Finding a consistent training solution is always going to be demanding when you
employ 225,000 people in 479 factories and offices worldwide. And at Nestl‚,
management believes in meeting such a challenge head on
Two years ago Nestlé started to search for an additional training solution
that would be adaptable for its entire global workforce. The company
implemented an e-learning programme to complement its classroom-based learning,
which would continue to be its primary method of training at a local or country
A special project team was set up in 1999 to look at the developments in
e-learning. The main objective was to investigate how e-learning would most
benefit Nestlé and how it could be structured and implemented globally. The
company’s second objective was to agree on providing common courseware
worldwide in the areas where this new method of training would be appropriate.
As a result, five key areas were identified: end-user training in office
automation tools and specific business applications; SAP training, business and
professional development, languages; and IT training to IT staff and experts
including some certification courses such as MCSE.
Even when e-learning was in its infancy, Nestlé recognised its potential in
being able to provide consistent, high-quality training to its worldwide
workforce. "We believe strongly in the development of our people and
understand the importance of making use of new technology, and e-learning
brings this all together," says team leader for learning and training Dawn
After recognising that e-learning was the way forward, Nestlé set about
investigating e-learning vendors. A partnership with NETg was formed for
several reasons, the most important being that NETg offered a true global
It could also offer an effective delivery method for many countries, from
Europe to South Korea, as well as in more remote or less developed countries,
and it was felt that NETg offered a comprehensive e-learning package through
It also liked NETg’s instructional design, recognising that the best way to
learn is by ‘doing’, and that the extensive use of simulations in NETg’s
courses would provide staff with the opportunity to practice and reinforce
skills, and provide useful feedback.
The Nestlé e-learning project went global on 1 January 2001. The main
server, in Vevey, Switzerland, holds a comprehensive portfolio of courses and
other servers throughout the group mirror the central installation.
Nestlé has more than 900 courses in its e-learning library, many of which
are available in several languages in addition to English, including German,
French, Dutch, Spanish and Italian. Two-thirds of the courses are IT/IS
related, the remainder covering soft skills.
The different languages posed one of the biggest challenges for NETg and the
provider ensured the right support structures were in place. "We had two
levels of support: a helpdesk where users could speak to someone in their own
language and we had a consultant who could speak their language, too,"
says David Small, NETg’s director of global accounts.
For those countries without access to the company intranet, the same courses
are available via NETg’s web-hosted learning solution, XtremeLearning.
Employees using XtremeLearning simply log-on with their company specific
password and have access to a customised site that contains the same
information found on the Nestlé intranet.
With such a large number of employees so widely dispersed, a lot of work has
been done to ensure the success of e-learning. Nestlé has taken a very
pragmatic approach and monitors usage monthly. The message to staff is very
clear: ‘use it or lose it’
At a local level, measures have been taken to ensure e-learning is maximised
and that it is as easy as possible for staff to gain access. Because NETg’s
e-learning content contains extensive multimedia and audio, sound cards are
being added to individual workstations and, where possible, staff are
encouraged to wear headsets while learning at their desks.
For those who prefer to learn away from their desks, dedicated learning centres
have been created where possible.
A key catalyst in enabling people to learn at their desks has been the
unique modular structure of NETg’s e-learning content. All of NETg’s courses
are based on the NETg Learning Object, NLO, which is a bite-sized chunk of
course content, five to seven minutes in length, each one teaching a specific
skill. "Because of the way NETg’s courses are structured, our staff can
easily fit training into their normal working day, and they have a resource
that allows them to learn a new skill in under 10 minutes at their
fingertips," says Ian Shaw, communications and development manager at
"If someone is unsure of how to do something in a particular
application they simply find a piece of training that teaches that specific
skill, learn the particular skill, practice it in a safe environment, then go
back to their real application and solve the problem. This has given our staff
a just-in-time training solution and enabled them to be more efficient in their
To increase learner flexibility even further, Nestlé plans to offer access
to NETg’s e-learning from home to as many staff as possible (technically, a
system is already in place). "Training should be thought of as a
consistent and continual process and not a one-time event, that way people can
adapt to the changing needs of business," says Dawn Waldron, team leader
for learning and training. "E-learning provides the perfect platform for
continual learning as it enables learning to take place anytime,
Nestlé management has gone one step further in providing a truly flexible
learning solution. After discussion with and agreement from their manager,
employees have no restrictions on what courses they are able to take. For example,
someone on the factory floor could take MCSE or Oracle certification by taking
up e-learning. By not restricting e-learning to job-related areas, it gives
factory workers to top-level management the chance to further their own
personal and professional development.
