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Taking Responsibility for Training

American Media's library provides corporatewide access for Olsten.

October 18, 2001
With 5,000 employees and more than 400 locations in the United States and Canada, bringing employees together for training simply wasn't practical for Olsten Health Services. In addition, onsite classes were expensive and were poorly attended because of scheduling difficulties and other commitments. People weren't getting trained and, to exacerbate the issue, Olsten's top-down training method wasn't working either. Unfortunately the senior managers who attended the sessions found it difficult to recreate the training program at the local level, and consequently staff development was impaired.

In early 1999, parent company Olsten Corp. decided employees were ready to take responsibility for their own training. This decision cleared the path for the implementation of a library-based training program through American Media Inc.

"Accessibility was the big motivator," says Claire Griswold, project manager. With this library system, everyone -- not just high-level directors -- could receive training, Griswold elaborates. Employees controlled when and where their own training occurred -- a must in the travel-intensive home-health-care business.

Flexibility is key to training.
Such flexibility was possible because American Media's library focuses on soft skills like leadership, communications and customer service rather than technical skills, and also because the library includes books, tapes, compact discs and video presentations. Therefore, Olsten Health Services and its employees have the flexibility to choose the format that best suits their needs and schedules, either for individual study or for in-service programs. With American Media's online ordering system, employees may buy or rent the programs they choose, and Olsten Health Services will be billed.

Programs are shipped within three days of ordering, providing a timeliness that was impossible with classroom-based training. New training materials become available monthly, providing up-to-date information on a wider range of subjects than Olsten could offer alone. And, because so many of the training materials are easily updated, they can include relevant information from recent research, court cases or other news. Because books tend to be purchased rather than rented, some sites are developing their own in-house libraries to maximize their training dollars, says Griswold.

American Media materials are easy to access.
Olsten employees access the library with a user password. Then, based on their job level and training competency, a site-wide search is conducted for the best training products to meet their needs. In addition, employees may search for material by keywords or by subject categories in the online catalog that American Media developed specifically for Olsten. If they can't find quite what they need, employees may phone the American Media account manager for recommendations. "They're very responsive," says Griswold.

Olsten tested American Media's training program in a pilot project that began in May 1999. In July it launched the program throughout the corporation. During the first four months, Olsten's 5,000 employees ordered 1,000 books, more than 500 videos and 50 CDs, Griswold reports. "The response has been very positive," she says, based on those records and anecdotal information. It's too early to begin to measure program effectiveness, but plans are being made to conduct pre- and post-testing and to track the volume and type of material requested.