While Selix does oversee limited staff development, his primary portfolio is training the agents and brokers in the field. As independent professionals, Selix can’t force training on them, but he still manages to reach about 20 percent of those agents who voluntarily take advantage of the educational offerings to help grow their businesses.
What’s more, about 65 percent of new agents rush to take part in the Click2Learn-powered training, as do a large number of the brokers. Educational programs target both new and experienced real estate professionals. Selix also reaches internal staff through new-hire training and a 14-week program that involves job rotation, computer-based training and online education to teach them the business from all angles.
“I can do that with internal staff because I own them,” Selix said. “It’s very hard to get that time commitment from folks in the field because they’re independent contractors.”
Working with Click2Learn’s Aspen Learning Management System (LMS), however, Selix is seeing more free-lance involvement in educational offerings. The program helps Century 21 offer learning initiatives in a variety of formats, from Web-based to old-fashioned classroom instruction.
“Our view of blended learning is way different than most people’s,” Selix said. “It actually uses on-site live and on-site asynchronous as well as online live and online asynchronous. We blend them all together, and that’s worked out real well for us. As a rule, we try to do 80 percent of our agent training online and 20 percent on site. For brokers, we try to do exactly the opposite, 80 percent on-site and 20 percent online.”
Click2Learn’s Aspen LMS allows Selix and staff to manage the intersection of learning and performance, no matter which modality is involved. In fact, in many cases Selix can track an agent or broker through different delivery methods. Other learning partners like Centra provide the backbone for some training.
“We wanted to be able to deliver instructor-led training to our agents, because we think that really provides a lot of opportunity for conceptual and problem-solving skill transfer. So we said we’re going to use online lecture using the Centra products to do 12 two-hour sessions, and we’re going to spread those over three weeks,” Selix said.
“So essentially, they come in for about two hours a day for three weeks and get lectures. We then have them in every session do some online asynchronous stuff. We get them using the tools. One of the interesting byproducts we get from that is they start to get better at using the Web, and we don’t tell them it’s one of the learning objectives. As the course goes on, I give them more and more unstructured things to do on the Web. By the time they get done with the course, they’re pretty familiar with moving around on the Web. We use that online asynchronous block as a place to provide additional data for the lectures we give.”
That system is more than just words on paper. It is a starting point for all of the intense training Century 21 offers.
“When we build any of our courses that are more than just an hour or so, we say, ‘OK, which is the primary modality?’ What do we start with, and what are we trying to get across?” Selix said. “Is it declarative knowledge, conceptual, procedural, problem-solving, application? We figure out where we want the primary modality to be and then figure out how the other modalities support that.”
Selix wisely leverages all his options for agent and broker training, including allowing agents and brokers to train one another. For instance, he calls his training plan an “80 percent solution.” Complexities in local real-estate law make it impossible to teach all regions to all agents. So, part of his training refers agents to brokers.
“It does a great deal to help the affiliation of the agent to the broker,” Selix said. “They actually develop nice bonds when they do this. It also relieves us of trying to cover 100 percent of the material, which we really couldn’t do in any class because there are so many degrees of freedom across the country.”
Not surprisingly, Selix is happy with the way the education programs are working for Century 21. Click2Learn’s Aspen system, he said, cost less than he’d spent on traveling trainers the year prior to implementing the LMS.
“We’re saving direct costs on the order of about 10 percent or so,” he said. “We had a fairly large capital investment up front, and it’s taken about two years to get through the amortization of the capital expense to make this thing work. We’ve been able to do two other things. I’ve been able to increase the number of people who’ve been touched by training by about a factor of 10. We put out training interventions now that are live, one-hour, learn-how-to-use-a-digital-camera type of things. I really have no cost. My instructors are already getting paid, and the bandwidth is cheap, and we’ve already bought the software. So we run about 120 hours of free training every quarter on a variety of topics that agents and brokers can get into. We’ve got about 11,000 users right now. Way more reach than we ever used to have for experienced agents.”
Those figures are only part of the story. Century 21 recently did a six-month study on training effectiveness. Selix compared agents who went through online training with their live-training counterparts, looking at them at 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 days after completing training.
“When you get out to six months and you add up how much money they made by month, it was about a 33 percent increase in the amount of money they made,” Selix said. “If you factor out the 4 percent inflation the National Association of Realtors had for that year, you’re at about a 30 percent real, no-fooling gain in productivity.
“We decreased our base, we’re increasing the number of people we’re touching, and we’re helping the people we touch be more productive. So we’re pretty happy,” Selix added. “If you have a training program that is wonderful in transferring knowledge, but at the end of the day it doesn’t help people make more money, unless it’s a regulatory requirement, then it doesn’t matter. It’s completely irrelevant. Being smarter but not being any richer isn’t what most people are into.”
The successes weren’t just on the agent side. Internally, Selix is seeing happier employees at Century 21 offices, and its parent company, Cendant, is pulling more Century 21 associates up into the larger organization, which includes Avis rental cars and Ramada hotels. And brokers are also benefiting.
“The training that we provide live on site for our brokers is equally as good,” he said. “What we found last year, in the year 2001, the National Association of Realtors put the market up about 2.7 percent. Century was up about 4.3 percent. Brokers who took part in our Operation Orga, which was an eight-month longitudinal program, were up 24 percent.”
Selix isn’t shy about giving credit where it’s due, and he’s quick to praise Click2Learn’s contributions to Century 21 workforce development.
“I think they got it right. They understand where we’re going with sharable courseware objects, they understand what learning management systems ought to be, and they’ve built a product that’s scalable enough we can come in and at a very superficial level manage registrations, then continue to drill down in that. They’ve always stayed ahead of us as far as capabilities of the system. We’re very excited to have them as partners,” Selix said. “They got very invested in us being successful. They’re willing to spend the engineering hours, the man-hours, the consulting time to help us figure out the problems so that we can be successful. That’s a great validator for them, and it helps us.”
The praise goes both ways, with Click2Learn equally pleased to be supporting a company on the edge of employee education.
“They’ve been very innovative in terms of how they’ve decided to use e-learning, and they’ve really tried to use it in a way that’s going to affect the business rather than just people’s development,” said Lee Maxey, chief learning officer at Click2Learn. “Traditionally, employee development and professional development has been the main focus. In (Selix’s) mind, the promise of e-learning is linking that development and training more closely to the work. I think Century 21 has done that very well.”
According to Kevin Kinney, Click2Learn’s regional sales manager who oversees the Century 21 implementation, the Aspen platform has three components. Century 21 is currently using the learning management system aspect to manage its users and is just starting to use the learning content management system (LCMS) to manage training content. The third component, a virtual classroom that works with conference technology like Centra’s, is next on the list for implementation.
Looking ahead, Selix plans to continue pushing for internal training measures, like job rotation. Externally, he plans to add more agent and broker courses and wants to grow programs that include support, counseling and mentoring. Click2Learn will be there with them, he said.
“They’ve become critical to our infrastructure and we can only go so far as our infrastructure lets us,” Selix said. “I’m never going to be able to put people back on the road in large numbers again. It’s just not economical. So to the extent that we can leverage our infrastructure to touch more people in the field, we’ll be successful. And I think Click2Learn’s going to have a large part of that.”