Audi revs up its training plan with online system

At a time when many companies are freezing or reducing training budgets and
programmes, Audi UK increased its number of training days from 10,676 in 2001
to 14,407 last year. What makes this even more remarkable, is that it has
managed it without any substantial increase in training investment.

The key, explains Kathy Lear, Audi Academy manager, is down to increased
course utilisation, thanks to an online booking system that is quickly
developing into a powerful communications tool for the organisation.

"We wanted a fast and effective two-way tool for booking, but we also
wanted to move communications towards the web to keep the network informed and
updated," she explains. "Audi UK is committed to a strategy of
continually improving the way talented people are attracted, managed, developed
and retained within our centre network.

"Our key aim is to support people development, stabilise staff turnover
and improve the retention of our centre team members and therefore ensure the
consistent delivery of exceptional customer service while having a profitable
network."

This is an admirable mission statement, but ensuring it is also a reality
isn’t easy for any motor company that relies on a disparate dealer network – in
Audi’s case, a network of 134 franchised Audi UK centres and service-only
centres.

Audi has a fixed and rolling programme of around 1,000 training courses
every year. Given the cost of running each course, the HR department raised the
issue of course utilisation and investigated whether there was a more effective
way of improving course visibility. This eventually led them to systems
integrator Gedas.

"Audi had moved from a printed prospectus to a CD-Rom but it was still
difficult to update, so we proposed that the whole thing move to the web,"
says Chris Martyn, project manager at Gedas UK.

"The problem was that at the beginning of the year, Audi would only
have the dates and venues for a quarter of the courses. Paper updates would
have to be issued for the rest of the year’s timetable, which would often go
astray."

Gedas created a web-based solution accessed by the centres through the Audi
desktop. All courses currently available are visible to all Audi UK and Audi
Centre staff, which cover nearly 4,000 employees. The booking procedure has
been kept simple and any cancellations can be automatically alerted and
therefore filled.

The database behind the booking system holds the details of all Audi UK and
Audi Centre employees and their positions, along with an in-depth training
history. Individuals can log on without a password and view upcoming courses,
or use their password to look at their personal details. Managers can log on to
access relevant employee data, and they can also make course bookings.

"Since launch, 50 per cent of all course bookings are now done via the
web, which has dramatically lowered administration and it’s becoming the main
communication channel for the network," says Lear.

"The database of 4,000 people also feeds other areas of the business;
we can use the information to monitor staff turnover and assess this by role or
geographical area, for instance. The system is certainly playing a part in more
strategic management reporting."

In terms of course utilisation, the system has delivered from the outset,
and is now running at 87.48 per cent, more than the target of 70 per cent. It
also shows every sign of building on last year’s improvement, with Lear
predicting the company will reach around 17,000 training days in 2003. Audi
UK’s plan is to continue looking at how the system can be updated and improved
in terms of the services it offers to the network.

"We did a web broadcast to support the [launch of the] A8 [car model],
and that’s something I’d like to develop more," she says. "It will
also be used for salary surveys and business practice sharing, and we’re
currently making the system available to development consultants [which help
Audi centres manage their training requirements].

"Obviously we have a set of priorities, but we’ve basically got an
endless wish-list that Gedas helps us to realise."

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