Siemens Medical Solutions Inc. offers an array of products and services for integrated health care, ranging from innovative technologies for accurate diagnoses and therapies to services that optimize processes and increase efficiency. The company’s learning arm, Siemens Medical Academy, uses a learning management system (LMS) to provide online product information and IT training via specialized portals for more than 30,000 registered customers and some 10,000 employees.
Siemens employs a blended approach to training that offers classroom training, self-paced courses, live e-classes and off-line materials to its customer and employee audiences in a variety of areas. These include programming and systems administration, professional development and leadership, and regulatory and compliance training. Continuing education training credits are also available.
Siemens Medical Academy has been the central location for all the company’s training for about three years. Employee, product and quality training managers work with the LMS to track training standards, productivity and compliance. Bob Engel, director of E-learning Services and Siemens Medical Academy, said as the Academy’s population continues to grow, the LMS has become very helpful with day-to-day operations, which maximizes training resources. “The key challenge for the early years of e-learning was getting people to accept it as a training delivery method,” Engel said. “We focused on some key company initiatives at a product level or regulatory, and we leveraged e-learning to meet that need. I used to knock on people’s doors to convince them to use e-learning to meet their needs. Now, it’s the reverse. There are many opportunities coming our way to use e-learning to meet certain company needs: either compliance, product rollout or return on investment.”
Using e-learning is less cost- and time-prohibitive, and allows Academy employees and customers to meet strict time lines and use automatic tracking, and online assessment and reporting as viable training tools. “We still do a great deal of live classroom training, but we make decisions based on what’s the best training delivery method to meet the learning objectives that need to occur,” Engel said. “It’s too easy to say, let’s do it all with e-learning. You have to really figure out what the needs and objectives are. That analysis up front is so key, as is putting an appropriate plan together.”
Decisions on delivery method are made based on items needed for training, audience, time frame and geographic location. In the case of software product training, how often will the product be upgraded? Engel said that software engineers might go through a curriculum of self-paced materials and then follow up with more hands-on, advanced exercises on a particular programming language in classroom training.
For Siemens employees, virtually every course has an assessment that’s required in order to get credit. There are also certification programs for different products, and employees in those programs are required to follow a set curriculum. “It depends on each individual and their job role,” Engel said. “In some cases we have learning paths; in other cases we guide employees to improve technical and professional skills.”
Engel said that educating field reps about new products is particularly important. By doing so, the organization is better equipped to provide customer product support. “Customer satisfaction is directly related to the amount of support and education that we provide to the employees. We’re constantly focusing on reskilling our different individuals, to train them on skills they may not have so they can be moved into new areas of the company where we may not have sufficient staff.”
Siemens customer and employee training is a revenue-generating department with an expense budget and revenue goals to meet. Much of the product training and educational services it provides, including building courses, hosting LMS services and providing consulting to customers, are considered value-added services and have been assigned a fee. “We look at the revenue just as much as we do how do we meet the needs,” Engel said. “We get measured on our profitability and how we meet employee needs, and sometimes the two can conflict, but we manage both.”