As a Fortune Global 500 technology company, Lenovo’s workforce of skilled talent helps reshape and reimagine computing intelligence for a better world. From computer engineers to sales representatives, Lenovo prioritizes training their future leaders to ensure success as the business evolves – and continuous learning and development (L&D) is key to long-term success.
Lenovo is the world’s largest PC vendor and serves customers in over 180 markets. The tech giant is respected for its high-quality and innovative technology products, solutions, and services. With a reputation like Lenovo, there is no question why the $70 billion tech company invests so much in the development of its people.
One of the ways the tech organization invests in its people is through Lenovo’s Accelerated Sales Rotational (LASR) program. The LASR program is a two-year sales development program that recruits top university graduates with a passion for technology and an aptitude for sales. The immersive program includes sales training, rotational business and education in skillsets like professional development, public speaking and communicating effectively on camera.
Established in 2013, the LASR program was inspired by the need to create early career opportunities to attract talent on college campuses. “We were surrounded by phenomenal universities, but we really did not have many early career opportunities within Lenovo to leverage when recruiting on campus,” Kim Johnson, executive director and chief sales enablement officer at Lenovo, says. It also served as a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy to recruit and hire diverse and underrepresented talent. Lenovo recognizes that breakthroughs aren’t born in a bubble and that diversity is essential to constant innovation. To date, the job rotational program for aspiring sales reps has helped 12 generations of industry leaders. Let’s take a look at how Lenovo uses its LASR program to drive the organization’s talent readiness.
LASR Program Overview
The LASR program facilitates early career development to grow the company’s talent into future leaders. The program uses a comprehensive interview and selection process, recruiting top talent from accredited colleges and universities. To ensure diverse representation for marginalized and underrepresented workers, Lenovo also recruits talent from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and outreaches to female students in the tech space.
Once accepted into the program, new sales representatives, or “LASRs,” go through an immersive, hands-on sales training experience. The sales reps go through a total of four job rotations in the span of two years. In the first year, LASRs go through three rotations working on teams within Lenovo’s different business units, consumer small business, and relationship sales departments: The first two rotations are the duration of a quarter (three months) each and the third rotation lasts up to two quarters. The second year of the accelerated program is a full year of training in their actual inside sales role. The rotations take the LASRs through each function of the sales cycle, bridging the gap between each skill set to ensure they are set up for success.
Within the first six months of the job rotation program, LASRs participate in master-level curriculum for both written and verbal skills. These courses include soft skills in professional development, presentation skills and public speaking. The LASR program utilizes graduate professor Dr. Tom Flood from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to deliver in-person training to LASRs at a graduate level. Lenovo also contracts Karin Reed, chief executive officer of Speaker Dynamics, a corporate communications training firm, to facilitate on-camera training to help LASRs develop virtual communication skills.
Gaining Leadership Buy-in
As with any new training program, one of the main challenges can be gaining leadership buy-in. In the first year of the LASR program, the idea was well received, but there were a few challenges in getting other department managers to participate. For example, some of the hiring managers were concerned about ramp to productivity and how long it would take for these recent college graduates to become proficient in their roles.
They were more in favor of hiring insides sales reps with at least two to three years business experience versus a recent graduate with little to no prior working experience. Managers and team leads were also unsure how they would manage the different “rotations,” especially since the LASRs would only be assuming the role temporarily.
In many ways, the LASR program gained buy-in from its success. To help ease hiring managers’ concerns, the program’s sponsors – Lenovo’s inside sales executive and e-commerce executive – adopted a new approach to the recruitment and selection process. They worked closely with career counseling centers at local universities to reshape recruitment, adding more in-depth interview opportunities with presentations and panels. They also partnered with the talent acquisitions team to ensure success to these new changes.
To increase the speed to productivity for program participants, the program’s sponsors focused on creating an engaging onboarding and learning experience. They partnered with Lenovo’s learning and development (L&D) team to curate interactive and engaging learning solutions, with a big focus on creating a smooth transition from one job rotation to the next. The program sponsors also partnered with human resources (HR) to ensure that each business rotation had meaningful projects that could be accomplished within a rotation period.
LASRs Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the LASR program had to quickly pivot to a virtual modality. Traditionally, the program was in person from the interview process to onboarding and beyond. However, despite the sudden shift to a remote work model, Lenovo’s community never lost sight of that in-person interaction. The LASR program went out of its way to preserve connectivity and engagement through human-centered activities and networking events, like voluntary coffee chats, virtual happy hours and book clubs.
The team also utilizes breakout sessions in their workshops and encourages LASRs to have their cameras on during meetings to help maintain that same level of engagement and interaction with their learners. Despite the many changes and pivots that Lenovo has needed to make, the program has seamlessly adapted to a new normal without a dip in performance. Attributing to this success is the team’s focus on soliciting feedback from participants and employees to improve the program year over year. While the framework may stay the same each year, the overall experience is adjusted based on the feedback.
Opportunities for Career Development and Growth
Lenovo’s job rotation program provides sales reps with transferable skills that can help drive their performance – while giving them exposure to different areas of the business. Based on an inside sales representative’s continued work ethic, accomplishments, cost per sale (CPS) scores and individual development plans (IDPs), they can be considered for future opportunities beyond their current sales role. Many LASRs move into hybrid account manager, field executive, and inside sales leadership roles in the organization.
But the LASR program isn’t only beneficial for moving up in sales. Some of the LASR sales reps progress their careers outside of the sales department. For instance, an inside sales rep may want to transition from sales into another role. By going through the LASR program, they have the reputation and network to pivot into another department, like product management or marketing. So instead of having to leave Lenovo to change careers, inside sales reps can leverage their skills and move into a new role within the company.
Since the implementation of the LASR program, Lenovo has seen an increase in employee retention and career pathways. In fact, the program’s success in North America has led other regions in the company to adopt the model and framework. Overall, the LASR program is a win-win for the company and its employees – helping Lenovo retain existing talent while providing employees with transferable skills that can push their careers in new directions.