For Reynolds and Reynolds, e-learning is about far more than eliminating travel and classroom training costs. While the company estimates it saved $1 million during the first year e-learning was implemented—compared to the costs associated with instructor-led training—the real value came from improved customer service. “We are in the business of selling technology,” says Mona Yezbek, vice president of training. “To be successful in a marketplace that changes so rapidly we have to be able to get our people trained quickly and efficiently.”
Reynolds University, which is responsible for providing learning to internal associates and external customers, offers 300 off-the-shelf Web-based training courses from SmartForce, a Redwood City, California-based provider of e-learning, on subjects ranging from interpersonal skills and sales and marketing to technical training.
Trainers also develop custom courses internally to support specific Reynolds products and use Webcasting technology, which delivers live presentations over the Internet, to offer new product training courses online. “With Webcasting, we can bring several hundred salespeople online at the same time to learn about a new product from senior management,” she says. “It’s a consistent message delivered by our leaders in smaller chunks of time.”
These Web-based training sessions get associates up to speed faster on products and skills they need to support customers and the sales process, she says. For example, 200 field engineers recently required network training to prepare them to install and maintain the company’s new Generation Series network software product. “We were able to get them trained in their down-time while they maintained their productivity,” Yezbek says. “The implications of that are huge. I can’t imagine trying to get our staff up to speed on our products using stand-up trainers.”
At a later time when the engineers are out in the field, they will have access to online help and product tutorials to reinforce the learning. “It’s a broad support model that lets us maintain a leading edge in the marketplace,” Yezbek says.
The same e-learning content is also reused for client training, says Candy Maloney, director of services and training developer. Reynolds offers custom blended e-learning solutions in which customers spend some time in a self-paced online environment learning about the company’s products. Then they work in tandem with a classroom trainer for hands-on practice. “Everyone loves the tandem environment,” she says. It costs less to deliver, requires less time away from the job, and allows customers to get comfortable with a product before using it in front of the group.
“By offering customers Web-based training in small task-oriented chunks, the training is easier to use and more affordable so they can get more of it,” Maloney says, which means they increase their proficiency. “If they are more productive with our tools they see a greater value for their investment. That gives us significant competitive advantage.”
Workforce, August 2002, pp. 74-77 — Subscribe Now!