- Ninety percent of employee training was still being done in classrooms.
- There was an uneven distribution of training resources worldwide.
In Rochester, N.Y., where the company is headquartered, employees had many educational opportunities. But among the company’s operations in 57 other countries, training resources and employees were often scarce.
“We have a long-standing commitment to each employee to provide opportunities for professional development,” said Catherine Nowaski, director of e-learning at Eastman Kodak Company. “The challenge is delivering that training globally and cost-effectively.”
The solution: Element K was chosen to develop and implement E-Campus, Kodak’s learning management portal. Through Element K’s KnowledgeHub, Kodak offers access to hundreds of courses.
To introduce employees to this new anytime/anywhere e-learning program, Kodak formed a global team with representatives from each region and many departments—training, IT, even purchasing.
“Our global team is crucial to the success of E-Campus,” said Nowaski. “We make sure that information is flowing, alliances are built and efforts aren’t being duplicated.”
One of the first to take advantage of E-Campus was the Latin American region (LAR). Milton Maretti, LAR’s human resources director, was an early champion for the effort. He knew that e-learning involved a fundamental change from group to independent learning, so rather than a huge rollout, “grassroots” change agents were used to start the program. A series of teams was created in the various countries within LAR. More than 100 individuals were trained on the applications, the benefits of e-learning and even simple problem-solving techniques.
“These change agents are not professional trainers—they’re more like ‘super users,’” Nowaski noted. “They’re people right in your department or workgroup that you can go to if you have a question.”
Nowaski explained that the LAR change agents never miss an opportunity to promote e-learning and what it can do for employees. They produce a bi-monthly e-newsletter, create posters and often attend vendor fairs, presentations and other learning events. This first wave of early adopters encouraged more people to start using the technology, and eventually these pockets of success spread throughout the organization. Today, more than 80 percent of LAR employees are registered on E-Campus.
“We’re talking about 3,000 people with different languages, concerns and challenges all coming together around e-learning and advancing employee development,” Nowaski said. “This is remarkable, and other regions are learning a great deal from LAR’s success.”
Kodak has found that change agents are especially effective when it comes to planning the implementation of global learning initiatives. In the United States, the company has a number of educational specialists who act as change agents—working with their clients and getting them excited about e-learning. However, in other parts of the world, gaining acceptance can be more challenging.
“Different cultures have different ways of learning—some are very socially oriented and find it important to have learning groups,” Nowaski said. “So in many cases, we’re moving to a more ‘blended’ solution that includes both classroom training and self-study.”
Change agents come from all areas of the organization. Some of the earliest adopters were the IT professionals themselves—they were keeping their skills current by taking online certification programs. Even employees on the manufacturing floor are taking advantage of the new opportunities.
“I just received a very positive e-mail from someone in one of our manufacturing facilities with 200 employees,” Nowaski said. “In a situation like that, you don’t always have a computer to use or a dedicated training area, but these people still need and want training—and they’re finding E-Campus very valuable.”
For employees who don’t have Internet access in their work areas, Kodak has set up more than 150 learning centers and walk-up computers throughout its facilities worldwide.
Nowaski recommends that companies considering e-learning initiatives conduct pilots, evaluate their results closely, incorporate lessons learned and then move forward. “There are definitely cost savings if you do it right—you don’t have the instructors’ fees, facility charges or travel costs associated with classroom learning,” she said. “In our initial business case, we projected a cash flow rate of return of about 120 percent.”
But that’s not the main priority for Kodak. “Our top managers are more concerned that the e-learning effort is tied to our business strategy,” said Nowaski. “In our organization, e-learning is related to operational excellence and achieving our business goals.”
Susan Stim is public relations manager for Element K.