Companies are often called upon to be their most creative in the midst of a crisis. Such was the case for records management service provider Iron Mountain. In the fall of 2001, the company rolled out its new HRMS system to a large audience dispersed around the country. The training was scheduled for Sept. 11. Still primarily an instructor-led learning organization, Iron Mountain was forced to cancel all sessions that eventful day, and resulting travel restrictions meant the company couldn’t reschedule any of the learning with its live instructors. The HRMS system was rolling out regardless of the chaos in the world, so Iron Mountain partnered with Centra, and was able to quickly pull together an effective learning program using online virtual classroom technology.
“We had been thinking about it for a long time,” said Cheryl Coutts, director of training, Iron Mountain, “but the world forced us to embrace the technology, and it’s been great. That was the first example of us using the Centra tool. Since then, we’ve used it in many different ways. While continuing to look for other training programs that had been delivered in a live instructor-led format, we were able to convert some of that content to live InfoShare events. We also use that tool to record events so that someone could go back at any time and watch a recording of an event.”
InfoShare also has been used to aid collaboration between the CEO and company managers from all over the world for quarterly meetings. “In the past, that was just a static conference call,” Coutts said. “Now we have the ability to interact, capture people’s questions, have slides up on a computer screen. It’s recorded for those people who aren’t able to participate in the call, and recently we’ve begun to use the technology to deliver training to our external customers. One of the biggest examples that we’ve had so far is one of our customer-facing applications, which is called Iron Mountain Connect. It’s a tool that our customers use to view their inventory with us, manage their inventory, place orders with us, track orders. Every Friday, we deliver live demos to our external customers, and we’ve had great success with them.”
With around 15,000 employees in North America, Canada and a smattering of locations in the United Kingdom, Europe and South America, Iron Mountain is working to build a global training infrastructure while meeting the needs of its four functional learning support groups. “We have an operations training team, and that group trains on all of our workflow, our internal systems that we use to service our customers. That includes customer service training, safety and security training,” Coutts said. “We also have a sales and account management team, and they are responsible for training our sales force and our account managers. Our third training group is called HRD, human resource development training. That is responsible for all of our soft skills, management development, HR programs like harassment training, interviewing skills and things like that. And obviously, all employees are able to take soft skills training programs, such as time management or communication skills. Our final support group is our e-learning technical training team. They support the training for our IT group specifically, but their main focus in on the creation and support of e-learning technologies and training programs.”
“The major focus for our Web-based training is for our sales and account management group. They require a lot of just-in-time training, and it’s very difficult to take those people away from their jobs. Then they’re not making money for the company,” Coutts added. “Our CEO, Richard Reese, came to us and said if we were going to invest in the technology to allow us to develop and deliver Web-based training, we should primarily focus on those two audiences. Part of that is to be able to provide them with training when they can take it. Then there are the travel costs that we’ve saved by being able to offer people blended learning, whether it’s Web-based or via our collaboration tool.”
Coutts said that it’s critical for an organization’s learning and development function to show bottom-line impact and value, and Iron Mountain has established a task force to put measurement and evaluation standards and procedures in place. Coutts’ team uses Kirkpatrick’s Levels 1 and 2, and has begun to identify key projects to apply Levels 3 and 4. “It is important to us to be able to proactively go to our internal customers and say, ‘You’ve invested X amount of dollars in this initiative and this much money in the training portion of this initiative,'” Coutts said. “We have not actually been asked by senior management to provide those specific metrics. We have decided to take a proactive approach, put those standards in place, and begin the process of doing some of these Level 3 and Level 4 evaluations so we can go back to our internal customers at the end of the year and show them, ‘Here is the impact that we’ve had and the value that we’ve offered to Iron Mountain.'”
Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org
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