Sweet success

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 Nestle,
management believes in meeting such a challenge head on

Two
years ago Nestle 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 level.

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 Nestle‚ 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, Nestle‚ 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 Waldron.

Maximise
potential

After
recognising that e-learning was the way forward, Nestle 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 presence.

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 its
partners.

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
Nestle 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.

Nestle
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 Nestle 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. Nestle 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 Friskies Europe.

"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 working day."

Flexibility

To
increase learner flexibility even further, Nestle 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, anywhere."

Nestle
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 Nestle 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, Nestle is using NETg courses in the construction of training templates
for job roles to assist with the implementation of SAP throughout Nestle.
Nestle 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 Nestle environment, which means staff can
focus more closely and learn things that are relevant.  

Nestle’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, Nestle
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.

Culture
change

In
an effort to change the learning culture, Nestle 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 Nestle 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.

Ideal
solution

Although
Nestle 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. Nestle 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 programme

2
Managers must accept responsibility for having people accomplish the learning
necessary to support the business objectives

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

In
summary
Adding value

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 methods

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.

This
article first appeared in the March 2002 edition of Training Magazine.  To subscribe click here

 

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