Dow Corning optimises its sales forces in Europe thanks to telework and IBM Learning Services

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Brussels - 07 Dec 2000: - Dow Corning called in IBM Learning Services (a division of IBM Global Services) to train its European sales representatives and sales managers in telework. Strong with its own experience, IBM also gives strategic human resources advice.

At Dow Corning, the telework project is part of its sales force re-engineering. An initiative led by Philippe Rovere, a Dow Corning Customer Focus Manager, and assisted by Patricia van Eyll, Telework Project Implementer, the project represents two man-years of full-time work. It has three main objectives:
· Improve response times and communication with customers;
· Provide a better balance between private life and work. In particular, eliminating the time wasted on the road between home and the office, customers and sales office. The nerve centres of companies are increasingly located outside large cities, while Dow Corning's European sales offices are located in city centres (such as Lyon, France, Wiesbaden,Germany, Milan,Italy, Meriden,U.K., and Barcelona,Spain);
· Optimise costs and create added value, by bringing the sales force closer to the customers.

"As one of the companies that have led the way in telework, IBM was able to share its experience with us, and gave us valuable advice. Becoming a teleworker is not that easy, it requires guidance. The future sales and the strategy of Dow Corning depend on this change," Rovere said.

Dow Corning faced three major challenges to make its telework project a success. In a first stage, it was necessary to standardise the computer equipment. After a test phase to validate its technology choices, Dow Corning opted for the latest-generation IBM Thinkpad, which offer a good compromise between weight, mobility and performance.

During the pilot experiment, the sales representatives immediately experienced productivity gains. Nevertheless, a second problem arose: the balance between working life and home life is fragile for the teleworker. In order to overcome this problem, and align with Dow Corning's objectives, IBM provided specific HR support for telework. This is an integral part of the training provided to sales staff and is fully incorporated in Dow Corning's telework guidelines.

"To telework efficiently from home, it is necessary to have a separate room to re-create a working environment", explained Philippe Rovere. "In case our sales representatives do not have a separate room at home, we are prepared to help them move home or help them convert their attic into an office, for example".
To face up to the third major challenge relating to relations with colleagues, Dow Corning organises meetings without a fixed agenda, which are held regularly in the sales offices. The sales staff can drop into the sales office of their choice to meet with colleagues, without this being compulsory. IBM provided assistance in reporting and managing remote contacts.

"All our sales representatives and sales managers in Europe were trained within 18 months", Rovere added. "At present, 80% of them have already switched to telework. We organise regular satisfaction audits. After having noticed a slight resistance to change, the results are increasingly positive. The majority of teleworkers don't want to change back to working at a sales office. Some of them have even moved to be closer to their customers. That is an additional bonus for Dow Corning," he said.

Dow Corning's sales representatives and sales managers were trained by IBM Learning Services at La Hulpe (Belgium). Their training ranged between 2½ and 5 days. The first five half-days are compulsory. The minimum technical requirements to connect and the basic recommendations (time and space management) for telework were taught there. Five other optional half-days allow them to learn or improve their skills using the most common software. The sales managers also received an additional day's training about coaching.

"We are really delighted by the professionalism of the handling of our trainees and the training courses provided by IBM Learning Services", adds Rovere. "The training instructors are capable of putting their students into practical situations, so that they do not encounter any negative aspects of telework".

About Dow Corning
Dow Corning, which develops, manufactures and markets diverse silicon-based products, currently offers more than 10,000 products to customers around the world. Dow Corning is a global leader in silicon-based materials with shares equally owned by The Dow Chemical Company and Corning Incorporated. More than half of Dow Corning's sales are outside the United States. For further information :

About IBM and IBM Global Services.
IBM is the world's leading e-business company offering a wide range of services and solutions that help businesses take full advantage of emerging innovation like smart technologies. IBM Global Services is the world's largest information technology services provider, with 1999 revenues of more than 32 billion USD. Services is the fastest growing part of IBM, with more than 140,000 professionals serving customers in 160 countries. IBM Global Services integrates IBM's broad range of capabilities - services, hardware, software and research - to help companies of all sizes realise the full value of information technology. For more information on IBM : For more information on IBM Learning Services :

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