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  • Irina Ketkin - Learning and Development Expert

My year in Telenor

On 3 October 2016 I joined the People and Organisation Development team in Telenor Bulgaria. I was full of hope and excitement. And even though on 5 October 2017 I left the company, my expectations were far exceeded.

In my one year in Telenor I accomplished so many things and grew exponentially. Before I begin my story, I must start at the end. The reason for my departure was because it became very difficult to combine a demanding full-time job with a CIPD Level 5 diploma in L&D. If anyone is able to combine the two successfully – kudos. Alas, I am not one of those people. I firmly believe that if you want to do something, you better do it right; otherwise, don’t start it at all. And unfortunately for my team, I had to learn this the hard way.

Now I am ready to start with my story about my year in Telenor.

One of the very first things I set to do was meet as many people as possible – from my colleagues in HR, to the C-level and business leaders. I knew that this was going to be key in any successful initiative I launched going forward. Any opportunity I had to build personal relationships with the people around me – I took it!

Next it was time to begin the dreaded Training or Development Needs Analysis. With an organisation the size of Telenor, I knew I had to have help. So, I ‘recruited’ my wonderful ‘partners in crime’ – the HR Business Partners. For some of them this was brand new, others had participated in similar initiatives. Bottom line – they were all excited. They had to talk to their business leaders and manager in the span of 2 months and collect as many needs as the managers could foresee. It was important to manage their expectations and they did it perfectly. The result was stunning – we had a list of over 200 job-specific topics, around 20 conferences and approximately 30 soft skills subjects people wanted to develop in. Next came the prioritisation. Because there were only 2 people responsible for L&D in a company of almost 3000 people, we had to be very careful about where we spent our time. After another round of dialogues with the managers, we were ready to begin sourcing for ways to meet the business' expectations. To conclude this story, I must tell you about another accomplishment I am very proud of.

When I first joined the company, I realised that online learning was hardly used. Considering all the latest trends in L&D, it was only logical to me to try out eLearning in some shape or form. And to make the transition as easy as possible, I decided to experiment with the introduction of blended learning. That is, blending online learning with classroom workshops. Another discovery I made as a result of many conversations with employees and their managers was that full-day classroom sessions used until then were not effective – they took too much time, made people tired and the knowledge retention was close to nil. That meant that blended is not enough – it had to be short and effective as well. End result – with the help of LinkedIn Learning and a bit of careful planning, we managed to design 3 trainings that followed a simple approach:

  1. Theoretical preparation done online with a careful selection of courses and/or videos

  2. 3 to 4-hour classroom workshop that focuses entirely on the practical application of the topic at hand.

The feedback was overwhelming – people loved and were heads over heels recommending it to their buddies at work. They could do the prep anytime from anywhere – as long as they had their phones, and the classroom session took as long as 2 meetings, which they were used to anyways. The fact that they walked out of there with actual practical tools they could use back on the job to me was the greatest accomplishment of them all.

So back the TNA. Now that we had a list of all topics employees were interested in and they were prioritised, we could sit down and think of which had to happen offline and which could be done online. Of course, some of the decisions had to be made by the managers themselves. But after that our job was to find the most relevant courses. By the time I had left, around 80% of all requested courses were executed in one form or another.

“That’s great!”, you’d say, “But how did you get the organisation to use eLearning if they’ve never done it before?” And that would be a fantastic questions, that gives me the opportunity to tell you a little bit about some of the crazier things we did.

First there was #LearningDays2017. It was a company-wide event that our colleagues from Internal Communications helped organise. During the day we had several session that anyone could attend and hear what are the thing we plan to offer throughout the year. Some were as a result of our alignment with the company strategy – Agile methodology and Service Design; others – by our internal portfolio, the eLearning, the blended learning, the internal innovation platform and so on. It was one of the most fun days I’ve had. Of course, organising such a thing meant that we were in the office until 2 am the night before. But after some time, you only remember the good stuff – and #LearningDays2017 was definitely one of the good ones!

We also took advantage of Workplace (a product by Facebook that allows companies to use the social media only within the boundaries of the company). We created a dedicated group called Learning @ Telenor Bulgaria. We would advertise any new courses or initiatives we were planning, answering questions and promoting interesting content we found online.

Finally, and I consider this to be the more traditional (or boring) approach – we aligned with everyone who’s anyone – from Top Management, to our CHRO, to key business leaders and regular employees. Those were countless hours of meetings with the sole purpose to get buy-in for this new approach. And I know it sounds tedious but there are 2 great advantages to aligning with different people:

  1. you get to meet and talk to them and, thus, build stronger personal relationships; and

  2. more people know about what you do, therefore can become your champions throughout the organisation.

And all of this happened in the first 3 months. I will tell you about everything else in the second part coming next week.

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