branch Out to deliver innovation for the company by providing a way for Ciena to modernize its learning technologies, moving away from traditional in-person training events with long-form content to a sleek user experience accessible to everyone and designed with the brain in mind. The globally relevant content, built to be easily digestible while also offering actionable takeaways, represented a brand-new way to learn and grow at Ciena.
For Ciena learners, this new Netflix-style learning hub would create a one-stop-shop learning and development experience. Because of its consumer-grade design and ease of use, Blue Ocean Brain also designed Branch Out to serve as a hub for one-click access to Ciena’s other learning resources.
To further boost accessibility and engagement for Ciena learners, Blue Ocean Brain developed a single sign-on experience, weekly email nudges, integrations with Ciena's Slack channels, and an iFrame entry point for Ciena’s SharePoint intranet.
And with Blue Ocean Brain's mobile app, Ciena learners would now be able to receive and consume learning anytime, anywhere, making professional development truly achievable within the flow of their work.
Using Blue Ocean Brain’s AI technology, Branch Out would also offer a library of over 1500 microlearning lessons designed to provide just-in-time learning and serve users a view of content that targets their preferences and guides them on a continuous learning journey.
Additionally, with the help of their Blue Ocean Brain team, Ciena leaders could easily curate unique learning pathways and special lesson packages in support of their strategic business priorities. These lesson packages could be flexibly used to suit various business needs across the organization such as diversity and inclusion initiatives or for targeted teams in need of certain upskilling or development.
Seeing results from Branch Out
The benefits of Branch Out are most evident in Ciena employees’ sustained enthusiasm and engagement since its post-pilot launch: between June 2020 and April 2021, 83 percent of their people learned with the program, accessing over 50,000 articles and 27,000 brain challenges.
Ciena has also continued to leverage the Blue Ocean Brain team to create over 20 separate custom learning pathways featuring specially curated lessons. In one example, for Ciena’s internal Talent Acquisition Team, Blue Ocean Brain designed a learning pathway that focuses on the qualities and traits of strong recruiters that can be utilized by the team’s leader who leverages the learning topics during global team calls.
Another learning pathway was designed for their people leaders, with curated lessons on Leading from a Distance, Recruitment Bias, Developing Others & Coaching Your Team, Keeping Your Team Happy & Engaged, Inclusive leadership, Time Management, and New Leader Essentials.
Additionally, the breadth and depth of learning content within the platform have helped expand its impact even beyond what was originally hoped for. Branch Out is now being incorporated into other strategic programs such as Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging and Global Well-being. Ciena leaders find valuable benefit in being able to leverage Branch Out lessons in their internal communications, including their regular People Stories articles, where they highlight a Ciena team member and include a relevant Branch Out lesson recommendation as part of the story, further demonstrating the relevance and leadership support.
It’s clear from learner feedback that Branch Out is providing unique value to their people:
“Although we have a great diversity of employees/colleagues working in our community, there is always room to learn and reinforce some important concepts. Just to mention one example: the learning about “Understanding Equity vs. Equality” was very good, which includes very good videos as well.”
“I really believe that this type of learning helps improve our ability to learn new topics or improve our knowledge base on topics that are very important for our day-by-day work environment. The method used is also very dynamic and straightforward forward which gives a good level of detail without being so extensive, just right to the point.”
“A lot of this content curated really resonated with me, especially the unsolicited commentary module.”
With the launch of Branch Out, Ciena L&D leaders have learned that there is an appetite within their business for an accessible, relevant learning program that marries personal development opportunities with their People Promise initiative. Moving forward, they’ve expanded their relationship with Blue Ocean Brain to increase their offerings in the Branch Out tool to build more curated content and programs.
The outlook for Branch Out is strong. Ciena leadership and learners alike not only jumped in quickly and became avid users and proponents of the learning and development program, but they’ve also steadily increased their engagement since launch. Branch Out has proven to be and will continue to serve as a critical people development tool in Ciena’s learning and development ecosystem.