According to Kelly Conte, senior manager of learning and development at Kinko’s, depending on what learning programs are being rolled out, all 20,000 Kinko’s team members could receive training within a given year. “Our overriding goal is to roll out the training offerings that are key to our business in a timely fashion and to the appropriate people as quickly as we can,” Conte said.
Conte explained that training at Kinko’s is structurally organized into four different components. These include technology training, organizational development and professional development, operations training and sales training.
Regardless of which component it falls into, training is delivered at Kinko’s in a blended format. “Our overall learning strategy is a blended learning strategy,” said Conte, “so we use multiple media to get that out. It could be a Web-based module. It could be a job aid. It could be a virtual classroom-type course.”
Conte said that offering a blended learning strategy provides numerous benefits for the organizations. First of all, it adheres to the theories of what works best for adult learning by allowing them to learn in the ways that best suit their needs, whether it’s online or instructor-led. “We offer multiple opportunities for them to learn the way it’s comfortable for them,” Conte said. She added that the ability to deliver learning to a large group of widely dispersed team members with no time to market or very little time to market and no travel costs or costs around ramp-up is another major benefit of using blended learning to train the Kinko’s workforce.
Conte explained that most classroom training for Kinko’s is actually done via a virtual classroom. Team members sit at their desks or in front of the PC at their branch and have headsets so they can hear the instructor. The course is live, so all students show up at the same time. “We have a full range of functionality,” Conte explained. “We have voice over IP so you don’t have to dial in from the conference rooms. You have breakout rooms. You have application sharing. You have chat. You have all of the features that allow you to be interactive and communicate.”
In addition to this live virtual classroom offering, Conte said that Kinko’s also provides what they call “instructor-led” training in the workplace. It’s not “instructor-led” in the traditional sense where everyone travels to a physical classroom, but a leader-led, on-the-job experience. “It’s more leader-led and in the workplace,” she said. “So perhaps we’d need a session on whatever topic. Perhaps the branch manager or a subject-matter expert within the branch or district manager, whoever the appropriate team member is within Kinko’s would actually go to that branch and do that session. So it is instructor-led, but not in the traditional sense.”
Conte said that currently Kinko’s learning is about 60 percent to 70 percent e-learning, though she said that percentage will fall as the company works on implementing more blended solutions. “We’re getting more on-the-job activities and demonstrations of tasks involved in that. We’re also getting more leader-led involved. We’re also getting more virtual classroom rolled out,” Conte explained. “So it’s not that the sheer number will go down in terms of online sessions, but we’re increasing the percentage of other types, so that will just adjust the percentage.”
Conte said that the operations group makes up 60 percent of Kinko’s team members, and these employees get a wide range of training. They get plenty of Web-based training, but are on the low end in terms of instructor-led training. ‘The environment they’re in doesn’t make that the best way to deliver training to them,” she said.
Conte added that Kinko’s uses a lot of job aids for the operations group. “A lot of times, if you think about a Kinko’s environment, they need to know how to run a machine,” she explained. “They need to know to do this step first, this step second and this step third. Job aids work very well in that environment.”
Operations team members get training on equipment and new product rollouts. “As we roll out a new product, they get all the training on the product, from what is the best application to recommend this particular product to a customer to does it cost more to do this or this, what’s the difference and what are the benefits, and what different processes are involved with each choice?” Conte said.
Conte emphasized that learning at Kinko’s maps indirectly to company goals. The more direct relation is between learning and specific job roles. Each job role at Kinko’s has an individual training plan associated with it that drives success for that position. “So if you are role X, you have a training plan that allows you to be successful and enables you to be successful in that particular role,” Conte explained.
That success is measured through assessments following each module. The LMS captures the scores, allowing Kinko’s to track how well its workforce is absorbing the materials.
But Conte said that question-and-answer-based assessments are not the only way Kinko’s measures the success of its learning. Some assessments are based on an actual activity, she said. “If they’re taking a binding class, for example, they may be asked to go run a binding job, and they’re given the parameters,” Conte said. “Then they have to go either to the binding expert for their branch or to their branch manager—some authoritative source in the branch—to say yes, you did this right, or you did everything good except for this one aspect.” Then, Conte said, the branch manager or expert can do a one-off session with the employee to focus in on any aspect they might have missed. “They’re actually demonstration-based assessments.”
These demonstration-based assessments allow immediate action to be taken when the learning is not being absorbed.
Conte said Kinko’s chose to work with Saba’s LMS because of its scalability. “The thing that won us over to Saba was that it was highly scalable in terms of pure numbers because we needed that scalability,” she said. She added that features, in terms of tracking, evaluations, surveys, assessments and more, were also a driver in the decision to implement Saba.
Kinko’s has reduced the training cost per team member by around 75 percent. This was achieved by transforming nearly 100 percent classroom-based training conducted in 50 field training facilities around the county into the blended learning strategy delivered via the Internet.
Conte added that getting the training out to a widely dispersed audience as quickly as possible has been a major benefit that has saved the company money. “We did a benchmarking study, and our training spending per year was about $800 per person, and if you calculate the savings, right now we’re right at $200 per team member. I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but if you multiply the difference times 20,000 employees, you’ll get a really big number,” Conte said.
In fact, once you do the math, you can see that if all 20,000 team members were trained under the prior system, it would cost $16 million, as opposed to $4 million with the new system.
Conte said that although Kinko’s had very clear objectives and expectations going into its implementation of the LMS, there were some benefits that were not anticipated.
“When you have, for instance, a Web-based module, you think of team members going into that and doing it from start to finish and completing that course,” Conte said. “But actually, what happens a lot of times, and this is probably more on the technical training side, is I’m in the process of doing something—a project in my daily work—and I come upon a problem, like I don’t know how to sort something or I don’t know how to fix a PDF document in Acrobat or something of that nature. I can go in and pull that module, and I can find the chapter on that specific problem, read just that module and then go back and apply it to my work. I don’t think we really thought of that at the time we were implementing this as being a real direct benefit.”
Conte compared this leveraging of learning objects contained within the modules to online technical support. “It’s right there when you need it,” she said.
Conte said that Kinko’s took a phased approach to its implementation of the LMS, and they are still rolling out additional features and enhancements that are already within the LMS that they had not yet implemented. But, she said, the biggest thing Kinko’s is working on right now, learning-wise, is developing the content that is specific to Kinko’s. “Probably the thing we’re focusing on most is just the custom development of the content,” she said.
Overall, Conte said it is not the technology itself that drives success, but internal and external partnerships. “Regardless of the technology and regardless of the product, you have to have partnerships created to be successful,” she explained. “And I don’t just necessarily mean vendor partnerships, but internal partnerships, such as with your IT.”
Conte said that the key to the Kinko’s successful implementation of its learning infrastructure was its technology organization. But it is management buy-in that ultimately drives the success of any major learning technology. “Having executive management support is key, and we’re very lucky here at Kinko’s. We have great executive management support for our training program,” Conte said.
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