Ongoing employee education is crucial to businesses surviving and thriving in competitive and uncertain markets. The delivery of that education, of course, is just as crucial, as different workers respond differently to different modalities. Technology, then, becomes more crucial, as a means of reaching large and varied workforces in various ways. Major corporations today are tapping into technology to educate their associates in cost-effective, time-saving ways that ensure success, build enterprise productivity and make ongoing education more than feasible.
Tim Conlon, corporate director of learning and work environment and chief learning officer for Xerox Corp., is charged with providing learning services for more than 72,000 employees worldwide. Individual workgroups oversee their own content needs, but Conlon works with them to provide the technological backbone for delivering all that education.
“With traditional delivery of training that was dependent on a classroom environment – taking people out of the field and bringing them to a centralized location – the time spent in travel and cost of time out of the field is substantial,” Conlon said. “Now a significant amount of training and development can be done virtually.”
Conlon’s teams are practicing what he’s preaching:
- Xerox completes 75 percent of its sales training online.
- In North America alone, 70 percent of all Xerox training happens online.
- Xerox offers its workforce 200 custom courses and 1,500 off-the-shelf courses, all online.
- The emerging leadership program targets high-potential managers. What started as a two-year program requiring four one-week classroom sessions is now facilitated virtually. It’s now a four- to six-month program with just one or two one-week classroom sessions. That’s brought Xerox a 60 percent reduction in time and cost.
This commitment to virtual training, Conlon said, brings Xerox cost savings and higher productivity, allowing employees to utilize more development opportunities.
“With traditional learning, we would probably try to do more at once, less frequently, and therefore get less penetration and also less retention. There’s just a ton of advantages to it,” Conlon said. “People are very appreciative of the renewed investment in their development and therefore more open to different ways in which to get the development.”
June Maul is CLO for Qwest Communications, overseeing ongoing development for its 56,000 employees through the Performance Solutions Council. Qwest has a comprehensive learning management system that cuts across all business units and a learning content management system used for authoring e-learning and classroom-based education.
“Both work very well,” Maul said. “Learning is about 60 percent delivered via technology, and 40 percent is straight classroom. We select the medium based on audience and the appropriate vehicle. The e-learning and the use of the Internet has added a great deal of value to the business in improving the performance of the business.”
- The majority of Qwest’s product introduction to its sales force is delivered by e-learning, allowing the company to reduce cycle time from about three months to less than a week.
- Qwest offers about 10 new-hire curricula that support new sales and customer care consultants. Ranging between six and 16 weeks, the programs are about 80 percent Web-based and have increased sales performance by about 10 percent annually.
- Qwest also offers a new leadership curriculum to all its employees.
“When you invest the money up front in them, in turn they become fully competent and fairly high-performing, and the performance increases every year in a very short period of time,” Maul said. “In the previous company I was with, we worked a long time to get people to accept e-learning. Here, this is a company with employees that tend to access and use the Web for day-to-day business. Within a month of when we first introduced these libraries, we had 1,500 employees access the e-learning, and we didn’t do a major communication campaign because we wanted to make sure everything would work.”
Obviously, it worked.
“When you look at integrated training, and the range of training, that introduction to technology has allowed us to reduce unit costs by 40 percent,” Maul said. “The unit cost is not the big driver. It’s about all the value we bring to the business and all the value we bring to our employees. It’s not about saving travel and living dollars. This doesn’t even take into account those savings.”