In the mid-’90s, Lubrizol implemented e-learning to address the knowledge required by its employees and to increase the hands-on component of training. And in 1996 and 1997, while standardizing the Lubrizol computer infrastructure worldwide, Lubrizol successfully sold e-learning internally as a way to transition people from one environment to another. With 29 manufacturing plants in 15 countries and 46 sales and technical service offices worldwide, online learning helps reduce the logistical challenges of training employees around the world.
Given this previous success with e-learning, Lubrizol could have merely substituted its old online learning system with Element K in 2001. Instead, it decided to use the opportunity to further establish online learning. This started with an innovative marketing plan.
The plan included encouraging people to use e-learning by creating quiet spaces dedicated to learning and offering ILT (instructor-led training) only for advanced courses. Lubrizol also leveraged its corporate university’s annual survey to gather feedback on e-learning to help develop the marketing activities. As with other training, finding the time for learning was a big issue, so the 24×7 availability of e-learning from work and home was a key selling point.
Lubrizol organized a cross-sectional group of approximately 20 to 30 users to do usability testing. These people provided valuable feedback for the rollout and became advocates for the new online learning environment. Additionally, effective global implementation required local ownership from around the world. To help create this ownership, Lubrizol is empowering administrators at many locations to use the system to help manage local training. This local ownership builds local champions for the system.
Another key aspect of Lubrizol’s marketing plan included tying e-learning to specific organization-wide efforts, such as the rollout of new software and hardware, employee orientation, new ethics policies, management training and the development of blended learning paths for new employees. The availability of Lubrizol-specific content and the integration of this content into a blended learning environment helped reinforce e-learning’s effective role in the corporate learning environment at Lubrizol.
To promote its go-live date, April 2002, Lubrizol used bulletin boards, mouse pads, screen savers, e-mail and in-person presentations, and met with its Global University team, providing them with marketing templates to get the word out. Lubrizol advertised its kick-off event in its global newsletter and put together a technology expo, attended by more than 600 employees. The event featured e-tools, Web conferencing and e-learning and included prizes, giveaways, demonstrations and a grand prize of a PDA.
“The event was a huge success—half of the employees at the corporate location attended,” said Dean Noble, Lubrizol’s learning and HR technology manager. “The event greatly increased awareness around e-learning.”
Noble added, “The key parts of marketing e-learning at Lubrizol were blending online learning with ILT, integrating e-learning into the whole Lubrizol University, building global ownership and integrating e-learning with our global HR system. Learners’ records are downloaded into PeopleSoft, empowering employees to manage their own learning.”
Just months after the kickoff event, 21 percent of Lubrizol’s employees (942 employees) were actively attending 1,361 courses and had completed 651 courses. While numbers illustrating success will be important down the line, Noble said that Lubrizol considers “just-in-time training” the most important goal.
Pleased with Lubrizol’s efforts to market e-learning internally thus far, Noble still recognizes the obstacles the company faces:
- Geography and Culture: In Singapore, people seem to prefer ILT. In France, language is a barrier.
- Learning Preferences: Through synchronous Web conferencing, Lubrizol continues to try to bridge the gap for those who prefer ILT and help them become better self-study learners.
- Middle Managers: While Lubrizol tries to empower employees to drive their own learning, middle managers are critical champions, but are challenged due to their workloads.
“There will always be obstacles, so take the time to get to know your learning culture and learning environment,” Noble recommended. “Through this process, you’ll discover what works best in your organization when marketing e-learning.”
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