At EMC, learning and development is more than just something the training department does. It’s a core piece of the Massachusetts-based data storage and service company’s strategic direction.
“We’re not some training organization that’s over in the corner taking orders,” said Tom Clancy, EMC vice president, global education and productivity. “We are fully engaged, fully immersed into the business.”
Clancy said business managers take ownership of education efforts, an approach that allows the learning department to meet business needs more effectively and deliver significant results in the process. Case in point, the education function consistently ranks high on EMC’s annual survey of customers and has earned the company’s highest rating for two years running.
“This is our chairman’s No. 1 survey in the company, and every quarter he sees that we are the No. 1 organization from a customer loyalty point of view,” Clancy said. “It almost doesn’t get any better than that.”
Those results didn’t come without significant behind-the-scenes effort to align learning to a rapidly changing business and create a world-class employee development engine. To start, EMC turned to seasoned business leaders like Clancy, a sales veteran, to guide the learning function. Learning experts provide design and delivery expertise while the business leaders focus learning professionals on the needs of the field.
“The business people taught the learning people how to be better aligned and how to meet audience requirements,” Clancy said. “It was really a teamwork approach.”
With more than 48,500 employees globally and rapid growth through more than 50 acquisitions in the last 10 years, EMC needed to develop a predictable and repeatable process to integrate, align and deliver learning, said Ernie Kahane, EMC director of learning strategy and acquisitions.
“We had to create a structure that was easy to plug into, was scalable, was global, which had all the connections to our business customers and all of our processes, tools, standards and infrastructure,” he said.
This “training machine,” as Clancy called it, has multiple interfaces that connect learning with key departments, including sales, service, channel partners and engineering, that allow the learning organization to stay on top of a fast-paced, rapidly changing industry.
“The only way you can do that is to have strong alignment with the business,” Clancy said. “We knew that right from the start, so we made sure we put the right people in place that were interfacing with the business units so that we could truly understand what their requirements are.”
EMC deploys a blend of delivery methods that is standardized depending on the audience. For example, at the lowest levels, employees and partners receive nearly 100 percent e-learning. At higher levels, EMC deploys virtual classrooms, instructor-led training and workshops depending on the audience served.
“We see it as a kind of skeleton that we can keep innovating and expanding, but is very easy to plug into and make repeatable and predictable,” Kahane said.
Social media and Web 2.0 tools, such as EduTube, a proprietary YouTube-like video sharing tool, are used to support informal and formal learning throughout. That mixture of formal classroom and instructor-led training, e-learning and informal learning, along with technology tools that allow users to create and add content, ensures learning remains rich and relevant to end users.
“The user-generated content can strengthen content that has been driven out to the field,” Clancy said.
Measurement is also an important part of EMC’s learning and development approach. While EMC uses traditional measures of learning usage and effectiveness such as the Kirkpatrick model, executives were looking for clearer indicators of business impact.
“We needed to expand the model to look at a more direct tie with our business drivers: total customer experience, growth and efficiency,” Kahane said.
That model includes measures of efficiency against key performance indicators, growth of the education business and customer loyalty. “At the highest levels of EMC, they are seeing what our customers are saying about customer education and how important it is to driving loyalty,” Clancy said.
EMC operates in a competitive global environment and is focused on continuing to grow.
“As an education group, we need to continue to maintain our focus,” Clancy said. “Getting global solutions in place to get our people, partners and customers up to speed, that’s our No. 1 job. We can’t take our eye off of that.”
Mike Prokopeak is editorial director of Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors Note: This story has been updated to indicate that EMC has more than 48,500 employees and acquired more than 50 companies since 2003. The original article listed the number as 32,000 and 40, respectively.