Logitech, BC Assessment fine-tune training

Investing in People project helps companies target programs

The Harmony remote is a universal remote control that can replace up to 15 remote controls. While it sounds simple, many consumers have questions and they keep Harmony’s call centre very busy. Maintaining this centre can be expensive and poorly trained support agents can impact customer satisfaction and, subsequently, the success of the product.

So Logitech, makers of the remote, decided to redesign the training program used to acquaint new support agents with the Harmony technology. To do a formalized ROI study of this ambitious undertaking, the company signed on with Investing in People, a $1.3-million project sponsored by the federal government to substantiate the ROI of training and encourage companies to invest more in skills development.

“It was sheer fortune” the project came along, said Jonelle Butler, training and curriculum designer at the Harmony division at Logitech in Mississauga, Ont.

Harmony’s redesigned training program started in the fall of 2008 and blended e-learning technology with a traditional classroom setting while reducing the training from 12 to eight days.

“There wasn’t any formalized sort of product training initiatives company-wide,” said Butler. “It used to be a two-week classroom-based learning, strictly PowerPoint slides, not very interactive.”

The federal project was awarded to the Canadian Society for Training and Development and facilitated by the firm Learning Designs Online, which uses a “learning value chain” methodology to evaluate a training program at four “links” — capability, transfer, business results and ROI. At each link, data is gathered to assess the extent to which the training has achieved key outcomes, added value and enabled the next event in the chain to occur.

The goal for Logitech was to improve business measures such as quality and call-handle time, along with reducing the overall cost of the training. So once the training was done, questionnaires filled out by the 162 participants revealed considerable success in enhancing capability — 78 per cent said they had acquired a high level of knowledge and skills and 74 per cent had a high level of confidence in their ability to apply their learning in their new jobs.

However, the Investing in People project also provides red flags for risk areas, so Logitech saw there might be course improvement opportunities or a need to review hiring practices.

“I was strictly looking for that end result, last-page-of-the-report kind of result but seeing this along the way (helped),” said Butler. “From a design and curriculum-development perspective, the individual results for these various indices, that really helped.”

When it came to the transfer of learning to the job, 73 per cent of respondents reported a high level of learning application and proficiency a month after training.

“A lot of the general feedback we got was, ‘We need more hands-on, we need more practice with the tools,’ so this was very useful to us because now we’re looking at redesigning (it),” said Butler.

Logitech saw a 214-per-cent ROI from reduced training delivery costs and call-handle time. And the benefit-cost ratio was 3.14, meaning for every dollar Logitech invested in the training, $3.14 was returned in improved business results.

Previously it was hard to go to management to request funding without the supporting data. Now, that information is available, said Butler. And it’s hoped this training model can be replicated in other businesses within the company.

BC Assessment analyzes training

For BC Assessment, the Investing in People project was also well-timed. The provincial crown organization — whose 350 to 400 professional appraisers determine the market value of land and improvements for taxation proposes — had merged its training in 2007.

“It just seemed like an opportunity to very early on justify the training and the whole model of centralizing it,” said Yvonne Mann, co-ordinator of training and development at BC Assessment in Victoria.

Each year, about two per cent of property owners file a formal complaint or appeal with the agency. Complex appeals that are not resolved might proceed to an appeal board, which could lead to a formal hearing. The appeal process represents a significant cost, mainly in staff time. To help cut back, the agency decided to train appraisers to develop the skills needed to resolve appeals earlier.

“We were seeing some reluctance among new employees to take on the role of working with the boards in terms of going to the boards as an expert witness,” said Mann. “We needed to do something that really gave them mostly a level of confidence that it wasn’t as scary as it sounded.”

Thirty-six appraisers took part in the two-day, face-to-face workshop that included group discussions, team summaries, case studies and mock role-playing exercises.

Before training, 20 per cent of the BC Assessment trainees rated their knowledge and skill levels as high. After training, that number rose to 56 per cent.

In addition, 69 per cent of the trainees said they had a high level of confidence in effectively applying the learning to their jobs.

“The reasons we went into it was so we could increase the confidence within our appraisers,” said Mann. “We were pleased to see we accomplished that to a great degree.”

But six months after the training, the value of the course was significantly diminished at the transfer of learning stage, found Learning Designs Online. More than one-half of respondents saw little or no improvement in tasks associated with appeals management.

“Too many of the appraisers were being sent to the training but they didn’t have an opportunity to use that back on the job. There seemed to be a disconnect,” she said. “One of the learnings we’re taking back to our managers is the importance of sending the right person to training.”

That means sending a person who can actually use the training and having managers talk to the employees to explain why they are being trained and what they are expected to learn and bring back.

Training can be seen as a reward from managers, said Mann

“We’re trying to remove that perk and see it more as a developmental thing,” she said.

In the end, the agency was unable to determine the business outcomes and ROI of the training program because it lacked the necessary data, such as a time-management system. But a post-training survey found 39 per cent of the appraisers had saved time in the appeals process.

And it’s much clearer who the training target audience should be, which will reduce the costs, said Mann.

“If I can communicate that to managers, I can more effectively then manage my training dollars and make sure the training we are delivering is used most efficiently.”

Case studies

Lessons from training ROI

Case studies detailing the experiences of the 12 companies that participated in the Investing in People project are being posted online. The Canadian Society for Training and Development has also put the project’s tools online. For more information, visit www.cstd.ca and look under “Research and Resources.”

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