As companies grow from national businesses to global enterprises, they can encounter myriad international challenges. From language and cultural differences to the difficulties deploying programs and initiatives to a widespread workforce, global corporations need efficient solutions to remain internationally competitive. We spoke to three global enterprises — Holland American Line, JP Morgan Chase and Genpact — about their strategies to ensure operational efficiency across international lines.
Holland America Line: E-Learning Efficiency Steers Learning to Affordable Waters
The Holland America Line (HAL), a fleet of cruise ships under the Carnival Corp. brand, has carried more than 10 million passengers in its 135 years of service. HAL operates in every ocean and continent, in more than 100 countries, with more than 280 ports of call.
When a new CEO came onboard in 2004, Capt. Christian Volkle, former deputy director of fleet training, had to adopt efficiency as a kind of mantra to train the roughly 15,000 fleet members he was responsible for educating every year.
Volkle used a three-pronged approach to make training more accessible and available to employees while simultaneously reducing vendor overhead. The first step was to develop computer-based training.
HAL had used many instructor-led programs, in which trainers came aboard ship and traveled with the crew. The company also sent many employees to specialty schools around the world for hands-on, interactive simulator training on the multimillion-dollar systems that mimic the bridge of a ship.
The second prong of the HAL learning strategy entailed installing training rooms on all ships, and each onboard training room was built to convert easily from multiple PC stations to an instructor-ready format in five to 10 minutes.
The onboard training rooms also helped bring blended learning to the forefront. For example, some learning such as the operator course for tenders (the small boats used to ferry passengers back and forth when the big ship can’t get to port) requires employees to complete an e-learning course with a minimum score before they qualify for hands-on training.
“The people who operate tenders have to take an eight-hour online course on things like the theory of small boat handling and boat maneuvering, collision regulations, who’s got the right of way in different situations, how to read weather and currents and things like that,” Volkle explained. “If they pass with a minimum score of 90, we allow them to go on to the hands-on portion, which will be another three weeks of hands-on training actually operating those boats with the direct supervision of a licensed officer. We’ve got self-paced materials, workbooks that they have to fill out for some courses — a variety of everything.”
Third, Volkle said HAL needed a learning management system (LMS) to launch and track its new computer-based training modules. It partnered with SumTotal and installed one training server and one LMS on each ship.
“Our company and other maritime companies in our business have always been required to do a lot of training, and we have international, federal and flag and port state laws that require all kinds of training, as well,” Volkle said. “We have ships in every time zone around the world. Each of those separate LMS servers stores all data onboard that particular ship. Once every 24 hours, any of the delta data that has changed is compressed and sent up to a communication satellite, which beams it back down to the Seattle headquarters, where it goes on the master server. It’s unpacked and then populates the master LMS. I can run reports that are never more than 24 hours old, even though we have employees that are all around the world.”
To create more of the operational efficiencies to maintain market position and profit, Volkle adopted a bundling practice in which he packaged vendor services to save costs.
“A good example is our computer-based training programs. This last year, we completed between 25 and 30 of them, and although I use probably three different vendors, one vendor has 90 percent of those projects,” Volkle said. “We put them all together, sent them out to a dozen different vendors with an RFP (request for proposal), evaluated the companies and then awarded a contract guaranteeing a minimum dollar figure of training for each year to make them our primary computer-based training vendor.”
HAL also employs its bundling strategy for some onboard training. The organization uses specialist companies, based mostly in Europe and North America, to train on proper lifeboat operation, for example. Volkle said operating a lifeboat is very similar to operating a tender or rescue boat, thus, he can bundle together those programs, offer the program as one contract to many vendors and have them bid on it.
Volkle said the synergies and cost savings he has seen based on the volume and the purchasing power of parent corporation Carnival are substantial.
Since implementing e-learning as the preferred training method and formally adopting other learning practices such as bundling, Volkle said he also observed a large increase in morale onboard, as well as in retention and the quality of training.
“Our regulatory compliance has gone way up,” Volkle said. “We’re seeing much fewer deficiencies or nonconformities in our environmental and safety and security management systems. Retention is definitely one of the big benefits of this initiative, and at the same time, I’m taking select groups of our senior management, our officers, and we’re training them to take over some of the functions from the vendors that we’ve been using. Rather than hire vendors at exorbitant costs to send them out to our ships to do the training for us, we’ve started training our own officers, who are already subject-matter experts. We pick the ones who have certain personality traits to be good trainers, and we send them to instructor training.”
Accent Neutralization at JPMorgan Chase
One of the most common challenges for global enterprises is language and accent differences across the corporation. This was the case for JPMorgan Chase Card Services, which implemented a voice and accent neutralization training program for financial service advisers in India to address the challenge.
