The training mission at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is “to provide training and consulting services to employees, departments and the Center by using strategic methods and tools designed for enhanced performance,” said Dr. Rony Rinat, manager of training and development for the Center.
According to Sylvia Emmer, management and organization development specialist, there are mandatory training requirements for almost every employee in the organization on a yearly basis, in addition to the voluntary training available. Rinat said of the organization’s learning philosophy, “In addition to the mandatory stuff we have to do, the overall philosophy is to provide people with opportunities to develop themselves when they are ready from the point where they are at individually.”
Senior management at the Center is very supportive of the learning function in the organization, said Rinat. “Even in difficult budgetary times, development programs go on. There is an ongoing effort to anticipate the future and provide what our people need,” he explained.
Despite the Center’s commitment to learning, difficulties arise due to time constraints. Everyone in the organization is involved with patient care—either directly or indirectly—and it’s all about the patient, Rinat said. “When patients have cancer, everybody wants to be seen quickly because it’s a very frightening disease,” he said. “Our people are very busy, obviously, doing something that’s considered very unique and special, and that is affecting human lives.”
Because the patient comes first for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, at times learning takes a back seat to patient care. “Even if I put aside two hours to work on the computer, or any other method, if my manager knocks on the door and says there is a crisis or we need to work, it’s very hard to say, ‘Sorry, I’m being trained right now,’” Rinat said.
Other challenges of delivering learning to the Center’s workforce include addressing needs on a just-in-time basis and preparing for the future at all levels. Technology-based solutions can help deliver learning when it is needed, but e-learning solutions come with their own challenges. Emmer explained that mandated e-learning programs can create difficulties for staff with no access to computers and for those who are uncomfortable with the technology.
One way the Center saves learning costs is by developing much of its learning in-house—with the exception of e-learning. For technology-delivered learning, the training and development department relies on the University360 learning management system from RWD Technologies. The LMS is used to deliver both mandatory and voluntary courses.
E-learning has allowed the Center to deliver training to thousands of employees on compliance-related issues, said Emmer. “It was a huge undertaking when they were doing it instructor-led,” she said. “So a huge advantage and a benefit was to work with a vendor, use our subject-matter experts to create this course and disseminate it to thousands and thousands of people. We are, of course, also able to track it and produce reports when we’re asked to prove we’re in compliance.”
For non-mandatory courses, the technology has allowed the Center to solve many of the issues associated with just-in-time learning. “When people need it, we have it available just in time. Learners can launch any or all parts of a course at any time,” Emmer said.
Rinat explained that e-learning has added an additional method from which individual learners can choose. “Like any other organization, it was hard to convince people to think differently about what development is all about, which is making people themselves responsible for their own development,” said Rinat. “This is providing them with the opportunity, but ultimately they are responsible for the outcome as well as how they go about it. So now people have choices.”
Moving forward, Rinat said the goal is “…to stay in touch and to continue to partner with the organization and to provide the department and the individuals in the organization with the tools, the skills, the ideas and the approaches that it needs to accomplish its goals.”