With corporate training budgets on the rise, many organizations are rapidly expanding their management orientation programs. For Elliott Group, this meant moving from classroom-based training to the world of blended learning. If you’re considering a similar move, read this real-life case study to learn from their challenges, solutions and best practices.
Elliott Group needed a faster, easier, and more cost-efficient way to train their global managers. They had an effective four-day classroom leadership and management skills training program in place, but it had four key disadvantages:
- To make it cost-effective, it could only be held a few times a year. Which meant some new managers could go up to six months without critical training support
- The program was condensed to meet the four-day timeframe. This was not optimal for content retention, and it was especially challenging for managers that spoke English as a second language
- Some teams experienced hardships because their manager was removed from their job for four days
- The program was not available to established managers and supervisors who had not previously received this training
After extensive research and planning, Elliott purchased a new Learning Management System and relaunched Elliott Turns to You as a blended eLearning, mobile, and ILT solution.
Designed to give new managers “the knowledge, confidence, and competence to do their job well,” it was based on the flipped classroom pedagogical model where the lecture and homework elements are reversed.
Here’s the breakdown…
- 12 eLearning modules (on desktop or mobile) each with a: Multimedia presentation of key points, short reading and quiz
- A two-day in-person skills practice workshop where managers review eLearning materials and set goals for behavior change
Program Design─An Emphasis on Engagement
Elliott chose a blended learning approach for 3 critical reasons:
- New managers are hired or promoted into their positions on a regular basis. Waiting for the next available traditional session left them without support.
- Making the lecture content available 24/7/365 ensured new managers could review materials at a pace and during times that fit their busy schedules. It also enabled them to repeat it as many times as necessary, which was especially helpful since Elliott’s a global company and has many English as a second language learners.
- Because the ExpertusONE platform has an excellent mobile LMS app, the manager-learners could also take eLearning modules on their phones or tablets─a huge advantage for frequent travelers.
“To make the training’s content best resonate with our audience, we broke it into small topic ‘chunks’ making it easier to consume (fit into their busy schedules) and giving them the ability to complete sections at one sitting─so the managers had the feeling of accomplishment and progress,” Ben Butina, Elliott’s Sr. Manager, Global Training & Development, said.
This paired with our flipped classroom model empowers learners to make the most of the two-day workshop. With a deeper understanding of the content, they can better discuss and practice what they’ve learned and implement it correctly on-the-job.”
Elliott also heavily emphasized engagement in the program’s design. They started each section with a relevant introduction─showing learners a real-world application of the practice and why it’s needed, then supporting this with engaging stories, instructional bullet points and as many specifics to their jobs as possible.
Another way they built engagement was getting buy-in from other teams. They:
- Socialized the program with HR managers, explaining what it was and why it was important, and then the HR team talked it down through their people
- Talked it over with executives so they could get their people invested and set expectations
- Promoted the program in leadership development courses to set the foundation (anticipation) for what was ahead
Program Delivery─Technology with A Personal Touch
Here’s Elliott’s three-step delivery process…
- The Training Manager receives a weekly report from Elliott’s HRIS system with newly-hired or promoted managers
- He enrolls them in the program via the LMS
- After 30 learners have completed their eLearning, he schedules a two-day, on-site skills workshop
As for keeping learners engaged and progressing through the self-directed eLearning phase, the Training Manager or the learners’ managers reach out personally. “Learners do get reminders through the LMS. But we find adding a human element, a ‘personal touch’, shows we’re invested in them, which is encouraging,” Butina said.
Throughout the eLearning stage, the learners’ managers and the Training Manager get LMS-based reports on what classes have been completed, learner progress/timeframe and the training program as a whole. Learners can also quickly see their progress and what’s next in queue whenever they login to the LMS from their personalized ‘My Learning’ page. Both the reporting and self-tracking help speed program adoption and completion.
Immediate Training Support
As for the impact of using a blended format, Elliott’s managers now receive training support for their new roles immediately, rather than waiting for the next standalone ILT offering. Butina explains…
“Elliott is competing against some very large competitors, so one of the ways we win and keep business is through the quality of our people, products and services. Management training is important so that our customers understand we’re building and maintaining a world-class workforce. That’s why waiting for management orientation could seriously impact our business.”
Better Skills & Loyalty
Another impact of the blended training program is that the two-day workshop still retains the valued benefits of a traditional classroom experience (i.e. getting to know other managers, practicing skills in a realistic context, etc.).
“Without practicing what you’ve learned, much of it will be forgotten and never implemented. This face-to-face component also helps strengthen the relationships among our managers and their investment and loyalty to Elliott,” Butina commented.
More People Trained
The eLearning format also enabled Elliott to extend the training to established managers who were hired before the training existed. “This lets them address their training gaps in a convenient way. This is another way we can uphold our high service standards company-wide,” Butina remarked.
The blended learning program’s reception and evaluation has been incredibly positive…
“The mobile app made it easy for me to take training when I was on the road.”
“Group/team activities after modules was a clever idea. I think this involvement reinforced the ideas.”
“I do not see where I would have benefitted by changing anything.”
Elliott used the Kirkpatrick Model to evaluate the effectiveness of Elliott Turns to You. For their Level 1 evaluations, they used ExpertusONE’s built-in surveys, which “made it much easier to collect, report on and analyze feedback. Our learners also favored the speed and convenience of completing the surveys online.”
Some of the Level 1 findings were:
- Learners’ appreciated both the content and blended format
- Learners were able to immediately put what they learned into practice─which was Elliott’s #1 program goal and wasn’t always achieved with their previous standalone ILT program
The Level 2 results were also very encouraging with most learners’ scores indicating a high level of learning, retention and application. These evaluations were conducted as end-of-unit quizzes for the eLearning portion and as skills competency assessments during the two-day workshop.
Low Cost, High ROI
Given the low cost of developing and implementing the program, Elliot has experienced a tremendous ROI. Here are some of their preliminary success statistics:
- 100% of employees hired or promoted into management roles were enrolled in the program
- The average time from a manager’s hire date to program start was reduced from 3.5 months to 1 week
- 52% of established managers have voluntarily completed one or more courses in the program
Meeting Learning & Business Needs
“The blended learning format has been highly successful and meets both our learning and business needs,” Butina remarked. “It’s ideally suited to a medium-sized company with a global and mobile workforce, because of the minimal budget that’s required and the small impact on pulling learners from their jobs.”
As for lessons learned, he offers this advice:
- Involve the learner’s direct manager.
They want to be involved and know what’s going on. They’re also key to learner’s successful training completion.
- Get SME input as early as possible in the program’s design.
This will save a lot of time and eliminates costly revisions.
- Communicate with your HR team to improve program success.
They can promote the program to employees and gather feedback on its impact.
- Separate your knowledge and skills development training.
Knowledge training is best understood in an online, self-paced format. Skills development, on the other hand, is more impactful in person.
A Magic Formula
Elliott’s larger competitors can afford to spend more on their management orientation training. However, Elliott’s known for their outstanding people and service. So, they believe they’re onto a “magic” formula. Their eLearning/mobile/ILT training mix is the perfect solution for developing highly trained managers who deliver super performing employees.
I hope you can leverage some of Elliott’s best practices to launch your own successful blended learning management training program!