The journey began in 2003, using vendor programs, which were sufficient, but they did not offer the control or the quality that Senior Director of Performance Improvement Eric Hicks wanted. In January 2005, he decided to bring the program in-house.
“There’s obviously a cultural difference between the U.S. and India,” Hicks said. “And to bridge that gap, we needed to make sure that we had some good cultural-awareness training of the culture that our card members have in the U.S. versus what the advisers who were talking to them on the phone in India were experiencing. We also had this issue of colloquialisms, how we speak to each other and the figures of speech that we use.”
Sushma Kapoor, site training manager, said this sort of language training was integral to success.
“The colloquialisms and business phraseology pieces are extremely important in interaction, so we wanted to bridge that gap in the adviser interaction and understandability,” Kapoor said. “The card members might say, ‘Give me a ballpark figure on that.’ We would expect our advisers to understand the context behind ‘ballpark figure.’ These are not common terms used in India. We wanted to explain some of the idioms, especially those that they will hear more often in the financial world and on calls, so they don’t go completely blank when they hear an expression like that. They’ll have a ready response to the question.”
JPMorgan Chase’s voice and accent training curriculum is not so much about teaching financial service advisers to speak American English but to neutralize their accents as much as possible, Hicks said.
“Our focus is to make sure that we help our employees become global speakers,” Kapoor said. “We’re trying to get them to sound as neutral as possible in some of their speech pronunciation. Our focus during our 10-day program — and it’s really continuous learning — is to get them to have more speech clarity. We also cover culture, which helps them to get familiar with common names, weather information or time zone information.”
Hicks said the cultural aspect is especially important.
“Often, customers will mention in passing things that are happening in society or in their community, and it’s helpful for our financial service advisers to have a little bit of an understanding of that so they can develop some rapport,” he said.
Hicks also said that since the voice and accent neutralization training was implemented, JPMorgan Chase Card Services has enjoyed performance improvements.
“We’ve seen an increase in overall customer satisfaction scores for the site — that’s a survey that we send out to a sampling of customers, and they tell us how they feel about the last interaction that they had with us,” he said. “We had few or really no complaints about our accent or understandability. I’m sure there are a few, but in terms of ‘often’ or a consistent complaint, that just hasn’t happened since we implemented this program. We’ve had better handle time in terms of how we manage the call. In other words, customers aren’t continually asking us to repeat ourselves or to slow down and say things in a different way. When you reduce the amount of time that customers are on the call, they’re happier because they’re serviced more quickly.”
Genpact: Efficiencies Through an LMS
Genpact, an international business services and technology solutions company, has a complex workforce that demands a flexible, scalable learning solution. With more than 27,000 engineers, technology specialists and other employees, the company’s workforce speaks 28 different languages and delivers service to 15 industries from 26 state-of-the-art operations centers around the world.
Genpact’s offerings include sales and marketing analytics, supply chain and aftermarket services, financial services, core operations and collections, finance and accounting, information technology services, enterprise application services and program management.
Genpact attributes its sixth-place ranking in commitment to learning and performance by the American Society for Training and Development to its successful global enterprisewide LMS. This commitment has helped Genpact reduce attrition, said Sangeeta Sahgal, vice president and corporate learning leader.
She also said Genpact’s use of its Oracle LMS has enabled it to attract and retain the best employees by using learning opportunities as a critical differentiator.
“Our comprehensive and extensive learning opportunities are key for us to be an employer of choice,” Sahgal said.
Other results from the LMS include the reduction of onboarding by 10 percent and reducing overall training administration costs by 15 percent.
Vice President of Oracle Solutions Steve Jolly said the LMS has been a valuable tool for the organization.
“Because of the integration with our human resource management system, Genpact is better positioned to manage and develop talent, which is critical to the performance of our company,” he said.
Specifically, e-learning has helped Genpact provide complete and consistent learning for 10,000 new employees each year amid rapid growth.
Last year, Genpact delivered more than 4 million hours of learning, and it now offers more than 800 courses, many delivered in 11 different languages.
Additionally, Genpact offers nearly every employee — across cultural and geographic boundaries — access to its large e-learning curricula. The LMS also helps the company deliver a consistent learning experience to all employees.
In this and many other ways, Genpact uses the LMS as a business asset, implementing learning management as an enterprisewide strategic application rather than a departmental expense.
As technology continues to evolve and Web 2.0 capabilities become mainstream, organizations will have even more choices and options to allow learners to participate in the organization’s learning initiatives.
With learning, collaboration and workforce enablement, the concept of a “virtual cycle” will emerge, offering even greater positive effects to the bottom line.
Kellye Whitney is a senior editor at Chief Learning Officer magazine. Amy Wilson is the director of Oracle Human Capital Management Product Strategy. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.