Training Moves With the Times

Shorter sessions, many online, augment traditional delivery.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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"We also know that a lot of learning comes via ways other than formal training. The question for us now is how to capture this knowledge and then formalize it to ensure the quality of the overall training — in other words, to formalize informal training," says John Zoeckler, global learning performance lead, Learning and Knowledge Management Center.

At the heart of this strategy are the company's Best Practice Communities. These hold monthly one-to-two-hour best-practice-sharing meetings to capture and disseminate knowledge among all the company's plants (Figure 2).

Better understanding of how to manage virtual communities and teams is another key issue. One recent project focused on worldwide interactions between operations staff — a small group received some coaching and then after four months exchanged lessons learned and experiences with each other. "These are now being recorded as a trilogy of webcasts which discuss the best practices developed. They will be made available via these webcasts to anyone, anywhere in the company," says Zoeckler.

Outside vendors also play an important role. For example, the company is partnering with Allen-Bradley on equipment-based training and with the online Accenture Supply Chain Academy for supply chain education and certification.

 "The backside of this is our partnership with Knowledge Advisors in the use of 'Metrics That Matter.' This allows us to survey employees after training and allows them to rate the course, its instructor, etc. This gives us a good qualitative look at our course materials, how they are being delivered and whether they provide business value," says Jerry Lencoski, continuous improvement change manager and training specialist at Air Products.

And this activity links into SAP's Learning Solutions (LSO) module which Air Products has already rolled out around the world in 12 different languages to give 24/7 access to e-learning.

 "Our LSO system also allows us to measure compliance. This is very powerful because it allows us to see the list of classes that are offered and whether they have been used sufficiently. How compliant are we? If it is a low score, this often means that we have a limited number of instructors or that they are not available locally. The question then is how to get them to where they are needed. When you bolt this together with 'Metrics That Matter' you can identify the classes that would best move from the classroom to the web-based approach," adds Lencoski.

As an example, he points to the "I's of Performance" course, where "I's" stands for ideas, involvement and interpersonal skills. The course is all about communication skills and is one that every member of Air Products' global operations must take.

"It's about a four-hour course and about 7,000 people need to take it. So this past year it went to a web-based approach which takes about 1–1.5 hours and is available to our employees 24/7," notes Lencoski.

For its part, DuPont Training Solutions, Virginia Beach, Va., part of DuPont Sustainable Solutions, also focuses on e-learning. It's released 16 online courses designed to help improve energy efficiency and profitability. Developed by DuPont's own energy engineers and consultants, the courses helped the company cut $47 million or 5% of its energy costs last year.

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