It is becoming clear that the academic model of teaching -the classroom, the linear course- is neither the only nor the best way to provide knowledge at the workplace. In many instances the word teaching is being replaced by learning; the sage on the stage is becoming the guide on the side, and just in case is morphing into a more strategic just in time, just what I need.
The move away from the trappings of the university brings with it a more focused replacement strategy with an emphasis on learner-driven solutions and performance support tools and modules. Most of these changes are designed to increase corporate competitiveness by empowering the knowledge worker and decreasing time to performance.
Unfortunately, the traditional evaluation tools of the field of education – attendance, grades, course completion – continue to obfuscate true return on investment (ROI). They simply don’t give us the measurements we require to capture the economic relationships between increased learning robustness – online learning, simulations and the like – and the bottom line, let alone the ability to compare economic value derived from different online offerings of varying quality and effectiveness.
The search is on for a new set of metrics that will document the relationship between knowledge programs and organizational success. While many organizations are now attempting to measure and monetize the value of each of their learning initiatives, one company has not only measured a positive economic relationship between its e-learning implementation and the bottom line, it also won an industry award for its success.
Monical’s Pizza Corp., a privately held chain of 57 restaurants in the Midwest with 1,300 employees in company-owned and franchised outlets, has been awarded the Workforce Management Optimas Award for Vision after documenting how e-learning has helped it obtain one of the highest retention rates in the industry. In a market where turnover can be as high as 300 percent, Monical’s has been able to lower its restaurant-wide rate to 88 percent – the lowest in the United States in its category – and its management turnover rate to an astounding 5 percent.
Monical’s progressive approach to training and development includes a new blended learning program based on Harvard ManageMentor (HMM), an online performance-support program that provides practical advice, tools and techniques on three-dozen essential business topics. Monical’s introduced the program as a blended learning solution involving both online and face-to-face meetings, encouraging managers to access the online tools on their own as they are required. The implementation program required employees to apply some of the tips and techniques presented in the module while on the job and then meet to discuss the results.
Those results included not only reduced turnover (and therefore reduced operating cost) but also significantly increased unit sales. “Our staff needed to gain knowledge in a way that let them see what impact effective leadership techniques could have on their job effectiveness and the performance of their stores,” said Monical’s President Harry Bond. “Through the program, they got the best of both worlds’ the best business content available and hands-on practice with their peers.”
Most of those using the online management support modules – a sort of always-on electronic mentor – have no formal management training. The online modules are accessed most frequently by Monical’s youngest and least experienced workers, many of whom have only a high school education. “Their enthusiasm for the program has generated tremendous demand from others in the company to use online learning. We look forward to seeing the impact this will have on the entire restaurant and food-service industry,” Bond added.
He may not have to wait long. As a result of the successful Monical’s implementation, in April the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) launched a leadership and management development program tailored to the restaurant, food-service and hospitality industry using Harvard Business School Publishing’s e-learning modules. The program is designed to benefit more than a million current and emerging leaders and managers in the restaurant, food-service and hospitality industry.