Technology offers the CLO myriad enhancements in the pursuit of optimal learning and development delivery. For instance, the learning management system (LMS) initially was created to encourage efficiencies in necessary but cumbersome administrative processes that can slow down the learning process and consume unnecessary resources therein. Then the LMS naturally evolved and adapted its capabilities to provide benefits for an organization’s external customers, as well as its employees. Fidelity Investments uses its Web Benefits system in just such a way, educating customers and assisting them in directly applying that learning to their portfolios.
Fidelity began its LMS journey about five years ago as a way to speed up the work of its education consultants. These consultants work in the field, traveling to educate plan participants on 401(k) plans for which Fidelity is the plan administrator.
“We’ve got two customers: the employees of the plan and the clients themselves,” said Rick Williams, Fidelity Investments vice president communications education. “There was no way I could get ever get enough people to reach as many people as I should in the face-to-face environment.”
To cater to both audiences, Fidelity’s proprietary system, which allows participants to go in and look at their account, was integrated with an LMS complete with intuitive logic that allows users to get specific plan education.
Planning resources and easy, click-the-tab learning mingle with online tools, workshops, calculators and educational content for a wide range of audiences. Learning offerings address the needs of everyone from the novice investor concerned about debt or getting started on the investment road to the experienced participant who is looking for specialized advice on estate or college planning.
“We offer a standard set of six workshops that are about 20 minutes in length,” Williams said. “Everything from the basics of investments and the benefits of a 401(k) to diversification, asset allocation, how to evaluate and keep track of your portfolio and what tools and resources are out there to help you learn to move your money around.”
“They have no idea that we have an LMS,” Williams said. “In fact, if you went onto our Web site and logged into your account and saw your money and balances, there are some resources there and within that, there’s this e-learning catalog. Once they get into that catalog, they are no longer technically in Fidelity — it looks and feels like Fidelity, but it’s being hosted by SumTotal.”
Williams said the LMS serves multiple key purposes. One is that it provides seamless integration of security or protection of privacy along with easy-to-access, specialized information that’s promoted through banner ads, Web-rich e-mails and other communications. Posters, wallet cards and other promotions explain availability and use of the e-learning catalog or learning portal. The LMS tracking function monitors educational options and resulting policy changes and other usage around behaviors. That information is then used to change content offerings in response to participant needs. Surveys also provide feedback on the individual financial plans, as well as the quality of the learning experience.
As with any learning intervention, initially, users can be skeptical — Williams said it was a little tough to get data at first because participants were evaluating the new system and looking for hidden agendas. Now, however, he said Fidelity clients are embracing the Web Benefits system.
“They found that no, we’re not selling anything here, we’re not pushing our funds,” Williams said. “This is just a way to arm them with the right information and let them get education or confirmation of concepts that help drive their retirement readiness. Over the last three years, our usage was 150,000 unique hits to the e-learning catalog. Two years ago, we had a little over 300,000 unique users. This year, we’re up to 750,000. It’s doubling every year.”
The LMS allows Fidelity to provide truly interactive education. Within its e-learning catalog, self-paced education is available in conjunction with an action learning experience in which users are privy to investing prompts or links that enable them to immediately make portfolio changes.
“We bring them to their account, and we bring them to that transcational area in their account to make the change,” Williams said. “We hold their hand and help them get to where they want to go.”