QAD, a 1,200-employee company based in Carpinteria, Calif., provides manufacturers in the automotive, consumer products, electronics, food and beverage, medical and industrial products fields with management solutions for their business processes. The company has deployed its offerings at more than 5,200 sites in about 80 countries and has offices in more than 25 countries. To support rollouts of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, QAD delivers training to both its employees and customers.
“Our main goal is to facilitate a knowledge-sharing culture and environment where we can both internally and externally empower both our employees and our customers with the knowledge and the information they need to either be successful or to run their business,” QAD Project Manager John Longshaw said of the company’s overall learning and development mission.
QAD has faced many obstacles in its attempts to deliver learning to its workforce, including the fact that learning throughout the enterprise is somewhat decentralized. “There’s one main learning group out of our corporate headquarters in California that’s responsible for pushing our global learning events,” Longshaw said. “However, there are other groups that are more targeted specifically for their area or their department.”
In addition, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing, high-tech solutions that the company offers to its manufacturing clients. “It’s very hard in a technology company to keep up-to-date with what you have to support,” said Lynn Sherry, QAD’s Web events coordinator. “One of the things that is always a constant challenge for us is making sure our people in support have the right information that they need to support the product.”
Another problem is geographical: QAD has to deliver learning content around the globe to its workers and customers using limited resources, Longshaw said. “We’re constantly being faced with trying to do as much as we can, while at the same time trying to decrease costs as much as we can. Travel has been an issue as far as costs are concerned.” He added that getting employees to learning events has been problematic, even for those who are enthusiastic about participating in education. “There’s constant constraints that may come up. We know that some individuals may want to attend something, they registered to attend something and they had all the best intentions to, but something may come up that makes it physically impossible for them to participate.”
To deal with these problems of delivery, QAD has introduced a recording procedure using collaboration tools from vendors like Interwise to preserve and distribute learning events associated with new products. “By having the recordings out there, it will let them–at their own pace and pleasure–go back and view it over and over again, maybe pause it and take notes, rather than being stuck in a classroom physically, where they hear it once and are expected to pick it up and totally comprehend it,” Longshaw said. This system also provides support for those who are operating the solutions. Users can go back and consult the recorded event as they work with the product, thereby supporting on-the-job learning experiences.
Additionally, these recordings can be altered in order to fit the unique needs and experiences of a particular learning audience, whether they are linguistic, cultural or legal. “In the software industry, there’s different regulations sometimes in different areas of the world that need to be specific for certain customers,” Longshaw said. “By tweaking, we’re able to essentially record what would be a canned presentation that would support, say, 85 percent of our workforce or our customer base, and then supplement that with either live individuals adding to that, or additional supplemental recordings to add on to that, to fit specific industry demands or industry needs or government requirements.”
If not for this method, some QAD employees would not have been trained on these new products. “What normally would have happened was they simply would have missed out before and not had the capability to participate,” Longshaw said.
QAD also is in the process of developing a “one-stop shopping” e-learning program to provide a wealth of specialized educational content to employees. One of the many benefits of this new initiative is that it will take some pressure off of the company’s subject-matter experts, Sherry said. “We only have so many experts in a certain product division. With the time constraints on them, there’s been cases in the past where an individual may have been required to perform a training class at all these different locations and then need to go on a customer site to do it.”
By employing technology-based solutions such as collaboration tools and e-learning, QAD will be able to realize its primary learning objective. “We have a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” Longshaw said. “We’ve started to assemble those pieces, and I think we’re setting ourselves up to provide global enterprise-wide training and learning development both internally to our employees and externally to our customer base.”
Brian Summerfield is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.