Benoit Savard has been leading operations within large-scale organizations for more than 25 years, creating ecosystems that support behavioral change. Based in Canada, Benoit is a partner at consulting firm Humance and founder of Skillable, an e-learning company focused on behavior change.
And he is passionate about transformation.
“Humance is a business and human-centric consulting firm that helps organizations drive performance through meaningful culture,” explains Benoit. “We believe that if performance is the end result, culture is the means.”
If the transformation of an organization starts from within, individuals need the tools, support, and training to grow. “In a professional or societal context, humans have to be able to rely on a system that supports learning and behavioral change.”
Benoit is co-leader of the Leadership & Team Development practice at his firm and is accountable for a team of 25 people working on behavior change initiatives. More than two decades ago, he founded Skillable (acquired by Humance in 2019) as a training firm that ran short workshops focused on essential skill building. But, in 2010, he shifted the company’s focus to micro-learning and behavior change supported by technology.
“We asked ourselves, ‘can we train people when they work?’ Could we create more and better change by helping people learn through a mix of self-directed, team, and applied learning? After hundreds of surveys and three years of research, we developed a methodology-based behavior change support system. It’s a mix of methodology and technology, paced over several weeks, in which we focus on specific behavior we want people to shift.”
Benoit’s team is involved in numerous initiatives including a 16-week online program designed to drive women’s ambition in the global workplace in collaboration with Effet-A powered by Odandy, which has been completed by more 3,000 women to date, and several entrepreneurship programs in partnership with École d'entrepreneurship de Beauce and Desjardins. One such partnership was launched during COVID to help nearly 1000 entrepreneurs adopt specific behaviors that would help them better manage their teams and client relationships.
The teacher becomes the student
Benoit began his MIT Sloan Executive Education journey in 2017 with three goals in mind.
First, he wanted to better understand how to leverage the latest technology for value creation in an organization. He enrolled in courses on digital business models, enterprise-wide transformation, and platform strategy. This combination of courses enabled his own company to build a new roadmap for the future.
Second, Benoit wanted to ensure he was up to speed on some of the latest professional development content, from the trends around neuroscience and leadership to creating inquiry-based cultures.
And third, he wanted to take a deep dive into digital marketing, process design, and analytics, so that his firm could better operationalize what they were doing.
As he worked toward his Advanced Certificate for Executives (ACE), Benoit was able to choose courses that best suited his company’s needs at that moment in time. Of the many courses he completed, those led by Hal Gregersen, including Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, and Change, were perhaps most responsible for a shift in his thinking,
“I credit these courses with providing a new way to observe the world and a perspective shift for looking at problems in an organization … and asking the bigger questions, the better questions. Getting to the ‘why’ — this has really been resonating with my company.”
Benoit was able to take the majority of his course at MIT in person, before the pandemic. “Sometimes that face to face experience, that immersion, is invaluable,” says Benoit. “But in-person and online learning can be very complimentary. In both formats, people in the MIT community are very generous. And the faculty do a wonderful job of supporting people and creating a safe space.”
He adds, “While virtual learning has been available for quite some time, the shift to a predominantly online learning model has opened up so many possibilities. Now learners can access and directly interact with some of the greatest faculty in the world, at the greatest institutions. It’s very exciting.”
Humance has also been responsive during the pandemic, providing services to help schools with their necessary pivot to online learning. “We are normally in the corporate world, but the schools really needed help. Quebec was not ready for an entirely virtual teaching platform. Perhaps no one was. It was a very rewarding and interesting experience for us.”
Today, Benoit is in a very exciting transition phase, as he shifts to an advisory role with the company and takes on a new focus: behavior change at scale. “How can we do big initiatives and create behavior change in the area of social transformation?” It’s a meaningful new chapter for this seasoned leader who is ready and eager to make an impact on a grand scale. We have no doubt that he will.