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After its training and development funds were reduced, Fireman's Fund achieved efficiencies with AthenaOnline.

Like many U.S. organizations, the Novato, Calif.-based Fireman's Fund Insurance Company's (FFIC, $12.4 billion in assets) response to less than optimal economic conditions was organizational change. So when the carrier's training and development department began to feel a pinch on its resources, the struggling group turned to technology for a lesson in efficiency.

"We did a decent job of maintaining basic [training] programs in our home office, but we struggled to get training in the field to remote locations," explains Rand Libberton, management development and business skills consultant, FFIC. "Resource-wise, FFIC couldn't send one person to a location for the training of just two or three."

After the training and development group decided to "travel" to students via the technological route, Libberton set out to uncover a solution in late 2002. Armed with requirements for an online training system that had growth potential, Libberton's initial objective was to find a system that could be used for training managers. But once he met with AthenaOnline (Oakland, Calif.) and reviewed its online learning solution, it became clear that all of FFIC's employees could benefit from the solution.

Libberton explains that the system is a library of video clips and articles that employees access from their desktops. These three-to-five minute clips feature concise lessons from business experts and business school professors. FFIC has also used its own video resources to create presentations for the system, Libberton adds.

Simple to Customize

Because AthenaOnline is an ASP (application service provider), the product's implementation was simple, relates Libberton. "The nice thing about this product is [that] it's very simple to customize," he says. Aside from developing a new logo with which to re-brand the site, FFIC's part of the bargain involved placing a link to the site on its corporate intranet. The AthenaOnline site, which was re-branded QuickCoach by the carrier, was up and running in early 2003.

Although all of FFIC's employees have access to QuickCoach, Libberton explains that only about 60 percent of the organization has PCs equipped with sound cards. Since sound cannot be enabled without these cards, lesson transcripts are made available for those not able to access the audio portion of presentations. Additionally, the carrier has embarked upon a PC replacement initiative that will provide all employees with sound capabilities within the next month.

Since its implementation, the tool has proven to be especially helpful when it comes to distributing corporate messages handed down from FFIC's parent company, Allianz Group. "FFIC takes video clips from Allianz's board meetings and sends them to AthenaOnline so they can be made available online," explains Libberton. In order to access videos, users can search clips by topic. Also, FFIC is given the ability to "push" links to clips via e-mail to employees. Visual tools are added to clips to clarify lessons. For instance, if a presenter is speaking about financials, FFIC has the ability to add a graph or PowerPoint presentation to the slide.

Libberton is pleased with the minimal costs associated with placing videos on the system. "FFIC doesn't even consider it an expense," he relates. "It's something like $30 or $40." Efficiency gains have also been achieved by the carrier, which recently completed a key project with its commercial business group. Two-hundred and fifty people have completed that training. "If it weren't for QuickCoach, that number would have been dramatically less," asserts Libberton. "Students just went online, got the information and were done."


COMPANY NAME: Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Novato, Calif., $12.4 billion in assets.

LINES OF BUSINESS: Property & Casualty, personal and commercial lines.

VENDOR/TECHNOLOGY: AthenaOnline (Oakland, Calif.) learning solution.

THE CHALLENGE: Find a cost-effective way to train remote workers.

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