With more than 800,000 customers and counting, Christina Parr, corporate manager of learning and development for Brink’s Home Security, said that much of the company’s success is built on its ability to retain existing customers. “How do you do that?” she asked. “That’s where training comes into play, in many shapes.”
Growth has changed the way Brink’s looks at its internal learning initiatives. Like most companies, Parr said, Brink’s was interested in reducing the costs of training employees, while increasing the speed to market. Other challenges the company could address through training include employee turnover and improving employee morale, which in turn improves customer satisfaction levels. To address these challenges, Brink’s implemented a learning management system from Pathlore, integrating it with portal technology from Computer Associates to provide a complete knowledge management solution.
“The portal is the platform that enables us to have multiple applications work from the same location,” said Parr. Employees go to the portal site and from there have access to company communications, department communications and the information they need as individual employees—personalized development plans, personalized transcripts, online course catalogs, learning news and human resources information, like pay and time off. “The reason that we purchased the portal was the ability to manage knowledge from multiple areas of the company,” said Parr. She added, “We needed a way to organize the volume of data that’s inherent with any large company so that everyone is really on par with the latest and greatest policies and procedures and all the latest happenings.”
The addition of the LMS has allowed Brink’s Home Security to increase its learning offerings, providing more e-learning and blended learning options to its various audiences. For example, Parr said, “marketing is an area, just like other areas, such as finance, where we have to find very specialized content that will answer their needs. That’s something we’d like to be able to answer in an e-mode, an e-learning mode. And then, of course, if we need augmentation, then we realize that they may need to go to an off-site seminar of some sort.”
Blended learning has helped Brink’s deal with what Parr called “the 33 Rule” when it comes to training the company’s security sales consultants, or SSCs. The SSCs come to the corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas, for a one-week course that helps them understand the sales process, but prior to attending that training, they must complete four prerequisite online courses. “As you know, what you get is the 33 Rule when you have any training class, which is basically that 33 percent who are far below where you’re starting, 33 percent who are right at it, and 33 percent who’ve already been there done that, and it’s too basic for them,” said Parr. “So what we’re trying to do is level the playing field so everyone walks into the course with the same amount of data, and you can really hit the ground running.”
Installation technicians receive several different types of training, including on the job, where they have to shadow other technicians. They also are able to take online courses through kiosks at the branches, but ensuring that the technicians are computer-literate can be a challenge. “We have a lot of people that are out in the field a lot of the time, so some of our challenges are around just trying to get people to a computer, ensuring that they are computer-literate, especially if you’re talking about a field technician who during the day is up in attics installing systems,” said Parr. “It may not be his first priority—how to work the latest and greatest computer. So we need to make sure they’re up to speed.”
In addition to being able to offer blended learning options, Brink’s has also been able to use its LMS to repurpose learning modules for its various populations. “About a year ago, we went in to analyze the courses that we had in the organization, and lo and behold, we’ve got four courses on components, and they’re all different, with different interpretations, and imagine that,” said Parr. “It can happen very easily because when groups are working independently, of course, they’re working toward their own needs. So what the Pathlore learning management system has done for us is enabled us to pool all those resources so we don’t have to re-create the wheel every time we want or need a course.”
In addition, Parr said, Brink’s Home Security uses the LMS to keep track of compliance for its monitoring department. “We are certified by the Underwriters Laboratory,” said Parr. “We have required training for our monitoring operators—it has to be done every year. It’s required by the state, so of course we have to keep up with that.” Before implementing the LMS, Parr said Brink’s kept track of compliance data through a database or spreadsheets. Now, the information is kept in the LMS, making it more accessible when it is needed.
Parr said that by offering learning to its employees, Brink’s is able to address some of its problems with turnover in specific employee populations. For example, Brink’s customer care employees who make up its contact center see high turnover. “We’re trying to improve our processes and improve our learning offerings, among many other things, so that we can drive down the turnover that’s oftentimes inherent in the position,” said Parr. “Right now, we have development plans set up for those folks, so that when they come in they know that they have the ability to move forward within the organization.” In addition, Brink’s offers a tuition reimbursement plan, to encourage employees to work with Brink’s as they go through school. “And, of course, we would like to move them through the organization once they receive their degree,” Parr added.
In a recent employee survey, Brink’s scored well in terms of employee satisfaction with the company and with the online learning. Out of more than 760 responses to the employee opinion survey, on a 1-to-4 scale, the responses ranged from 3 to 3.5, said Parr. And in another report with 52 respondents, the online learning scored very well in terms of ease of navigation, overall rating of the module from a learning standpoint and look and feel. “When asked, ‘What would you change?’ and this to me was a real shocker, of course, the number one answer was nothing,” said Parr. “But the shocker answer to me was, ‘More tests.’ The beauty of the online system is you can test 14 different times.” And while Brink’s is not interested in tracking each employee’s lowest test scores, Parr said it does want to make sure its employees have all the data they need and are utilizing the data with customers.
Ultimately, Parr said the LMS will become a central repository for all of the training data in the company to provide easier access to information on the cost and efficient utilization of the various learning tools the company has at its disposal. “We’re working with every group to ensure that they’re trained, up and ready to go so that they can enter all their data,” Parr said. “And the end goal is that we want to be able to run one report that says of all these groups, here’s what we spend in training, and here’s what we saved by working with e-learning, instructor-led learning, maybe even blended learning and all the other reports that we want.”
In the future, Parr said Brink’s Home Security would like to provide learning to its employees from home, although being a security company, the security issues around accessing the company’s systems from off-site might make this project more difficult. “That’s something that’s normally no problem, but we’re a security company, so we’re a little nuts about security,” said Parr. “If it took anyone else two months, it’s going to take us 10, so no one could get into any system that would jeopardize what we do.”
In addition, the company would like to offer learning through its portal to its sister companies under The Brink’s Company umbrella: Brink’s, the security transportation company, and BAX Global, a supply chain and transportation solutions company.
All of this must take place as Brink’s Home Security continues to repurpose its existing content for the various departments and works with third-party vendors to provide additional content. Ultimately, all of this will contribute to a blended learning solution for the company, leveraged through the LMS.
“We’re looking at this point to try to hit an 80-20—80 percent being instructor-led and 20 percent being online learning,” said Parr. “It’s a work in progress. …We’re not trying to get rid of instructors—we believe in the blended learning model. And we want all of our populations to be able to get learning. We’re trying to make sure that all of our populations can receive training when needed.”