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Learning! 100

8th Annual Learning! 100 Award Call for Applications Opens

Award Program Recognizes Top 100 Global Learning Organizations Elearning! Media Group, publishers… Read more...

The 2017 Learning! 100

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The 2017 Learning! 100

If there is a lesson to be learned from this year’s Learning! 100 honorees, it is that there is… Read more...

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The 2017 Learning! 100

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The 2016 “Best of Elearning!” awards honor best-in-class solutions across the learning and technology marketplace. Celebrating their 12th year, these honors are bestowed across 27 different… Read more...

The 2017 Learning! 100

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Learning Impact Research: Can Serious Games Measure Up?

BY Kathy Heldman and John R. Mattox II

In today’s “big data,” metrics-driven business world, talent development professionals are challenged with demonstrating a tangible return on investment from their learning solutions. Traditional measures like participant feedback surveys and course completion rates are not enough anymore. Instead, C-Suite executives are keenly interested in how programs improve specific business outcomes like increasing sales, improving workforce performance, or maximizing employee engagement.


Jim Sokolowski is the chief learning officer and director of Global Learning and Leadership Development for Savvis, an outsourcing provider of managed computing and network infrastructure for I.T. applications. He joined Savvis in 2010 to build a learning organization from the ground up, and during the past three years has done just that with an approach to learning that is strategic and laser-focused on impacting results. In the three-year transformation process, the Savvis learning team has been awarded the Training Magazine Top 125 Award in 2012 and 2013 and also the B.E.S.T. award from the American Society for Training and Development in 2012 and 2013.

“We have come a long way in our rapid from-the-ground-up build and transformation,” says Sokolowski. “I am very proud of what the team has accomplished, and I am honored to be part of this award-winning team. The question we continue to ask ourselves, ‘Now what?’ To keep our seat at the table requires that we maintain relevance by staying connected to the most critical strategic imperatives. We must also continue to improve the services we provide and the solutions we deliver.

” Interdependence is a key element of the Savvis way. At the beginning of each year, Sokolowski and his team meet with business-unit leaders to better understand their strategies, goals and talent development needs, with the ultimate outcome of being able to link all learning solutions and efforts to the most critical organizational strategic imperatives. In addition to the annual connection point, Sokolowski’s team also uses a strategic consulting process along with monthly enterprise learning dashboards and quarterly program level dashboards to regularly review learning solution progress and share the results with business-unit leaders. These strategies reinforce a continuous connection with the business, while also providing a mechanism to continuously improve the learning solutions the team is providing.


In order to ensure profitable revenue growth, the Savvis sales organization is a key internal customer. Two key areas of focus for this internal customer are improving sales communication and negotiation skills with prospects and clients to accelerate bookings and improve customer satisfaction.

Savvis sales representatives engage in a complex selling cycle that often results in a highly customized solution, so it is imperative that contract terms and conditions are negotiated clearly and favorably early in the sales cycle.

Effective sales communication is essential throughout the process in order to accurately identify the needs and interests of clients and to gain their trust. These key competencies — part of the Savvis sales success profile — are linked to the sales employee lifecycle.

According to Sokolowski, “The importance of linking the organization’s talent development initiatives with its priority of growing revenue at or above market rates made it clear that a heightened focus on improving sales communication and negotiation skills is a critical success factor for Savvis.”


Finding a transformational learning program that provides measureable results was essential. Sokolowski has always been intrigued by gamification, in part because he has observed the positive impact that computer games have on their players in terms of learning, engagement and having fun.

Acknowledging that this was a bit of a hypothesis, Sokolowski adds. “I thought this methodology could translate to impact work performance, particularly with the sales organization which is often an early adopter of technology.” The L&D team was excited by gamification, because it was an avenue to learning that fit the sales team’s results driven, competitive culture.

Savvis ultimately selected Merchants, an online sales communication and negotiation game-based program designed and developed by Madrid-based Gamelearn S.L., and licensed by Savvis from Game On! Learning, the U.S. distributor of the program.

The decision to implement Merchants was based on the following factors:

>> Skills application - The skills application focus of the training would help ensure that sales representatives mastered the key competencies. In serious learning games like Merchants, learners spend more than 90 percent of their time practicing and applying new skills.

>> Engagement and innovation – Savvis wanted something that was highly interactive. In fact, the organization has conditioned its workforce to expect engaging learning.

>> Cost – Savvis wanted to deploy a solution that would be cost effective and not break the bank.

>> Scalability – If the solution demonstrated positive impact, Savvis would want to quickly scale the approach to other areas of skill development.

“We have been fortunate to be able to foster and operate in an environment where we can innovate with learning while taking risks in trying new things,” says Sokolowski. “This is an environment we have created, and we accomplished this through the ongoing showcase of the value and impact of learning, while maintaining laser focus on flawless execution to deliver on commitments to the business.”


Savvis began the implementation with an initial cohort to fine tune the approach before rolling it out to a broader audience. The cohort consisted of about 30 sales representatives in two U.S. cities. Each works on the phone to prospect and develop sales opportunities that will result in sales.

The cohort was constructed to create a diverse demographic of tenure and experience. The manager of the sales team also participated in the training, as did Sokolowski. The players are extremely competitive in their selling activities, and the learning game has brought that same competitiveness to the training.

Prizes were awarded to the players with the greatest accumulated wealth and highest trust scores in the game. Players who accumulate more than $1 million in wealth were admitted to a “Millionaires Club.”

Measurement of learning transference and performance improvement is essential. The Savvis team identified the following success drivers for the training:

>> Increased confidence in selling skills

>> Shortened sales cycles

>> Improved win/loss ratios

>> Increased revenue per transaction

>> More favorable agreement terms between buyer and seller

>> Improved sales behaviors in the specific skill areas of (a) Identifying prospect or client needs and interests; (b) Structuring the sales conversation to build trust; (c) Reaching mutually beneficial agreements in each conversation; and (d) Managing each conversation to develop a long-term relationship.


The initial implementation of Mer-chants began this past July, and so did the measurement research. Savvis and KnowledgeAdvisors designed an evaluation approach to determine whether knowledge and skills were acquired from the program and if they were being applied on the job to improve individual sales performance and improve revenue. In addition to the game-based learning cohort, Savvis launched a parallel cohort of salespeople completing negotiations training using traditional e-learning courses. A third cohort will complete a
classroom-based negotiation program during the fall of this year.

Explains John R. Mattox, director of Research for KnowledgeAdvisors: “It is impossible to implement a randomized experimental design to evaluate the impact of game-learning, but this comparison group design is the next-best approach.”

As this story went to press, the pre-assessments had been deployed, the train-ing completed, and post-training measurement had begun. The early returns are quite encouraging, with 80 percent of those starting the 8- to 10-hour program finishing it during the six weeks allotted. According to Sokolowski, “Getting 80 percent completion on a comprehensive
sales learning intervention is no small accomplishment, since training time takes away from their time selling. This high completion percentage indicates a high perceived value to the sales force, since this became a priority for the team.” The response to the training has also been quite enthusiastic, including comments from learners such as:

>>    “Once I got through the first level, I found myself wanting to play more and more. It is addictive and very fun talking smack with my peers.”

>>     “It is impossible to simply click through this game without stopping and making critical decisions based upon real negotiation techniques. Merchants presents the user with challenging scenarios and demands creative thinking for successful outcomes. But the best part is, it’s fun. This is learning gamification done right.”

Enthusiastic feedback, while important, is not enough. Sokolowski’s plan is to benchmark game-based learning against both traditional e-learning and classroom training that maps to the same competencies and learning outcomes.

The approach employs multiple assessments, evaluations and business data. Pre- and post-course knowledge and skill assessments are being used to quantify the knowledge and skills gained. All assessments and evaluations are deployed using Metrics That Matter, a proprietary learning analytics system from KnowledgeAdvisors. Savvis has used Metrics That Matter for the past two years to automate its standard training evaluation process.

Upon completion of the training, learners receive a web-based evaluation that asks if they have learned new skills and to what extent they expect to apply them. Learners
are asked to estimate their expected performance improvement and estimate how much of the improvement is due to training alone. KnowledgeAdvisors’ research has shown these predictive measures provide reliable “leading” indicators of the success of the program.

Follow-up evaluations will be sent to learners and their managers 60 days after completing the program. Questions in these evaluations will focus on how much performance has improved and how much of the improvement was due to training. These measures will be correlated with the predicted performance improvement measures and
will be compared to industry benchmarks maintained by KnowledgeAdvisors. Learners will also rate whether performance has improved for specific sales behaviors (e.g., number of client contacts, reaching mutually beneficial agreements, etc.).

Ninety days after the program, KnowledgeAdvisors and Savvis will conduct interviews with selected learners. Following the process outlined in Brinkerhoff ’s Success Case Method, half of the interviews will be with learners who provided the highest ratings on the evaluations and half will be with learners who provided the lowest ratings. The interviews will
focus on the strengths of each program and which aspects provide the most useful knowledge and skills. The interviews will also allow learners the opportunity to provide detailed examples of how they have used their knowledge and skills to improve their performance.

Figure 1 shows the evaluation approach with key performance measures across each group.

Untitled-3 copy

According to KnowledgeAdvisors’ Matox: “To demonstrate the impact of game-based learning programs on the business, it is essential to gather business data such as the number of sales, sales margins and other indicators of success.” The final data sources will therefore come from Savvis’ sales CRM system, which will provide results about sales cycles, win/loss ratios, revenue per transaction, and customer satisfaction. Information will be gathered for each learner for the 12 months prior to the program and six months after to control for seasonal fluctuations.


The road to success often requires innovation. The Savvis L&D group has embraced innovation — gamification of learning —with the intent of transferring knowledge and skills more efficiently and effectively to its sales force. This bold move was matched with an equally bold approach to evaluation. Only measurement can truly show how effective learning gamification is for Savvis compared to traditional forms of training delivery. Stay tuned. Savvis, Game On! Learning and KnowledgeAdvisors will report their evaluation results in 2014 with another case study.

—Kathy Heldman co-authored this article for Game On! Learning. John R. Mattox II co-authored it for KnowledgeAdvisors. To receive a copy of the completed research findings, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Published in Top Stories

Vado’s learning courses are designed to help organizations take action to develop competencies, increase engagement, and quickly onboard and socialize new employees. Henceforth, Vado’s content will be available through eLogic’s learning management system.

Vado offers content in six areas: Competency Development, Project Management, Business Writing Skills, Engagement and Retention, Career Development and Onboarding. All courses are delivered in bite sized-chunks to maximize learning retention. Vado also offers mapping as a service where, on a complimentary basis, it maps learning content to a client’s competency model, engagement survey, turnover drivers, an instructor-led workshop, or any learning objective a company is looking to develop.

—More info: http://elogiclearning.com/e-learning and www.vadoinc.net

Published in Deals

A new Insala survey finds that traditional training courses, mentoring, and special projects and situational challenges are the most effective career development methods used by organizations in 2013.

The most-used career development methods overall are:

1. Traditional training courses (78%)

2. E-learning (70%)

3. Special projects or situational challenges (58%)

4(t). 360 feedback and/or assessments (51.5%)

4(t). Continuing education (51.5%)

For director level and above, the most effective methods are:

1. 360 feedback and/or assessments (46%)

2. Special projects or situational challenges (37%)

3. Mentoring for high performers (17%)

4. Coaching for high performers (17%)

5. Networking events (16%)

For all other employees, the most effective methods are:

1. Mentoring for all employees (36%)

2. Traditional training courses (31%)

3. Special projects or situational challenges (30%)

4. Coaching for all employees (30%)

5. Employee initiated career discussions (23%)

The survey was released in July of this year, and was closed in September with a total of 259 respondents. Of those responses, 202 were valid for the analysis described above. A white paper detailing all findings will be released by Insala in early 2014.

—More info: www.insala.com

Published in Latest News

Innovation is often associated with high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley, but innovative learning strategies are also being implemented 125 miles east of the Valley in Sacramento, California’s state capitol.

The California State Board of Equalization (BOE) administers California’s sales and use tax and other special taxes and fees that fund a variety of state programs. To effectively administer these programs, its workforce is dispersed in several office locations throughout the state. The agency’s commitment to staff development is evidenced in its strategic goals, where “Invest in a skilled, motivated and diverse workforce” is one of four prominent areas of focus.

“I am always looking for innovative training solutions that will give our staff the best possible interaction with the public, provide more options for solutions, and create an environment where both the taxpayer and the Board are satisfied with the outcome of that interaction,” says Mark Walker, the training team lead for the BOE compliance and audit staff.

Piloting a Game

As it happened, Walker had been researching game-based learning for some time. His research uncovered some impressive results from learning games, so he began searching for a game-based training solution to teach the BOE’s compliance staff how to improve their communication and negotiation skills with taxpayers. He found a solution that seemed like a good fit.

“We piloted a learning game designed to teach negotiation skills in an online interactive format. We wanted to validate the concept prior to implementing a game based training solution throughout the

agency,” Walker explains.

The pilot was conducted over a five-week period.

Walker says: “Game-based training is implemented differently, as it is an online course played as a group or cohort. Each learner competes individually against the simulator, but results are aggregated in a cohort leaderboard, which introduces the concept of competition. Not only does this act as a motivator to do better individually, but it also generates positive communication between employees and between district offices located throughout the state.”

As the initial phase of the training unfolded, Walker tracked progress closely. “The vendor was very supportive before, during and after the pilot,” he notes. “Their staff was made available and assisted with the kickoff meeting for the initial cohort as well as the debriefing meeting. One of their learner engagement managers was assigned to our cohort and provided technical and supportive assistance to staff throughout the training. Regular contact was made with staff requiring support or encouragement, including both phone and email support.”

Then Came Debriefing

At the conclusion of the BOE’s pilot class, Walker scheduled a debriefing meeting, which evolved into a key learning event in the program. “The vendor helped create six mock case studies that simulate what our staff might encounter working at the BOE. In the debriefing meeting, the vendor representative conducted a group exercise where each group was given one of the case studies and was asked to create solutions. The participants were able to apply what they learned in the game and discuss it in an open environment with the other students and instructors. This exercise solidified and grounded the training into real-life situations that the students may experience and allowed them to see a new way to approach each scenario.”

The results were very encouraging, according to Walker: “The impressive results, combined with the overwhelming support of the pilot group, clearly indicate that game-based learning is an effective learning tool. I saw a difference in how the pilot group approached a scenario, applied techniques that were clearly learned from the course, and came up with win-win situations for both the agency and the public.”

One of the employees who completed the training said, “I felt once I completed the course, my skills to negotiate were improved by a large percentage. The negotiations with the different characters in the game prepared us to use the skills learned in different situations at the BOE, which made it more effective. It changes the whole approach on how to learn.”

Another employee adds: “The way this game delivers the content is better than almost any other class I have had. It also has a tell-show-explain methodology for skill development.”

From a learning transference perspective, Walker is impressed with the performance impact of the communication skills game. “Several weeks after the pilot was completed, I received responses from pilot participants that applied the skills they had learned. Several staff said they selected cases other employees were unable to resolve, and using the techniques taught in the game, they approached the cases from an entirely new perspective. They worked with the taxpayer to negotiate a solution that allowed the taxpayer to resolve their issues, and the state to clear the account. In all cases, the taxpayer expressed satisfaction with the outcome.”

Based on these positive results, the Board of Equalization has moved forward in a wider implementation of the learning game as the core of a blended learning program.

—Kathy Heldman wrote this article on behalf of Game On! Learning.

Published in Ideas

KnowledgeAdvisors today has released three new Big Data Solutions for talent development and HR professionals designed to help organizations understand major talent questions.

It consists of three different offerings designed for talent development professionals and organizations that collect data about their talent:

>> Big Data Module easily combines an organization’s talent, learning and business data, allowing them to quickly explore and visualize their data to make it easy to understand trends and patterns, and providing the ability to drill down to get to answers quickly.

>> Big Data Feed provides a standard data extract from Metrics that Matter, provided on a monthly basis to be integrated directly into the system of your choice.

>> Outsourced Big Data Analysis Service that can bring decades of combined experience in this arena to your organization without requiring you to hire, train and onboard a dedicated Big Data resource. It includes consultation on what data sets matter to your organization, as well as recommendations on how to make the data connections you need with your organization’s technical infrastructure in mind.

—More info: www.knowledgeadvisors.com

Published in New Products

CenterStage Library by Emtrain is a cloud-based on-demand video and content platform designed to enhance HR and corporate training initiatives.

CenterStage Library includes:

>> Video Topics: HR and legal compliance, leadership management and other soft skills.

>> Course Outlines: E-learning scripts for courses on all of these topics so members can make their own custom courses rather than buying them.

>> Playlist Creation: In a couple clicks, CenterStage Library subscribers can create as many playlists as they wish. Video playlists are great tools for live training.

>> Video Embedding & Sharing: Embed CenterStage Library videos into customized e-learning courses or share CenterStage Library videos links in virtual training or use the share links to assign videos via any LMS.

—More info: www.emtrain.com

Published in New Products

No matter your industry or which countries you work in, it seems that you can never find enough of the people you need, and most companies realize that they have to grow their own talent instead of recruiting. Two-thirds of global CEOs say it’s likely that their companies’ talent needs during the next three years will be filled using promotions.

Forward-thinking companies are using training and development as a powerful differentiator. Especially in emerging markets, the chance to learn and grow at a company can help attract the most qualified workers. Why? Most of the best and brightest people are more drawn to a career path filled with opportunity for growth than simply a large paycheck.

However, a dispersed workforce is a challenge, because it’s difficult to get employees to participate, retain content and succeed in every location. One size does not fit all.

Use the following best practices to build the global bench strength leaders need and to track results so you can continue to invest in the future.

1) Diversify your learning channels. In-person, instructor-led training isn’t always possible in global organizations. Increased use of video, social and mobile technologies can replace some or all of the training that previously could only happen in a formal setting. Use of video, simulations, sharing sites, and even games can not only help employees to learn but also to retain that knowledge. Most importantly, blended learning approaches allow a program to combine different types of media to develop programs for specific work groups.

2) Create expert networks. Encourage employees to reach out and collaborate with experts across the globe by making it easy to share knowledge and identify experts. Collaboration tools can help you create profiles, libraries of helpful information, and shorter paths to answers.

Talent profiles can include areas of expertise and contact information. If a project manager at an aircraft factory in France needs information about the assembly of a cockpit control panel, she can turn to internal wikis or even reach out to engineers directly.

3) Develop employees through mobile. In many emerging markets, online access is more likely to occur on a hand-held device than a desktop computer. Approximately half of users in Brazil and Russia use their smartphones for more than 50 percent of their total Internet time, and the figure — 68 percent — is even higher in India.

It’s little surprise that workforce adoption of social tools integrated into learning and development is projected to grow 100 percent over the next year as people use mobile devices for more than phone calls.

4) Become country-agnostic. If most of your employees are located in one country, it’s easy to build a bias toward your home country into your talent practices:

>> Building in language flexibility is an essential step to ensure access and maximum adoption.

>> A single learning platform makes it easier for you to deploy training across the globe, but technology will be only one tool in your overall strategy.

>> Understand that some locations may need in-person training or that experts may need to be deployed on the ground in key markets.

>> Your curriculum should also accommodate the diversity of your workforce. Centralized learning establishes consistency, but local responsiveness helps your business compete.

5) Measure results through all learning channels. Participation metrics can measure everything from webinar attendance to social media sharing. A single global platform makes it easier to gather meaningful analytics that can improve your programs and align learning to your company’s goals.

Metrics also make it easier to quickly add needed content. If you see high participation statistics on specific topic message boards, you might want to produce FAQ libraries and make information easier to find.

Measurement also helps you adjust your programs as needs change. One global biotechnology company consistently monitors the effectiveness of its programs through its LMS. The company’s unified global system for learning and development has had to grow through expansion, which required regular measurement and updating of the programs.

—Excerpted from a SuccessFactors whitepaper titled “Best Practices: Six Initiatives for Growing Talent on a Global Scale.” More info: www.success factors.com

Published in Ideas

Learning! 100 Transforming the Workplace

This year’s Learning! 100 winners share common experiences. These honorees have been transforming their learning and talent programs. They started from scratch, enabled new technologies and processes, and ended up being more efficient and impactful. The most successful have been named 2013 Learning! 100 award winners. In its 3rd year, the Learning! 100 awards honor high performance, organizational culture, innovation and collaboration.

For the first time, we recognized four unique organizations that have garnered dual honors as Learning! 100 organizations and Best in Elearning! solution providers. These four organizations literally “walk the talk.” Special recognition goes to SuccessFactors, an SAP Company, Oracle, IBM and Cisco. All are leaders in learning and technology, as well as high performing businesses.

As in previous years, Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines (EMG) recognize 60 corporate and 40 public-sector organizations for outstanding learning culture, innovation or collaboration that drives performance. Honorees cut across all industries and organization sizes, from 2 to 2.6 million employees. “We are honored to recognize these top performing learning organizations for 2013,” says Catherine Upton, group publisher. “Altogether, the Learning! 100 winners represent the best-of-the-best in learning and development across multi-national organizations.” The Learning! 100 Award program has a solid, research-based approach that offers firms a level playing field despite size, and many post-awards learning opportunities to share their knowledge.

Learning! 100 applicants were evaluated across three criteria: Aberdeen Group’s Best-in-Class Learning & Development assessment, EMG’s Learning Culture index, and overall organizational performance. Each submission received a rating for each section, and scores were totaled to identify the top 100. Their individual Learning! 100 rankings were determined by overall performance and the impact of their learning leadership.

“The top-ranked organizations all drive innovation and learning impact across their organizations,” says Jerry Roche,editorial director. “For example, American Heart Association’s mission is to reduce heart-related mortalities. It embraces learning across its communities: medical practitioners, employees and volunteers. The mission is honorable, and its learning strategies are impactful.”

There are lessons in the following pages that can apply to all learning organizations. Your peers hint that even more is possible than what has been done in the past. First and foremost, we can use new technologies entering the workplace — from smartphones and tablets to Skype and other telepresence technology — to go where we’ve never gone before and be what we’ve never been before. We can be more efficient. We can be more cost-effective. We can be more learner-centric. We can reach new audiences wherever they are. We can provide better ways to collaborate. We can move out of the classroom and into the workplace. We can even flip the entire process of learning, like what’s being done at Khan Academy. It’s our collective imagination that defines those limits, and it’s people on the cutting-edge of learning that will determine our futures.

Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines proudly salute the achievements and outstanding leadership of this year’s winners. Your organization is invited to apply (or re-apply) for the 2014 Learning! 100 awards. For more information, visit the website www.2elearning.com.

Top Learning Organization 2013

1- Defense Acquisition University: Learning Technology Lab

Despite a setback that would throw most managers into a tailspin, the U.S. Defense Acquisition University (DAU) successfully forged ahead in 2013 with development of its Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TALL). That new lab was the deciding factor in DAU being named to the No.1 spot on our list of 2013’s best learning programs in the public sector.

Last August, the original TALL facility burned to the ground. But the DAU learning team, led by Dr. Chris Hardy, immediately went to work re-establishing its mission and making a pitch to superiors to fund a new lab.

Hardy’s team members were so thorough in selling the original TALL concept that they received almost immediate funding for the new facility.

“We’re constructing a new TALL out of the ashes of the fire,” says Hardy, the director of DAU’s Global Learning and Technology Center.

Undertaking the original TALL was no small project in itself. “A couple years ago, we wanted to keep up with emerging technology and best practices,” Hardy remembers “We benchmarked various organizations, and it allowed us to move quickly.”

But at the start, the group didn’t have a process, a facility, a way to easily test developing technologies or different teaching methods and formats of deliveries. In other words, they didn’t really have a disciplined work-flow fleshed out or even a business case for the over-all TALL initiative.

“Basically, we’d get an great idea, figure out what it would cost, and then try to deploy it,” says Hardy. “This resulted in some early failures in successfully deploying new technologies, and with the amount of things that were changing, we had to do something different, so we started looking around at dedicated labs. We visited some higher-ed teaching and learning labs at M.I.T. and some others. They were mainly teaching their faculty to use the new technology for the classroom.

“But as a premier corporate university, we needed to go beyond that. We have everything from adult learning to course development, faculty technology and workshops. We also needed a structured business case and workflow process with defined requirements (so we wouldn’t just jump to a shiny toy that titillated us).”

Certainly, team members hoped that lab experiments would have a high return on investment, and that failures in the lab would not be near as costly as an unsuccessful implementation to the DAU’s entire body of learners. So they investigated what would be the drivers to something like the TALL concept and formed an integrated product team.

“That type of approach also promotes a collaborative chain with buy-in from the users and the faculty,” says Hardy. “The structured process itself is almost more important than just a facility.”


1. Building a strong business case for investing resources in the lab and convincing senior leadership that this was a good, credible return on investment. Risk assessment and security issues were of utmost importance.

2. Getting and retaining funding and dedicated facilities for the lab.

3. And facilitating the “hand-off,” including change management and implementation. 

“We have 500 faculty members that have day jobs — teaching and facilitating some 1,600 offerings a year,” Hardy observes. “As with any change, you really have to not underestimate the communication needs and the training of the faculty. To get their buy-in and support, they need to be a part of the process and participate in the pilots.”

Besides Dr. Hardy, key people responsible for the continuing success of the Teaching and Learning Lab include the original center director Dr. Judith Bayliss (who won the 2012 Federal Government Distance Learning Association Pioneer Award); new center director Luis Ramirez; TALL project manager Janine Leboeuf; Learning Capabilites and Integration Center director Tim Shannon; and DAU CIO Tim Hamm.

DAU is a three-time winner of the Learning! 100, and first time as #1.

Top Learning Organization 2013

1- SuccessFactors: Driving Sales Performance

When SuccessFactors executives said they needed their sales metrics to improve, the team from SuccessFactors University (now SAP Cloud Talent Success) went to work. And their plans worked so well that the company placed first among private-sector corporations on this year’s Learning! 100 list.


In January 2012, there were three main challenges SuccessFactors executives needed to address: sales attrition was significantly higher than industry average; new hire sales rep time-to-quota was painfully slow; and too few representatives were achieving quota. 

“Executive management needed the learning and enablement organization to move the needle,” says Manette Chadwick, senior director of SAP Cloud Talent Success Content Development. The team started by identifying the key skills of highly successful sales representatives and built the sales training program around pre-identified skill sets. “We commissioned two external studies to identify why some sales reps were successful and some were not.” Comprehensive competency research was conducted to identify top sales skills, abilities, knowledge and actions. A skills profile model was also created.


In order to achieve the results that executives demanded, Chadwick and team instituted Boot Camp for onboarding new sales personnel and built it on their company’s social platform Jam and the company’s LMS. All instructor-led courses have a blended design with pre-course work, course homework and post-course work in Jam.

“An insight we gained from our Boot Camp was that learners love the social aspect of using Jam,” Chadwick notes. “They stay together as cohorts on their Boot Camp Jam site throughout their first year. They share stories, post pictures and share information. They’re no longer alone after that first week.”

The learning team also devised a go-tomarket product “playbook” for each product and built it on a mobile Web application platform. The new playbooks take sales people through the entire sales cycle, from identifying potential customers to closing deals.

Everyone in sales takes the playbook webinar, two LMS assessments, then delivers the corporate pitch for that product. They record their pitch in Jam and request, through the LMS, an evaluation from an accredited evaluator.

“We drink our own champagne when we use our own products,” she adds. “Classes are robust, on-demand and virtual — it’s like a Khan Academy performance support model.”

Boot Camp, the product playbooks and all enablement activities drive the competencies identified by independent research and aligns to the business objectives specified by executive stakeholders. 


“We focus on business impact results, not traditional training measures,” says Julie Abel-Hunt, director of Learning Delivery and Measurement at SAP Cloud Talent Success. “We align with our client’s metrics like decreasing time to quota, lowering attrition rates, increasing deal size, decreasing sales cycle time and driving new hire ramp ups. We align the competencies taught with the competencies needed to drive a business metric and are then able to show the results of our sales enablement efforts.

“In 2012, new sales rep ramp time was cut in half, three times more sales reps met quota, and overall sales attrition was down 80 percent compared to 2011 sales new hires.”results of our sales enablement efforts.

Abel-Hunt, who was a lead Boot-Camp instructor, is particularly excited about the results: “Reps who attended Boot Camp in their first 30 days of hire created 20 percent more pipeline with 173 percent more deals won than reps who did not attend."

Chadwick summarizes it well: “When the learning experience is good and the learning is aligned to our business metric, learners are successful. And being successful keeps them engaged and happy. We take our jobs of driving success, engagement and fun very seriously.” 

Top Learning Organization 2013

2- The Juilliard School: Taking the Arts Online

Educators from The Juilliard School (www.juilliard.edu) are celebrating the first student enrollments in Juilliard eLearning, the conservatory’s first-ever group of online courses that has been developed for students in grades K-12.

The Juilliard School established this country’s standard for education in the performing arts, beginning with music in 1905. Its alumni are among the most famous recitalists, orchestral and operatic musicians, actors, and dancers, as well as arts administrators and teachers. More than 800 young artists from 43 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and 40 foreign countries attend Juilliard today.

The first level of four Juilliard eLearning courses are now available — two elementary courses, one middle school course and one high school course — and all aligned to the National Standards for Music Education.

“We began exploring distance learning and online education forums a few years ago with the idea of looking forward to expanding our brand,” says Juilliard assistant vice president for Special Projects Tricia Ross. “We also explored other, more traditional types of licensing such as apparel and travel packages, but we felt the K-12 market would be an ideal place for Juilliard. It’s been a very good opportunity for us to learn more about the online education world.”

Juilliard eLearning courses, powered by Connections Education, provide schools and school districts an affordable option to keep their arts program alive or enhance their current music offerings. Parents gain an affordable new option to give their children a primary introduction to music concepts or a valuable supplement to their student’s current music lessons, with a world-class perspective.

Each Juilliard eLearning course features dynamic instructional sequences that enhance students’ understanding and enjoyment of music for a lifetime. Lessons provide a strong foundation in musical concepts, vocabulary, and notation. Students also learn how to recognize the sound qualities of orchestral instruments and gain a solid introduction to Western classical music, while exploring music from cultures around the world. Courses feature exclusive demonstrations, audio recordings, video performances, and other immersive content and interactive learning opportunities.

Among the innovative and dynamic learning tools that these courses offer to “bring music to life”: 

Virtual music tools - Each course provides students with the chance to put their music instruction into practice by using virtual music tools. They compose and record their own music, leading to greater appreciation and greater understanding. Virtual instruments available for students include xylophone, piano and violin.

Faculty Video Demonstrations - Students access videos featuring firsthand instruction from faculty and alumni from The Juilliard School and others demonstrating technique and discussing music theory. These videos are only available through the Juilliard eLearning courses.

Student Performance Videos - These videos feature student performers demonstrating techniques and instruments and playing pieces in the repertoire. These videos bring the music study to life for students.

The courses were initially offered to students enrolled at virtual schools. The courses are now being marketed to schools, districts, and individual students nationwide. In the future, courses may include music theory, music history, drama history or dance history. Synchronous virtual music instruction courses and virtual master classes are also being considered.

Top Learning Organization 2013

2- Shaw Industries: Re-inventing Performance Management

Not too long ago, the performance management process at Shaw Industries had some age on it and was becoming too mechanical, with not enough service and development components. All that changed about 18 months ago with the launch of what is called the “AIM” (Accelerate, Inspire, Motivate) performance management process, which has resulted in glowing reviews from many of Shaw’s current 23,000 associates.

“Every company grapples with this,” notes Danny Crutchfield, director of Corporate Training and Organizational Development. “We’ve done performance reviews for a long time, but we conducted some focus groups and found that our associates felt like the process needed some work and new life to make it more meaningful.

“The impetus kind of bubbled up from a lot of places. The Shaw Learning Academy and our HR partners proved that this is an area of opportunity. It started with our CEO’s new mission/value/vision and focus on greatness — of each associate knowing what greatness looks like in his or her role, whatever it may be.”

Shaw took on a mantra that would reflect its new corporate mission: “Great People. Great Products. Great Service. Always.

The sheer grandiosity of that mission provided some difficult challenges to the Shaw Learning Academy (SLA), which coordinates efforts to enhance associates’ skill levels and personal development with a broad offering of sales, operations, ethics, technology and leadership development courses.

Crutchfield, Brian Cooksey (who is director of Operations Training and Development) and others began to redesign the company’s performance appraisal process, in order to develop a flexible system that can adapt to a diversity of roles and job responsibilities while also providing for evaluation of a core set of “greatness” competencies.

“SLA had gone through strategic planning with executive leadership to tweak organizational mission and values,” says Cooksey. “As part of that, we wanted to reevaluate the performance management system to align with our organizational mission and values. We wanted to do a better job of communicating the importance of all the different roles that play into the performance management process, using online tools and online support resources to tie together all the various systems within the company.”

Since AIM’s launch last October, there has been a 21 percent improvement in the “on-time” completion percentage of performance reviews as well as more clearly defined goals and objectives. E-learning content has also been connected to this process, which has meant improved utilization of content that is specifically mapped to the competencies. New dashboard/analytic tools were also implemented.

Shaw also recently launched a supervisor leadership academy across its entire organization at different skill levels. The courses emphasize building and inspiring trust and having better interpersonal relationships. It’s a multifaceted approach that started with strategic planning but now brings many assets, tools and resources together.

“We’re trying to change the whole culture,” says Crutchfield. “We’re on a four- to five-year schedule to change the way we get feedback and communicate with our associates — particularly that manager-associate relationship.”

This first year centers around the program’s mechanics, which had been very traditional. But now the changes are being directed at corporate culture — not just at mechanics and deadlines. Completion rates are improving, and associates are making deadlines. “But what’s really improving,” Crutchfield notes, “are the conversations around real issues, real opportunities and real feedback — when it’s needed, not just once a year.”

The sheer number of reviews has escalated. “It’s not just about getting them done,” Cooksey observes, “but getting them done right throughout the year. This past month, we’re continuing to hold webinars and classroom sessions where we’ve engaged our business leaders to talk to managers and associates about what the competencies mean and how they’re important to our business. But we’ve still got a lot to do. We’ll continue to roll this model out to other levels of associates. 

“This is just another example of why it’s important that a learning organization be aligned with business leaders and business groups and to have a seat at the table,” Cooksey adds. “We’ve connected with them, ensured that we understand the goals and challenges, and we are making sure the learning solutions align with them. We’ve got that trust, and we all realize that we’re on the same team.”

Shaw Industries is a three-time Learning! 100 winner.

Top Learning Organization 2013

3- American Heart Association: Volunteer to Learn

The mission of American Heart University (AHU) of the American Heart Association (AHA), when initially conceptualized in 2007, was to create a place for all staff and their family to have free, online access to world-class education. Additionally the university would support AHA’s workforce strategy to attract, hire, develop and retain top talent capable of accelerating progress toward achieving the mission, by continuing to evolve the AHA as an even more compelling place to work.

The AHU combines hundreds of online courses with traditional in-person workshops. The addition of a new initiative, “Summer Learning Challenge 2012” helped the organization repeat its Learning! 100 Top 10 finish from last year.

Recruiting Derek Cunard — an experienced corporate university dean — to build the AHU from the ground-up, plus overwhelming executive support for the new proposition, has resulted in unheard- of 100 percent staff participation in educational programs focused on building muscle around AHA’s critical employee and leadership capabilities. AHU is the perfect educational vehicle that drives the AHA forward toward its critical mission and bold 2020 impact goals.

The concept behind the Summer Learning Challenge was to re-engage and challenge AHA learners to participate in voluntary online courses at the AHU during the two summer months (which have proven to be slower for staff) just after the organization’s fiscal year-end. Its goal was to encourage all staff to take a minumum of one online course during this period; however learning leaders suggested that any employee who completed five courses would be eligible to win prizes as a “Summer Learning Super Star.”

The results exceeded everyone's wildest dreams. Learners were surveyed, and an impact analysis revealed an estimated $8.7 million net benefit in 2012 to the American Heart Association.

How did AHU achieve such lofty results? Primarily, innovative promotions were created to excite the staff to the possibility of taking courses during the summer. This included several videos, mailers, desk drop flyers, posters, emails and a complete rebranding of the university website to reflect the Summer Learning Challenge and suggested courses.

"We built all the courses internally with a team of six people and used some off-the-shelf Skillsoft courses," Cunard notes. 

In all, the organization invested $5,000 in promotions, which resulted in massive increases in participation: 

-Total courses accessed: 14,095 (up 58% from 2011)

-Total courses completed: 12,153 (up 57% from 2011)

-Total percentage of courses finished: 86%

-Total staff participating: 1974 (up 17% from 2011) 

Additionally, using a formal impact survey after Summer Learning 2012 and an ROI scorecard, a study isolated and estimated AHU’s measurable impact on the association. These results include:

-6.5% increase in overall quality by its staff

-91% rate of adoption of online learning in first three weeks

-5.1% increase in revenue by its staff

-6.0% increase in employee engagement

-7.8% improved staff efficiency

-6.1% ability to reach their AHA goals

-$8,750,353 net benefit to the AHA

The findings also validated the use of AHU learning can reduce training costs and cycle time. 

“Executives from all areas were polled and asked which five courses would truly make an impact on our ability to engage volunteers while developing and retaining our AHA talent in order to further the mission and become an even more compelling place to work,” notes Cunard. “This helped create a list of courses that would be marketed in commercials to staff and inevitable became the most popular courses attended during the summer.”

AHA is a repeat winner in the Learning! 100 award. 

Top Learning Organization 2013

3- The Hertz Corporation: Gaining a Seat at the Table

Karl-Heinz Oehler, senior vice president for Global Talent Management at The Hertz Corporation, practices what he preaches. For a company to be truly successful in today’s ultra-competitive world, corporate learning must become a way of life.

“We don’t really look at learning in isolation, we look at it as integral to bottom-line success,” cites Oehler. “The philosophy is that employee development is integrated into business processes. Whenever you read articles and books, you always see that learning or HR or talent or development needs to be connected to business — but when you ask questions on how you do that, you don’t really get a good answer. Hertz is unique in that we have made that really important connection.” 

Hertz’s learning and development solutions have, as he puts it, “driven organizational effectiveness to enhance market competitiveness” by:

-Integrating into the firm’s value chain

-Defining its impact as economic value add

-Providing real-time response to business needs

-Delivering learning solutions, not training programs

-Becoming an integral part of talent management 

Oehler was the first proponent at Hertz to outsource learning, and it’s paid off in a big way. ACS Xerox, which manages the Hertz Learning Services , designs and administers instructional programs, and conducts some of their delivery.

“If we need to source anything specific, they will source it for us,” adds Oehler. “What we have kept in-house is some of the delivery of very specific programs, such as executive development and culture shaping programs. Even more importantly, we have established a role called ‘business learning partners,’ who are subject-matter experts in specific business functions.

“A lot of companies struggle to effectively outsource learning, but we’ve proven that it’s very effective, not only from an operations point of view but also from a business point of view.”

Oehler, using expertise gained through master’s degrees in social psychology and economics from the University of Düsseldorf, has convinced Hertz’s top managers that learning is indeed driving the company’s success. “When I joined Hertz in 2007,” he notes, “learning was 0.6 percent of total payroll and benefits; in 2012, it was 2.71 percent — which is a huge increase. There is a particular focus on the front line, because that’s where the action happens and where the customer contact is. That front line is more important to us than anything we do in the company.”

It’s important to note that the increase in learning and talent investment was not automatic. Oehler needed what he calls “a seat at the table” — a meaningful role in upper management’s financial planning meetings.

“How do you get a seat at the table? You get it if you understand the language that’s spoken at the table,” he insists. “I’ve spent half of my life in business, so when I transferred into organization development, I got tired of always defending why I need more money, when everybody else got what they needed just by asking. So I turned it around and asked the business managers what they wanted and demonstrated to them in financial terms that learning would generate monetary value to the bottom line.

“I wasn’t talking to the extended leadership about specific learning tools and assessment; nobody cares about those. What people care about is the output that learning generates that makes us more effective in the marketplace. Once they began to vet the numbers coming out of finance, I wasn’t disputed any more. That’s why we have a seat at the table.

“I do believe that HR and talent management are valuable support functions that need to be fully integrated into the business. I hire people who have business experience. Yes, I have specialists, but they can communicate what the business needs. I have proven in many instances that we’ve significantly impacted business results. Once you do that and the finance department is behind you, you don’t really need to justify yourself any more.”

Top Learning Organization 2013 

4- Khan Academy Educating 280 Million

As Sal Khan’s visionary project, Khan Academy, continues to grow, the organization has been named to the Learning! 100’s Top 10 list for the second consecutive year.

As of last month, more than 280 million videos had been viewed on the Khan Academy website, and more than 1.2 billion problems have been completed.

The online academy now boasts 4,258 videos, has 50 classrooms in its School Partnership program and 30,000 schools around the world participating. All this with just 42 full-time employees (including seven who create content) — but more than 13,000 volunteers.

“Many of our employees have had very successful careers at places like Oracle, McKinsey & Company and Pixar,” the founder notes. “Some have been leaders at technology start-ups; and others have come from education institutions such as Teach for America.” 

What he has done in five short years is to create a new learning and teaching model that can be used not only by students, teachers and home-schoolers but also by adult and lifelong learners to expand their knowledge. It has been hailed by professional educators as a truly advanced style of teaching and learning.

Khan founded the web-based organization on four core philosophies or guiding principles: 

Personalized – Giving students/learners the time and space to master concepts before moving on to a more advanced concept. Personalized learning allows students to build confidence, learn how to take responsibility and drive their own learning experiences.

Mastery-based – Students must possess a deep, conceptual understanding of fundamental ideas before they are pushed ahead to more advanced topics.

Interactive and Exploratory – Learning must bring students together to explore questions and grapple with them in tangible ways. Open-ended projects can help make concepts real and relevant to students while also giving them an intuitive and deeper understanding of a subject. To that end, the academy also runs in-person summer programs (Discovery Labs) to test and showcase interactive and project-based learning material.

“The obvious benefit to peer-to-peer teaching and learning is that it’s at least as powerful for the student doing the tutoring as for the student getting tutored,” Khan says. “To truly get mastery of a subject, you really have to teach it, distill it, explain it. On top of that, you’re building other soft skills, which are at least as important as other, tangible skills — skills like empathy, listening and guiding someone without making him or her feel intimidated or insecure.”

Data Driven – Accurate real-time data can supercharge learning experiences by allowing students, teachers, parents to see exactly the material that students should focus on for optimal learning outcomes. Additionally, data analysis of the billions of data points from Khan Academy users enable it to build a robust, data-powered learning experience.

Khan sees the day when the academy’s educational model is accepted by both educators and forward-thinking corporations. Indeed, some of its core philosophies are today being embraced by some companies. 

Kahn suggests that organizations make videos of any lecture based content, so that learners can review them privately and repeat them as often as they like. “It’s much more interesting to show rather than just tell,” he says. “Throw in exercises, data, analytics, badges, awards, and then all of a sudden managers and CEOs can see what content is being consumed, how it’s being consumed — and employees can do it on their own time, on the plane or from their iPad. It’s a much richer, constructive way to learn.”

Khan Academy is a repeat winner of the Learning! 100.

Top Learning Organization 2013

4- Vi: Diverse E-learning Pays Off

A strong partnership between a learning organization and its business partners creates significant shared success.

At Vi, where nurses make up more than one-third of all employees, the nursing leadership team and the company’s learning and organizational development department partner. The company’s dedication to properly educating and training its employees is the main reason that it has been named No. 4 among all privatesector learning programs in this year’s Learning! 100.

“Attracting, retaining and engaging top talent is a priority for Vi,” says Judy Whitcomb, Vi’s vice president for Human Resources, Learning and Organizational Development, “because the company recognizes that engaged employees produce quality results and are more productive, innovative and loyal — which, in turn, leads to customer satisfaction. Vi also recognizes and has proven that well trained and engaged employees have a significant impact on resident satisfaction and employee retention rates.”

Vi specializes in “luxury senior living,” blurring the line between resort and senior living, offering independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing residences. It has 10 communities in the U.S. 

Some of the company’s key L&D initiatives:

1. Management Development Program, where more than 25 percent of participants move into a higher-level position within one year of completion;

2. Free professional education/certification courses for employees; and

3. Leadership Institute for nurse leaders.

“We have been able to effectively leverage our online university, E-Campus, to ensure our nursing professionals receive the training and educational resources needed to provide quality care to our residents. It’s so important that we have consistent, high-quality training,” Whitcomb states. “We present a learning plan to all our nurses; monitor progress through dashboard reports that our managers get on a quarterly basis and audit every year.”

Learning at Vi neither begins nor ends with nurse training. 

“Integrated into the learning platform are different channels, and what we try to do is offer flexibility for our learners but also for our business,” notes Whitcomb. “We want to give our workforce different channels in which to receive learning, based on learning styles and operational needs. So we offer classroom, webinars, podcasts, reading libraries and a chat function.”

Based on statistics from the Hay Group, which conducted a recent Vi employee satisfaction survey:

-Employee engagement scores grew five percent since the last survey.

-71 percent of normed questions scored five points or more above Hay Group’s high-performing companies norm. 

-Vi realized employee effectiveness more than 20 percent higher than the norm of Hay Group’s high-performing companies.

-Vi scored 8 percent higher than the norm of Hay Group’s high-performing companies as a great place to work.

-More than 90 percent of employees are proud to work for Vi.

The end result of Vi’s focus on e-learning? Customer satisfaction scores grew from 86.5 percent two years ago to 93.6 percent in 2012. Two years ago, 82.6 percent of Vi’s residents would recommend the company, compared to 94.7 percent in 2012.

Vi is a three-time Learning! 100 honoree. 

Top Learning Organization 2013

5- National Archives & Records Administration: Development Transformation


Over the past four years, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has undergone the most significant transformation in its 75-year history. It comes in the areas of learning and training, and resulted in the organization being named to the Learning! 100.

NARA rolled out a fully automated Electronic Individual Development Plan (E-IDP), which is an end-to-end workforce development capability. Leveraging existing investments in technology, NARA’s Learning and Development Division (HL) designed and developed the E-IDP with the input of more than 400 staffers. It was launched in February to provide executives, managers, supervisors and staff with round-the- clock, anywhere, single-point access to NARA’s competency models, competency gap, analysis, training and development needs assessment, and resource repository (including experiential activities, VILT, ILT, e-learning, e-books, and other content that’s dynamically linked together).

When Mike Fitzgerald was hired as HR Development Specialist in 2007, “the first thing I wanted to do was a new employee viewpoint survey. So we conducted 65 focus groups across the agency that involved about 1,000 employees. We found that it was necessary to integrate e-learning, web-based training and distance learning and standardizing just-in-time training . It had to be one we could push out to our geographically dispersed locations.”

Fitzgerald assembled a cross-section team of senior managers to line-level workers, plus stakeholders and specialists. In designing the learning development architecture, the team defined touchpoints for value and levers that translate into customer value to deliver better, faster, more efficient service. The architecture included competency management and ways to map it.

“I also wanted to use existing technology and resources already in place without having to ask for additional funding,” Fitzgerald notes. “That meant leveraging the existing LMS, which was purchased in 2006.”

The key to the agency's new E-IDP is that it digs deeper into existing competencies rather than primarily looking ahead. It is an attempt to help employees understand the “why” and “how” rather than just the “what” of training.

“The old form was a wish list, and that was the problem with individual development plans across the entire government,” observes Fitzgerald. “I looked at making it more like paint-by-numbers where each employee and the supervisor have a more balanced approach to their skills and competencies. Today, everything is dynamically linked or embedded in the new form that takes the employee to all the competency models for all the positions that have been created in NARA at any specified level. You’re defining the competencies that need to be enhanced or developed rather than the goal — which helps shape the conversation between employee and supervisor on the here-and-now first.” 

The next field in the two-page form is a repository of resources that are mapped to each of the competencies at each level. So essentially the employee lists his or her needs, and the system reveals competency gaps and developmental priorities. It walks the employee through that process to create a plan. “It’s a powerful tool,” Fitzgerald says, “exactly the approach that could be leveraged on a government-wide basis.”

Implementation, conducted in three phases, has been more successful than Fitzgerald ever imagined.

“I’ve got another version behind the scenes that I’m already updating for next August,” Fitzgerald notes. “The evaluation is going to run on a fiscal year basis, since we’ll also use it to identify trends.”

That’s another benefit: giving the learning division enterprise visibility. 

“We have data from across the whole agency, at every level, by occupation, by competency, to help management make better decisions,” he adds. “That’s powerful information to go to the table with.”

NARA’s E-IDP is what e-government is all about: reducing redundancies and spending, and leveraging investments.

“And it’s not hard-coded,” Fitzgerald concludes. “If Mike Fitzgerald can build this thing, anybody can. It’s very flexible, can be updated on the fly and not proprietary.” 

Top Learning Organization 2013

5- Cisco: Creating the E-learning Culture

Cisco represents the best of e-learning, and — as such — is a repeat Learning! 100 honoree. Last year, it was honored for its collaboration community, the Cisco Learning Network. This year, it’s being honored for advancing the practices of virtual leadership.

Cisco has been a driving force in e-learning since the 1990’s. Tom Kelly, former CLO, Cisco, believed the value of e-learning is reflected in business results. “The real measures of success here at Cisco do not involve training issues; they involve business issues. If customer satisfaction goes up because we have a more knowledgeable sales force, that’s not esoteric. If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable. That’s the real benefit of e-learning, and that’s what we have to measure.”

Kelly’s approach has rubbed off on the entire Cisco e-learning staff, including senior director of Technical Support Drew Rosen, who says that success is indeed measured based on customer satisfaction scores delivered at the end of training programs. Learners rate the courses using the skills they’ve learned — along with how the instructors perform.

“Our virtual instructors get the same or better scores as with ILT,” Rosen says. “Customers are appreciative, because, one, they get to go home to their families; and, two, they can consume the education differently. They don’t have to sit in a classroom for six hours a day, but instead can take classes broken up into two-hour chunks, giving them flexibility in their schedules.

“Our customers appreciate this type of learning. When it’s done correctly, they actually stay quite engaged, and they get just as much out of the education as if they were in a classroom.”

Cisco’s Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction (LVCI) course is just one way that the company is remaining on the industry’s cutting edge. The course, which is used to “train the trainer” both internally and externally, teaches participants how to prepare and manage a virtual classroom, effectively deliver material online, and use collaboration tools to maximize student participation and comprehension.

“Because we were struggling with virtual instruction,” Rosen admits, “we realized that our customers would struggle as well. We actually built the LVCI so folks in other industries can leverage it as a way to understand how to adapt classroom materials for this kind of modality and how to hone instructor skills.

“We wanted to provide access to traditional instructor-led training in a virtual way so students [learners and trainees] would get the same experience as being next to an instructor — without the travel,” Rosen observes. “So we started to experiment with our own programs and realized that some of our highest-quality instructors in live classroom settings didn’t perform well in the virtual environment."

This and other corporate offerings are all constantly evolving to better serve customers. So Cisco is indeed the epitome of a successful e-learning company: always advancing, always questioning, and always driving technology-enabled learning. 





Published in Top Stories

Change the conversation with senior clients by getting in the big-data Game

BY Jenny Dearborn,


As an officer of the company, the CLO must understand all aspects of the business, what success looks like in every function, and make sure learning programs are aligned to driving success. The days of managing course catalogs are gone. 

Even if it’s not in the CLO’s job description,we’re responsible for some part of our company’s strategic workforce planning: knowing where the business is going and the human capital needs to get there.

We must hold ourselves to ever-higher standards when it comes to business fuency. We need it to earn the respect of our revenue-generating peers, and we need it to fully do our jobs.

Reading business books and periodicals is critical. And, if you read any type of business publication, you know Big Data is the next big thing.

Luckily, CLOs can also take advantage of Big Data to address all of these issues:
   >>  Better understand business challenges and skills gaps in order to develop the right learning                             solutions;

   >>  Prove you’re impacting the business with solid results; and
   >>  Become a strategic advisor with intelligent, insightful analytics


The CLO — the learning and development partner to the business — needs to embrace using Big Data to be most efective.

First, document the goals and objectives of each organization, working down from the top to ensure goal alignment throughout.

Then, dig down to individual business functions and their performance metrics.

For instance, your “client” in the Sales Department may be trying to increase deal size and win rate, and have baseline measures and specifc goals. Break those goals down into the competencies, behaviors and actions that drive their achievement. Then establish learning programs to specifcally target those metrics, breaking them down goal-by-goal.

Remember to show what skills, activities and behaviors the employees were doing before and afer, so you can point to how they’ve improved because of the learning or enablement interventions you drove. Here is where Big Data is so exciting. By triangulating data sources, you can chart the impact of your programs.


Cloud Talent Success was formed early in 2012, and we’ve seen fantastic results thus far. Having a structured approach to present to the department was critical, especially given the rocket-fueled growth and market expectations our corporation was experiencing.

Overall approach

Measurement is foundational to all aspects of what we do. It covers the full learning and enablement lifecycle. These aspects include:
1. Learning Inventory – To determine how to build formal, informal and social learning, we analyze                        performance using CRM and other data to identify skills gaps and success drivers.

2. Learning Program Design – We frst defne business, process and learning metrics for each sales stage,       then translate these into KPIs and core competencies around which we design courses.

3. Learning Schedule – Regularly tracking sales rep performance on key metrics, we can identify                         strengths/weaknesses and suggest individualized learning and mentoring intervention.

4. Learning Evaluation – Every program has one or more objectives — like prospecting or closing — around     which we build custom metrics. Before-and-afer course surveys measure self-reported confdence                   (versus    knowledge assessment) and actual execution against goals.

5. Business Impact – Very simply, we measure pipeline performance (opportunities created and won,               average deal size and sales cycle, conversion ratio) before and afer learning. This includes                               quarterly tracking of overall   sales performance versus goals and the market. 

    This approach enables us to systematically plan,design, execute and evaluate the effectiveness of our           sales rep training, measuring against real business numbers.


Data analysis is truly the key, because Big Data without powerful analysis is just simple math with lots of numbers. Here’s how we approached it.

  STEP 1: Driver Analysis – A critical frst step was analyzing success drivers. We drew data from four sources to study their infuence on sales attainment:

   • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system: Identifying more than 110 variables, like average            deal  size, win ratio, sales cycle length

   • Learning Management System (LMS): Courses taken, self-evaluations, timing of training and more

   • Performance Management System: Manager ratings, goal setting, performance reviews, learning plans        and  more
   • Employee Records: Hire date, manager, sales experience, prior domain experience and more We then        used  advanced statistical techniques, including univariate analysis,regression modeling and structured      equation modeling to determine key infuencers of performance and quantify their impact.

     Lastly, we converted these infuencers into KPIs and set targets

 STEP 2: Business Impact Analysis–Here we merged three data sources, CRM,LMS and the Commissions  file (which tracks attainment versus quota for each sales person), then analyzed before-and  after performance impact.

Quite honestly, it was a simple download to Excel from each source, followed by a data merge. For example, to measure training’s impact on pipeline, we tracked performance for a certain period of time before and after a key sales course completion, isolating the impact of seasonality (for example, Q4 usually being the busiest quarter).

Change Management

At our highly data-driven company, it was not difcult to convince stakeholders conceptually that performance measurement and training accountability were good ideas. Politically, however, we took a prudent approach.

First, we got buy-in. We created advocates and partners by building consensus with various stakeholders outside Cloud Talent Success when designing, conducting and presenting the results of the measurement model. For example, Sales Operations handled most data analysis, so their support was critical. We gained initial buy-in from the Sales Ops director, then met with him regularly so he remained familiar with, and felt ownership of, the driver analysis.

We also met regularly with other sales team leads (like Strategic Sales and Enterprise Sales) for “workshops,” at which we presented data and asked for input (versus saying, “The data shows X, so let’s do Y”). When we later presented recommendations refecting their ideas, it was easy for them to say “Yes.”

Next, we adopted the change. We operationalized the measurement strategy and recommendation process by making the data essential. For example, sales leaders love data especially that which provides new and critically important insights not only on training impact and needs, but on specific competencies and their impact on sales performance. This stuff gets pretty addictive.


We’ve seen a myriad of benefts from datadriven decision-making. First, learning is clearly linked to business goals. Sales Ops managers and Cloud Talent Success had all used diferent metrics to measure success and guide skills development eforts. Our analytics helped all teams to collaboratively focus on one set of metrics.

 Learning is tied to key performance indicators (KPIs). Data analysis identifying lead indicators of sales          success drove development of KPIs and, in turn, learning initiatives.

Second, the business results are irrefutable. Course-specifc metrics and before-and-after sales performance tracking have proven learning efectiveness over four quarters, Q2 2012 to Q2 2013. Often dramatically,we’ve increased all critical KPIs, including deal size, number of opportunities number of deals won, and win ratio. Attendees of “Sales Coaching for Managers” helped their teams improve value of opportunities created by 69% and value of deals won by 107%.

Significant onboarding improvements were noted. Thanks to both new and revamped learning programs based on data and analysis, our 275 new hires in 2012 significantly out-performed 2011 peers in pipeline quantity and quality and nearly halved time to quota. Attrition dropped 80%.


Extraordinary business impact results for our clients is the best possible outcome, but more funding, resources, scope and clout are very nice, too. As a result of our frstyear eforts, we saw:

• Improved Training Participation and Compliance: Training time ofen loses out to feld time. Measurable         business impact has helped reverse attitudes and increase compliance scores.

• Increased Learning Frequency: When analysis indicated that completing “Sales New Hire Boot Camp”           within 30 days of hire improves opportunity creation and closure, course frequency was increased from         quarterly (to drive economies of scale) to monthly (to ensure sales success), yielding a significantly higher    financial return over one year: millions more in revenue versus $80,000 in additional costs.

• Budgets Protected: Business impact analysis helped persuade Sales Department leaders to continue         U.S. and   global training allocations despite a Q4 2012 company-wide travel freeze.


Our team stepped up as strategic advisors by presenting undisputable data analysis on the top sales success drivers, top capability gaps by geography and segment, and what initiatives could close the gaps.

As a result, Cloud Talent Success has developed a roadmap for the entire sales enablement community, and Sales Department leadership has assigned a business operations program manager to actualize these recommendations. Attitudes toward training throughout the company have shifed.


Shifing the conversation as a learning staff from execution to advisory is hard and requires all hands on deck. Everyone on the team has to get oriented to having business partner conversations. I empower my team by delegating authority early and ofen, so they can build credibility through their business client relationships. I need everybody to be engaged and contributing to our success, and I have the best team in the world doing just that.

—Jenny Dearborn is chief learning officer and vice president of Cloud Talent Success, SuccessFactors, an SAP Company. This is her third company in the chief learning officer role. Follow her on Twitter: @DearbornJenny or visit her learning blog at the URL: http://bit.ly/JennysTravels








Published in Top Stories


The executive team at a North American manufacturing company sat quietly in the boardroom, wondering what the urgent meeting was all about. Team members soon found out: the company’s senior engineer was leaving immediately to work for a competitor. It was a signifcant blow, since he was directing the implementation of a new, critically important production process. His departure could mean disrupted assembly lines, insufcient inventory levels, and de- layed customer shipments.

Te frst order of business was crisis man- agement — including scrambling to fnd someone to take his place. Te second was coming up with a longer-range plan for suc- cession management, both to retain people in critical roles and to make sure successors are in place.

To avoid such nightmare scenarios, many organizations are taking action on succession management. Two simple steps can go a long way:

1. Connecting succession management and career development process.

The engineer who left had expressed an interest in moving into an executive leadership role on many occasions, but those discussions were never linked to the company’s succession-management plans. Ofering a clear development plan that aligned with his career aspirations might have kept him from making a leap to a competitor.

2. Rolling out succesion beyond the executive level.

Had the company’s succession plan extended to other levels and key roles in the company, a successor for this role would have been identifed and trained. In addition, employees from other departments with the necessary project management skills would have been identifed and ready to step in.


Succession planning has come of age over the past decade, driven by increased global competition, intense corporate governance requirements, and dramatic changes impacting workforce demographics and mobility.

Succession initiatives have evolved from narrow programs that only identify talent ready to fll top executive roles into compre- hensive management systems that forecast talent gaps, predict domino efects if one person leaves, and are linked to extensive development initiatives. Today’s dynamic succession management strategies align with broader talent management initiatives and extend deeper into the organization.

The critical business driver of succession management is talent continuity: motivating, developing and retaining employees to execute the company’s long-term growth plans. A comprehensive succession management strategy answers the following questions:

>> Do you have the right people with the right skills for today and tomorrow?

>> Do you have the bench strength to re- duce the risk of turnover in leadership or key positions?

>> Are you ofering the right development to prepare high-potential employees for greater responsibility?

>> Where are the skills and talent gaps in your workforce? Are you taking the right steps to address them?

>> Are you providing your people with di- verse cross-functional experiences and exposure to leaders across the company?

>> Can you fnd and compare your candi- date options quickly and easily when it’s time to promote?

Successful succession management must be comprehensive and integrated with your talent strategy. When you get it right, you can reduce your risk of sudden, unexpected turnover, because your due diligence allowed you to improve your talent insight, agility, mobility and retention.

Broadening participation in succession management shows your employees that they have a future in your organization, a path to get there, and a reason to stay with you and give you their best.

Employees know what’s in it for them, and they value the ability to take charge of their own careers.


The world of work is changing, and no organization can assume that essential talent will always be available. Tere are many reasons for this change, including:

1. Demographic Shifts: In many countries, leadership and skills gaps present an ever-growing challenge as the post-war generation moves into retirement. Younger generations either lack the sheer numbers or the necessary skills to fill the void. And in many emerging markets, the large number of ambitious young workers is offset by gaps in knowledge and skills, as well as the lack of middle and senior management to lead them.

2. Skills shortages and mismatches : In spite of high levels of unemployment worldwide, many positions go unflled. Around the world, graduating students ofen lack the skills and work experience to compete for today’s highly specialized roles. 

3. The rise of globalism : You’re no lon- ger competing with the company down the street for talent but with companies worldwide that scour the globe for talent. Workers no longer need to be on the same continent to collaborate with colleagues.

4. Lack of engagment in workforce : Your top performers aren’t the only ones with options. Thirty- one percent of surveyed employees report they’re not satisfied with their jobs. Assume that your employees are keeping their LinkedIn profiles up to date, that they’re checking out the job boards, and that they’re always on the lookout for their next opportunity.

5. Changing the nature of work : Traditional ideas about “full-time employment” have been obliterated over the past decade. If you haven’t already, expect to see more contract and contingent labor, flex schedules, job sharing, retirees working part time, and other work arrangements that were unthinkable not that long ago. Further challenging the notion of “traditional careers” are the Generation X and Millennial populations, who carry high expectations for new and challenging work assignments.


A successful program needs to be ongoing and dynamic, and must be linked to development and other talent initiatives. It’s a complex process that requires technology to manage.Your managers must build development and mentoring into their everyday work. This requires setting goals, establishing regular check-ins, and evaluating progress. Both the organization and the employee must be involved, and everyone must be aware that things change — including strategy and business conditions. Both the process and the people involved must be fexible enough to adapt.

Your organization can reduce its risk by involving more people in the process (talent pooling). Can’t-miss high-potentials sometimes fizzle. Someone who nearly washes out one year can later become a top performer. Casting a wider net reduces the risk and builds the unforeseen into the process. Meanwhile, employees need the freedom to investigate chances to grow internally and to opt into a career path.

Here are key elements to succession planning:

1. Career develpoment plans identify the ambitions and goals of your employees. Ideally, helping employees make progress toward their career goals will help to retain them. But career planning is also important in grooming identifed successors to make sure they’re ready to step into their next role, if necessary. And identifed successors should be closely in- volved in the analysis of existing production processes and alternative solutions.

2. Other talent initiatives provide important information when it comes to succession planning. For example, knowing the common qualifcations and competencies of each role — knowledge, behavior and skills is essential for identifying and developing successors. How does succession connect to other aspects of talent management?

>> Career development provides potential successors with development today to prepare them for the future.

>> Performance management provides in- sight into who your top performers are.

>> Learning addresses gaps in employees’ knowledge and skills.

>> Recruiting identifes a common set of competencies needed to recognize and hire the right candidates by seamlessly looking at both internal and external candidates to fnd the best fit.

3. Succession-management tech-nology allows you to get away from spreadsheets and have the application do the heavy lifing for you. Features include:

>> Predictive modeling: Use “what-if ” scenarios to predict what may happen when employees leave or transition to another role. You can also simulate the domino efect of what happens when your succession plan is put into action.

>> Decision support: Because all employee information is integrated into a single system and you have comprehensive talent profles, you can make complete side-by-side comparisons when it’s time to make important decisions.

>> Calibration: It helps you to easily identify top performers and ensure objective, accurate ratings of talent across groups and departments. Because top performers are estimated to be up to three times more productive than other employees, identifying those employees will give you a huge boost toward achieving your business goals.

>> Charts: Dynamic, easy-to-read organizational charts provide visual summaries that show existing and potential leadership gaps. These help identify your bench strength and provide a dynamic view into a wealth of knowledge about your employees. You can quickly assess employee risk of loss and impact of loss, zero in on critical roles, and see whether a successor has been identifed.

>>  Reporting: By extending succession planning throughout the company, managers can get constant access to up- to-date information about employees who are succession candidates, including snapshots of an employee’s back- ground, expertise, performance, and career aspirations.


When it comes to retention, leadership matters: 62 percent of surveyed employees who plan to stay with their current organizations report high levels of trust in corporate leadership. A succession management program tied to development can give your organization the opportunity to exhibit leadership, earn trust, and engage your employees. You can also avoid disasters with succession management. Your company can get the right people in place, because you’re using predictive modeling and accessing calibrated performance data when making talent decisions. No more surprises, just preparation.

—Excerpted from a 10-page SuccessFactors whitepaper titled “Identifying, Developing and Retaining Talent for Critical Roles.For more info: www.successfactors.com



Published in Top Stories
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