By Michael Boese, Sr. Vice President, Taleo Corp.
Thanks to its creative use of learning management technology, Vi—the owner and operator of older adult living communities—has enjoyed dramatic results: Online course use has grown more than 1,000 percent, learning costs have fallen by 28 percent, and the company has enjoyed a 5.5 percent increase in customer satisfaction.
A strong customer-focused culture is a key strength in the hospitality and health industries, and customer satisfaction can only be delivered by satisfied employees. How Vi achieved the above results is a testament to the power of learning management as an agent of culture change.
Vi, formerly Classic Residence by Hyatt, was founded in 1987 as a developer, owner, and operator of older adult living communities. The company is dedicated to enriching the lives of older adults by providing high-quality environments, services, and care. The majority of Vi’s 3,600 employees work at the company’s nine continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), and 10 rental communities throughout the United States.
Three of Vi’s corporate objectives are financial growth, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction. Financial growth is driven by satisfied customers, and customer satisfaction can only be delivered by satisfied employees. In fact, more than 30 percent of Vi’s sales come from resident referrals, so a strong customer-centric culture is key to its value proposition. The company developed a custom service philosophy and complementary training and enculturation program known as Vi Service Commitment. The program not only furthers employees’ personal development but also helps them to better serve the residents of the retirement communities.
Judy Whitcomb, SPHR, vice president, Human Resources and Learning and Organizational Development, joined the company in 2007. When Whitcomb joined Vi, there was no strategy in place to address the operational environment of the training process, nor was the company systematically looking at training results metrics. Vi needed a delivery channel for learning to address the dynamic nature of a diverse workforce with diverse learning needs, and Whitcomb set out to find one.
The LMS as Culture Change Agent
Vi invests heavily in employee education and development to ensure every employee has the opportunity to learn and grown within the organization. When Whitcomb began the search for a learning management system (LMS), she was looking for flexibility and the ability to configure the user experience for the varying needs of the learners and functions within the company. She found the answer in Taleo Business Edition’s Learn solution.
“Our partnership made it possible to create highly customizable learning experiences and portals. This gave us the tools and resources to meet our specific needs. That got our learning platform to market faster.” Whitcomb found that the tools enabled her and her team to become independent creators instead of being dependent upon a provider.
The LMS enabled Whitcomb to spearhead the creation of Vi’s online university, named E-Campus, initially offering more than 200 online courses. While Vi continues to leverage a multi-channel delivery strategy for training—including in-class instruction and Webinars—the organization heavily leverages E-Campus to deliver compliance, leadership, remedial skills, and language and professional education courses in 21 locations. To encourage greater employee engagement in online learning, Vi took the customizable platform a step further. “In less than three years, we have built nine custom ‘learning center’ micro-sites within E-Campus to create greater relevance in training and communications throughout our organization,” says Whitcomb.
These learning centers not only contain the library of courses and knowledge for each department, but they also serve as an engagement tool for each of the functions and departments within the company. For instance, Vi’s sales organization hosts classes on their site, and also leverages this site to post best practices through a blog and to publicize sales results by location. Vi’s Medicare Compliance Team uses its site to provide regulatory updates and Medicare resource tools.
Because each function has the ability to customize its site and add resources, materials, photos, and content, functional leaders are highly engaged and take ownership of learning. “The philosophy that ‘training’ and employee development are HR functions simply doesn't exist here. That’s huge,” Whitcomb says. The LMS has helped create a true learning culture disbursed across all departments; Whitcomb has facilitated not only the delivery of relevant training and development, but culture change, as well.
Vi also can track skills, competencies, and development plans. This ensures that development plans tie into overall organizational goals, compliance requirements for certain staff are met, and employees are more engaged as they work toward personal goals. Competencies are tied to an individual's annual development plan, created by the employee and his or her manager. Employee development is built into Vi’s annual corporate goals that cascade down to manager goals. Completion of these goals is tied to compensation. “Employee Development” is one of Vi’s leadership competencies that is tied to a manager’s compensation.
More Courses, More Users, Greater Satisfaction
Vi’s enterprise-wide, creative use of its customizable learning management system has delivered dramatic results. Since the inception of its online university nearly three years ago, online course utilization has experienced incredible growth of more than 1,000 percent. E-Campus initially had 800 active users and now boasts 2,100. E-Campus began with 200 courses and now offers more than 1,000. In the first year alone, Vi reduced its learning costs by 28 percent due to a reduction in training-related travel.
A commitment to learning and a robust LMS can yield surprising dividends: The company has enjoyed a 5.5 percent increase in customer satisfaction. Another is brand differentiation. Vi now offers free continuing education online courses for its nursing, food and beverage, systems technology, housekeeping and engineering, and HR staff. Nursing employees have responded especially well to having free continuing education (CE) courses as an employment benefit. Vi’s systematic tracking and reporting of CE credits has improved course completion by 12 percent, as the availability of online courses eliminates the hassle and expense of nurses having to track down and attend courses elsewhere.
In recognition of its efforts, Vi was named to Trainingmagazine’s 2011 Top Training 125 list.
“Taleo Learn has enabled Vi to achieve our goal of creating a strong, company-wide learning foundation, and so much more,” says Whitcomb. “We were given the tools to create a system that was just right for us, without creating dependence on them. The difference between enablement and dependency with a service provider means that our time is spent focusing on learning strategy and internal client needs versus learning management system administration.”
Michael Boese is a senior vice president at Taleo Corp., a provider of solutions in every category of talent management. For more information, visit http://www.taleo.com.