By Gordon Johnson, VP Marketing, Expertus
Every year, companies invest heavily in employee training programs — most of which are designed to improve job skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, too often, competency development results don’t meet expectations. Yet some initiatives are highly effective.
What sets these successful programs apart?
Case studies offer helpful insights. For example, let’s look at the award-winning story of Siemens Building Technologies — a world leader in advanced technologies for safe, secure, energy-efficient buildings. Despite its far-flung workforce of 28,000, this organization’s approach is simpler than you might think.
Business Goals and Objectives — A Framework for Learning Impact
Throughout its 60-year history, Siemens has earned a reputation for excellence in designing, implementing and managing highly complex hardware/software equipment. Much of the credit goes to its top-notch employee development programs. However, until recently, the organization had never fully documented required technical skills, or gaps in employee competencies. Nor had development been tracked systematically over time.
To sustain a competitive advantage, the company needed to establish a “new normal.” Leaders sought a level of employee competency that ensures all future product implementations are delivered on time and under budget. This goal translated into an award-winning skills training program based on five related business objectives:
- Increase customer satisfaction and retention
- Increase employee productivity
- Reduce cost overruns and rework
- Reduce employee turnover by improving employee satisfaction
- Maintain consistently superior quality by standardizing business processes across 80+ offices
3-Pronged Strategy to Bridge Skills Gaps
Siemens’ employee development solution rests on three pillars:
1) A comprehensive, customized learning plan
2) A flexible, robust technology foundation
3) Ongoing, proactive communication
Here’s how these elements work together to achieve successful business results:
1) A Smart 10-Step Learning Plan
The methodology is prescriptive — revolving around clearly defined employee roles:
1) Determine competencies required to meet customer needs
2) Specify essential job roles
3) Define best practices
4) Identify existing training or develop new training to support best practices
5) Develop appropriate training paths
6) Assign job roles and training paths
7) Conduct reporting and accountability analysis
8) Ensure conformance
9) Review for sustainability/improvement
10) As new job roles dictate, modify existing programs or develop new programs
According to the program leader, George Kuhn, this roles-based approach is beneficial because, “Once assignments are completed, we can quickly and easily identify gaps across every level of the organization.”
2) New LMS Technology = Faster Learning Outcomes
As the organization began implementing this plan, it soon became clear that the existing learning management system was inadequate. So the training team quickly evaluated next-generation LMS platforms, and chose ExpertusONE LMS.
Siemens prefers ExpertusONE for, what George Kuhn calls a “highly intuitive user experience and ability to scale in serving our employees, managers, distributors and customers.” It also provides robust reporting that automatically identifies offices with the biggest gaps between job roles and development status. This makes it easy to evaluate and prioritize learning needs in a broader business context, and quickly intervene.
The result? A much faster, easier path to a more competent workforce. In fact, the new LMS has helped slash average training time in half — from one year to only six months. This was only one reason the Siemens program won a 2014 Brandon Hall Group gold award for Learning Excellence.
3) The Value of Communication
Even with a good plan and great technology, many competency development programs still struggle. That’s because they fail to include consistent, effective communication. But not in Siemens’ case.
As George Kuhn explains, “Sometimes what seems completely impossible is absolutely possible − as long as the will and buy-in are there.” So, by engaging stakeholders throughout the process, “we proactively addressed change management roadblocks.” Communication helped in multiple ways. For example:
Standards for assessing employee competency are based on input from managers. Because field managers participated in developing job roles and related tasks, they’ve accepted ownership of the new program.
- Online meetings introduced the program and facilitated discussions with supervisors. Live virtual forums created a sense of common purpose, while streamlining program logistics and reducing the roll-out timeframe.
- Quality managers who implemented competency standards met with all supervisors. This ensured that the entire field management team understood program objectives and details from the start.
- Training representatives followed-up personally with supervisors who were slow to assign job roles. In locations where implementation was delayed, the training team offered direct counseling to remove obstacles.
Since its launch, the program has generated significant, measurable business results. According to George, “We were able to focus all of our efforts into minimizing cost overruns and rework — both of which were significantly reduced.”
In addition to accomplishing its five original business goals, the initiative has improved training efficiency, across-the board:
- Field managers can quickly find and assign appropriate employee training
- Employees can easily find and complete their assigned training
- Business and training leaders can instantly pinpoint gaps in job roles and development, by location.
Streamlining these three areas, alone, has led to a tremendous improvement in productivity. The company estimated a cost savings of $685,000 in the program’s first year, with a projected savings of $1,337,982 by 2015.
Top Tips For Better Business Impact
What advice would George share with L&D colleagues who want to offer competency training?
- Select a core team that has worked together previously, and can participate from start to finish.
- Be sure your team understands data science and learning analytics, so they can build the program around relevant, actionable business metrics.
- Assume that implementation will require more time than you expect.
- It’s okay to start with your existing LMS. You’ll gain a better idea of what your new system must deliver.
- Don’t wait to standardize job titles across the organization. Instead, use related job roles, to accelerate the training development process.
Has your organization implemented a competency development program? What business results did you achieve? And what lessons did you learn?
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