After T-Mobile rolled out its mobile data solution, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), which would allow its 700 million users to be connected to their home carrier data services via the subscriber’s handset, PDA or laptop and then send and receive data as required throughout the day, Bennett and his education team were responsible for training the engineering department on the new system. Bennett’s engineering department of 2,300, only a small percentage of T-Mobile’s 22,000-plus employees, plays a vital role for the nationwide wireless service provider company, formerly known as VoiceStream Wireless. His engineering and technical operations group is responsible for designing, building and maintaining the wireless network. Following the economy’s plummet, Bennett said that if they were going to be successful in their educational mandate they had to make some clear choices. They did what they understood, which was deploying technology “wherever we could to make learning happen,” he said.
Bennett found that by implementing vClass, a live e-learning, demonstration and collaboration tool by Elluminate, T-Mobile was able to train a workforce in 20 markets. In just a week and a half, it was able to train 150 people without having to fly technicians to and from Dallas, Chicago, California, New York or anywhere in between. After a month of Web-based training, T-Mobile realized a 400 percent ROI. By not paying for travel and by splitting the virtual classroom time into half-days, “Our technicians weren’t out of pocket the whole day,” Bennett said. “They were only out of pocket a half a day, so they still had the ability to perform some of their normal duties.”
Bennett and T-Mobile have mastered ways to squeeze an ROI out of e-learning and educate more people in the process. In addition to reducing an apparent cost in training as a result of eliminating travel, T-Mobile has discovered another asset to Web-based training. T-Mobile’s customer care unit is an example of Bennett’s careful training methodology. The fast-growing wireless company uses vClass to train its trainers. “In a sense, every person in the call center is being touched by vClass technically,” said Bennett. With Elluminate’s training tools, T-Mobile is able to watch results from testing, and with Questionmark’s Perception tool, it is able to administer learning assessments using the Internet or intranets. Bennett said T-Mobile is able to expand its learning with vClass because the virtual classrooms are accessible at PC, Macintosh and UNIX workstations.
Bennett considers his educational services department as more of a clearinghouse and a facilitator than your classic education group. “We apply what we can to reduce the cost of training,” he said. This philosophy is most important because he said it promotes training. “We have a strategy where we apply capital,” he said. “We’re rich in capital money, but poor in operating expense money. So we have a philosophy in applying capital expenditure money to training, which is a real tight rope to walk.”
Content development is another avenue for T-Mobile to maximize its dollars. Bennett found that by customizing content and buying the rights to a class, education is once again an asset to the company. “We take a $900 class and turn it into a $300 class,” he said. “We see the market spending what they spent last year for that same type of training,” he explained. Bennett finds that it’s more beneficial to buy the right to teach the class, buy the instructor’s notes and then contract the instruction back to the original content developer.
Bennett said he’s mastered how to effectively train for the company. Using funds that are readily available versus what isn’t proves to be successful for T-Mobile. “We apply what we can to reduce the cost of training; that’s number one,” said Bennett.