Much work has been done to ensure that the Nestlé e-learning programme is as
tailored to the specific needs of the company and its staff as possible. The
flexibility of NETg’s courses has enabled this, and company-specific graphics,
text and files have been inserted.
For example, Nestlé is using NETg courses in the construction of training
templates for job roles to assist with the implementation of SAP throughout
Nestlé. Nestlé has also been able to ensure learning time is optimised for staff
– using NETg’s unique content architecture, they can by-pass specific parts of
a course that are not relevant to the Nestlé environment, which means staff can
focus more closely and learn things that are relevant.
Nestlé’s first priority was to design and install the correct infrastructure
to set up and support e-learning; now it will be more focused on changing the
learning culture and motivating staff to take up the training. Increasingly,
Nestlé staff are encouraged – with the help of HR personnel – to develop their
own development profile, of which a series of e-learning courses form part.
In an effort to change the learning culture, Nestlé has created a real buzz
surrounding its e-learning and is implementing a global training and e-learning
marketing and communication programme. "It is making it part of a culture
change and we’re part of that change, being aligned very closely with the
project," says NETg’s Small, who adds that Nestlé has taken a textbook
approach to the implementation of e-learning.
HR personnel from different regions or sectors are also encouraged to
develop their own marketing initiatives. For example, Friskies Europe has its
own newsletter, Focus on e-Le@rning, which is sent out quarterly, keeping
Friskies staff up-to-date with e-learning news. It also contains staff success
stories and encourages everyone to actively engage in e-learning.
Regular events and programmes are also held to encourage staff to use
e-learning. For example, in the lead up to Easter last year, Friskies held a
’40 days of Lent’ campaign. Forty days before Easter, an e-mail alert was sent
to all staff to try to encourage them to make a commitment of doing at least
one course by the Easter holiday. If the staff wanted to take up this challenge
they simply clicked the ‘yes’ on the e-mail and were sent a set of headphones.
Although Nestlé has made a significant commitment and shift towards
e-learning, it will in many instances complement rather than replace
traditional classroom-based training. The company sees e-learning as another
tool in its learning strategy and as part of a blended delivery, where a
variety of teaching methods are used, as its ideal training solution.
E-learning will be used as a training solution in its own right, for
just-in-time knowledge, but for other training needs it will provide the theory
before classroom training. For example, a major global SAP initiative is
looking at a 60:40 ratio in favour of e-learning and uses a variety of other
teaching methods to maximise learning potential. Nestlé feels this approach
will mean time spent in class will be focused on applying skills and theories
directly to business needs and goals.
Waldron feels that e-learning can maximise the effect of classroom-based
training by ensuring everyone has the same background information before class,
which in turn can reduce the number of days spent in the classroom,
representing a significant cost saving.
Nestle’s top tips for e-learning
1 A clear HR-led strategy is needed
to identify how e-learning can be incorporated into the overall training
2 Managers must accept responsibility
for having people accomplish the learning necessary to support the business
3 Successful e-learning programmes
are led by someone who believes in the business importance of the programme and
is willing to take a proactive role in promoting it
4 E-learning where possible should be
made available whenever, however and wherever employees need it
Nestle’s requirement: To find an
additional training solution for its 225,000-strong global workforce that would
ensure consistency and high-quality
Why? It views employee development as vital in maintaining
competitive edge and wanted something that would complement its classroom-based
Is e-learning delivering: The e-learning programme is designed
very much as a complement to classroom-based training and so far it looks to be
maximising the effect of classroom study as planned.