“We took our time and evaluated LMSs over five years,” said Pam Peterson, manager of training and development for Lands’ End University. “We found that many systems had great functionality, but they would require us to remodel a lot of processes. We already had a solid training model to support business goals, so we looked for a system flexible enough to support our requirements, rather than have to retrofit our training.”
Prior to the LMS, Lands’ End’s learning processes were mostly paper-based, streamlined only by an online system for course registration. But they lacked mechanisms for search, feedback, tracking and reporting. Business managers had no access to records or plans of employees’ training activities.
The overarching goal for the new LMS was to allow employees to drive their own learning. To achieve this, the new system needed to support the blended learning environment at Lands’ End, including instructor-led classes, self-directed activities, the corporate library’s resources, specific product training and e-learning courseware. It also needed to associate training with specific job descriptions, to create and track individual development plans and to perform competency gap analyses.
For instance, Lands’ End wanted the system to track and manage the educational assistance dollars available to employees. That also included enabling employees to enter outside training events, such as college classes, to their own development plans. The company also wanted to expand the functionality around class registration. In addition to handling straightforward registrations, Peterson’s team wanted the system to handle wait lists and perform automatic e-mail notifications. Another key priority was to integrate the company’s e-learning courseware, including a business skills library from SkillSoft.
Last year, Lands’ End selected PeopleComeFirst, a hosted learning and competency management system from Genesys Software. Internally named “MyLearning,” the system was formally launched in June 2002 as the newest addition to Lands’ End University, the company’s resource for leadership and business practices development. Each employee accesses MyLearning and its functionality through a personalized home page. It allows them to take e-learning courses and track progress from their desktops, register online for workshops and manage their educational assistance programs. Later in 2003, they will be able to conduct skill-gap analyses based on competencies and performance measurements and develop individual development plans.
Peterson found it effective to introduce the system in chunks, intentionally tied to just-in-time business needs. That way, employees didn’t have to absorb all of the new features at once. There was also greater buy-in from management because it could see immediate payback for specific initiatives. At the same time, Peterson cautions against waiting to roll out the system until it is perfect. “We found that we got some critical feedback to improve the system as we rolled out new features,” she said.
As employees continue to take more responsibility for their own development, Peterson’s team is working to tie employee development goals to strategic corporate initiatives, such as succession and resource planning.
In the end, Peterson said that it comes down to what is right for the employee. “We believe our focus on fitting employees with the right training is a major reason Lands’ End has been continuously recognized as one of the best companies to work for in America,” said Peterson. “MyLearning is one way we can maximize the use of technology to continually improve the training process. That leads to more successful employees and ultimately, better customer service.”
Diane Siroky is a writer with Apollo Associates, Danbury, Conn., specializing in training technology.
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