Gone are the days when employee training meant plopping someone down in a classroom every few years to update them on company policy. Training is now a 24/7 ongoing process that addresses everything from tech upgrades to programming skills to work/life balance issues. But offering a wider range of training options also creates headaches for employers, in terms of keeping track of what's available, who's taking advantage of it, updating course materials, and results.
This was the situation Northbrook, IL-based Allstate ($112 billion in assets) found itself in a few years ago as it embarked on an ambitious plan to expand its training program. The company had created customized training programs for each of its more than 200 claims offices in the US roughly a decade ago. As the program grew, administrative problems emerged, reports David Larkin, human resources staff manager, Allstate. "All the data that was resident on those systems couldn't be shared," he recalls. "We had online training in the claims department, but had no way of centralizing data or producing reports."
To centralize the training data, in the mid-1990s Allstate created a learning management system called the PCCSO (Property/Casualty Claims Service Organization) Learning Network (PLN). At that time the insurer engaged Atlanta-based Learn.net, a provider of hosted e-learning solutions, to help create and customize the system.
PLN also let Allstate "put information out there regarding courses," Larkin says. "We were able to change things immediately in one location-we didn't have to make changes in 200 systems around the claims department. It also allowed management at various levels to get reports, and allowed learners to see what they had done and what they had to do."
Within a few years it was evident the PLN's benefits needed to be expanded throughout Allstate. "We wanted to increase the availability of training, have more consistent messaging through the online world, and needed to deal with the constant changes in courseware," Larkin says. Add the need to train employees in such core business systems as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as "soft" skills such as leadership, coaching and communication, and "the benefit of a learning management system" was clear.
The company had two options: a customized learning management system like the PLN, or an off-the-shelf system. "We chose to go with the customized approach," Larkin reports. In 2000 the PLN approach was expanded into an enterprisewide system encompassing all business units/ departments, renamed the Learning Resource Network (LRN).
Roll-out was completed in 2001. More than 67,000 active learners are using the network. In 2001, the company racked up more than 400,000 hours of education that was launched and/or tracked via the LRN, Larkin says.
Employees now can get training "anywhere, any time, any platform. The LRN puts information into the hands of learners. They can go in and assign courses and curriculums to themselves, better understand where they are from an employee development standpoint, and provide more information to management," Larkin reports.
In addition to the Learn.net technology, roll-out of the LRN required alignment between Allstate's IT and human resources teams. "Our HR strategy was to leverage existing technology"mainly networks and infrastructure that already were in place, Larkin says.
The LRN has made it easier to accommodate training requirements from Allstate's business groups. "We're now able to track things like increases in learning and feedback from learners," Larkin says. The system also has generated significant savings in terms of reduced travel costs, fewer instructor fees, less spending on facility rentals, and streamlined communications.
Case Study Closeup
Allstate Corp., Northbrook, IL, $112 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
P&C, life, financial and banking services.
Centralize training data and take learning management system enterprisewide.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio