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Implementation: Launching Global Learning Experiences

The story you are about to read is the 10th chapter in a series based on a composite of real learning leaders in real situations. The company, Delpharma, is not an actual company but, as you will see, it faces a very real challenge: how to deliver learning experiences in a global, multilingual, multicultural environment. Those readers who have faced this challenge will recognize themselves in this story. If you are interested in learning more, we invite you to contact us at info@ingenuiti.com and we will be happy to continue the conversation. If you would like to receive the ebook with all chapters included, click below in ‘Download the Full eBook Today”.


INTRODUCTION: Lisa and Meera had been close friends since their days in graduate school almost two decades ago. When they completed their degrees in instructional design and technology, they stayed in touch and followed each other’s careers. After graduation, Meera took a job with a small learning company that did learning design and development. After a few years, she moved to Ingenuiti, a company with the rare combination of providing custom learning solutions and translation and localization services. In time, Meera became an expert in developing learning experiences in global, multilingual, multicultural companies. 

Lisa’s path was in learning but her career had been spent working inside the learning team of multiple companies. She began as an instructional designer in a regional grocery store chain where she eventually became their Chief Learning Officer. Her next role was service as CLO in a US-based hospitality group. After a few years, she was recruited for a position at an auto parts manufacturing company with eleven thousand employees. For the first time, her job required developing learning assets in other languages. Her company had plants in Canada and Mexico so most learning was translated into French and Spanish. 

Recently, Lisa was offered and accepted the role of Chief Learning Officer with a pharmaceutical company called Delpharma, one of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies in the world with more than 50,000 employees and headquartered in New York. The company had manufacturing plants in twenty-seven different countries with fifteen global distribution centers. It supplied one hundred and fifty countries with needed pharma products.

During the interview process with Delpharma, Lisa and Meera spoke often, sometimes multiple times a day. Meera promised that if Lisa was offered a position and accepted it, she would spend several days with Lisa in New York helping her think through the new role. Lisa was grateful for Meera’s offer. This is their conversation. 

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“Let’s begin with an assumption,” said Meera. “Let’s say that you and your learning team have created some amazing digital learning experiences. The underlying learning science is solid. Your team has made creative use of the tools available like animation, microlearning, video, motion graphics, and augmented reality. In several places in the curriculum, you have made use of gamification.”

“Sounds like a great start,” said Lisa. “What about translation and localization?”

Meera smiled. “Ok, let’s assume you have used your translation and localization process and have created the courses in multiple languages with appropriate cultural references. Just for fun, let’s say you now have a solid learning experience in 20 languages.”

“I like the sound of that,” said Lisa. “We are in good shape in your scenario.”

“What happens next?” asked Meera.

“We would load them on our learning management system,” replied Lisa, “and deliver them to learners around the world. As long as we are playing make-believe, we would receive feedback that the learning is making a global difference at Delpharma. Maybe our learning team submits the learning for an award, which, of course, we win.”

“A bold prediction,” said Meera. “But I want to come back to something I think you skipped over.”

Lisa looked surprised. 

“The delivery part,” continued Meera. “You made that sound easy, like you load SCORM-compliant learning modules and just send out notifications. Is that how it will work? Is that how it has worked for you in your past companies?”

“Not really,” said Lisa. “I’ve been the chief learning officer of three companies. The first was a regional grocery store chain. The second was a US-based hotel chain. My last job was at a tier-two auto parts manufacturer near Detroit. At all of them, we struggled with delivery. It wasn’t that we had a hard time loading files into our learning management system.”

“So what was the challenge,” said Meera.

“All three companies had the same problem,” said Lisa. “A big percentage of the employees did not have company-provided email addresses.”

“And so they had no access to your LMS because emails are required,” said Meera. “The grocery store chain, hotel, and auto parts manufacturer all had low-skill, high-turnover employees, correct?”

“Yes,” said Lisa. “The cost, according to our tech teams, was simply too high. My last company, the auto parts maker, had more than ten thousand employees with locations in the US, Mexico and Canada. More than half of them did not have a company email address.”

“What do you think it will be like at Delpharma, your new company?” asked Meera.

“Delpharma has more than fifty thousand employees in twenty-seven countries,” replied Lisa. “Actually more than that because there are also seventeen distribution centers globally. I’ve only had the job of CLO for a few weeks, but I am assuming that there will be a large population of people who don’t have email addresses,”

“And these people won’t be included in digital learning delivered through your learning management system,” said Meera, “so the wonderful learning experience you and your team have created will not be accessible to them.”

“You’ve worked as a consultant with huge companies around the world,” said Lisa. “How have other enterprise-level organizations handled this problem? We certainly are not the only ones struggling with this problem.”

“Before we talk about solutions,” replied Meera, “let’s really dive into the full extent of the problem. How did you solve this in your previous jobs?”

“Instructor-led training,” said Lisa. “We would take some of the eLearning content and make it into slide decks so that people without emails could be trained in person. I know what you are thinking. Not ideal.”

“Not ideal for sure,” said Meera, “but I’m not sure what your other option was. Let’s think about the time and budget spent doing that. You have to remake the course. I would imagine you had to create instructor guidebooks and learner guidebooks that would be printed?”

“Yes,” said Lisa. “For my last company, we had to print in three languages: English, French and Spanish.”

“All the material that might be used on a screen had to be created?” asked Meera.

“That too,” said Lisa. 

“So two versions of everything, one for digital learning and one for instructor-led training,” said Lisa. “And of course, you had no idea how well the trainers were doing their job.”

“Let’s just say the trainers did not receive a lot of training,” said Lisa. “We usually just picked the most experienced person in the topic and asked her or him to lead it.”

“I think we’ve examined the problem enough,” said Meera. “It comes down to this. In your new role, you will have many audiences among the learners. The audiences will be divided by language and culture. We’ve already talked about how to include those audiences by doing solid instructional design work, translation, and localization. But there is a division among your audience even before you get to language and geographical region and that is accessibility.”

“Interesting word choice,” said Lisa. “I usually think of ‘accessibility’ as a matter of internet connectivity.”

“That can be a barrier to access too,” said Meera, “but am I correct in assuming all your facilities, no matter their location, have wifi availability?”

“I don’t know that for sure,” replied Lisa, “but I can’t imagine we don’t given the sophistication of our manufacturing and distribution centers.”

“I agree,” said Meera, “so accessibility is not a matter of Wi-Fi availability. The problem is that many of your employees do not have company emails which means no access to the learning management system…”

“Which means no access to the same training everyone else is getting,” said Lisa, finishing Meera’s thought. 

“There are other considerations,” said Meera. “Learners without emails have no opportunity for microlearning or just-in-time learning. They can’t quickly return to a learning experience when they want to refresh their understanding.”

“I get it,” said Lisa. “Creating everything for digital and instructor-led learning is expensive, time-consuming, and complicated especially when everything needs to be translated in several dozen languages. And, for those without emails, the learning experiences have a lesser impact.”

“Let’s talk about those learners for a bit,” said Meera. “What kind of jobs do they typically have and what kinds of skills are required of them?”

“Well,” said Lisa, “they are not the people who work in the office. They tend to have lower skill sets. Most of their training is in compliance or learning processes. Things that are in steps. In the grocery store chain, it was usually people that worked in the warehouses, cleaning crews and people who worked at the check-out counter. There were times when the turnover rate was more than 100% every year so instructor-led training was ongoing and expensive.”

“What about the hotel chain where you were CLO?” asked Meera.

“Much the same,” said Lisa. “The people trained for the front desks usually had emails but the cleaning crews did not. We were training them how to treat guests in a way consistent with our brand promise which meant that each room had to be cleaned in the exact same way. We were working toward having every guest experience exactly the same when they entered their room.”

“I think you will tell me the same story for the auto parts manufacturer?” asked Meera.

“Sort of,” said Lisa. “In addition to cleaning crews, there was often potentially dangerous equipment. The people who worked on the manufacturing line had to be trained in processes and needed some understanding of how the machines worked.”

“Do you think it is fair to assume that you will face the same challenges at Delpharma?” asked Meera.

“I’m sure I will,” replied Lisa. “Fifty-five thousand employees in countries around the globe. Warehouses, Shipping, Manufacturing plants. As I said, I don’t know numbers yet because I haven’t been here for very long, but if even 25% of our employees don’t have email addresses, they will not be in the learning management system.”

“And that could easily be more than ten thousand people,” said Meera.

“I assume you have a suggestion or you would not be asking me all these questions,” said Lisa, in a more direct tone than she usually took with Meera.

“I do,” said Meera. “Almost every client with whom I work has this same challenge if they have a sizable workforce and nearly every one of my clients does. In the last year, I worked with our software team at Ingenuiti to develop what we call the SnapLMS.” 

Lisa laughed. “You call it a SnapLMS? Did you come up with that name? 

“I did,” said Meera, “and I’m actually quite proud of it. Truth be told, I was drinking a skinny latte at the time so that was my inspiration.  My first inclination was to call it the SkinnyLMS but our team settled on SnapLMS instead. The thinking was that all learning management systems share one thing in common: you need an email address. Most companies will not put someone’s personal email address in their LMS. That would sound alarm bells in most IT departments and be a management nightmare.” 

“We would not have done that in any of the companies I’ve been part of,” said Lisa. “Why Snap?”

“We wanted something simple,” said Meera. “It could provide notifications and track employee participation. It could also report the results of quizzes

“We wanted something simple,” said Meera. “It could provide notifications and track employee participation. It could also report the results of quizzes and knowledge checks. But the more advanced LMS functionalities would not be included in order to make it a cost-effective solution for delivering eLearning to those without emails.”

“How is it used?” asked Lisa.

“Most often,” said Meera, “it is used for required compliance training and basic skills needed for people to complete their jobs. Those without emails get the training they need and it greatly reduces the time and expense of creating instructor-led training for those employees. It delivers the training that is needed, when it is needed, without the need for an email address.”

“So they could take it on their phones,” said Lisa. “And for those without reliable internet access outside of work, they could use Delpharma’s wifi when they are at work.”

“Exactly,” said Meera. “One client I recently worked with was a global facilities service provider. Among other things, they provided cleaning services for large buildings like offices, hospitals, and event centers. More than ten thousand of their employees had no emails. They told me that just to provide emails to that group, the cost would be more than $100,000 per year, not including the administrative expense to keep those emails up to date. Plus, they would need to purchase an additional ten thousand seats for the LMS. Given the high turnover in these positions, this could easily cost them more than $200,000 per year.”

“Something you haven’t clarified,” said Lisa. “If they don’t have email addresses, how are you tracking all this?”

“The simplest solution was to use their employee identification number,” said Meera, “which every employee has no matter what their role. We don’t need to get into the technical side of things, but suffice it to say that this system does exactly what companies with large workforces need.”

“What about working in multiple languages,” said Lisa.

“That is not a problem,” said Meera. “SCORM compliance courses will be delivered in whatever language you need. Even the SnapLMS interface will be in the required language.

“So where do I sign?” asked Lisa with a grin.

“I’m not trying to sell you something,” said Meera. “As you learn more about the learning needs of Delpharma, I simply want you to know that you have some options for delivery. The SnapLMS, even though you think the name is kind of funny, has been a great solution for workers without email addresses and I think it could be a good potential solution for you. I’ll put you in contact with the right people if you want to discuss it further.”

“I’m pretty sure I will take you up on that,” said Lisa. “What is our next topic?”

“Marketing,” said Meera. 

“Marketing?” asked Lisa, somewhat surprised. “You know my new job is as chief learning officer, not vice president of marketing?”

“I do,” said Meera, “but all truly great CLO’s know quite a bit about how to market their products to their learners. Let’s grab some fresh coffee and pick it back up again in fifteen minutes. Sound good?’

“It does, “ said Lisa. “I’ll make a fresh pot while you check your emails.”

If you are interested in learning more, we invite you to contact us at info@ingenuiti.com and we will be happy to continue the conversation. If you would like to receive the ebook with all chapters included, click below in ‘Download the Full eBook Today”.

Jerry Zandstra
AUTHOR: Jerry Zandstra is Ingenuiti’s Senior Director of Learning. Dr. Zandstra holds two masters’ degrees and two doctorates, and he has been in the learning, training, and development space for more than thirty years. eLearning Industry has named Dr. Zandstra as a Global Learning Trailblazer for 2022 and 2023.