How Shared Technologies Inc. and Global Knowledge teamed to motivate, train, and keep the right employees.
Like many other companies, Shared Technologies, a provider of installation and maintenance services for telecom customer premise equipment, had been through years of turmoil, layoffs, and cultural changes. Multiple acquisitions and drastic corporate changes had taken a toll on morale, resulting in an uncertain corporate climate and a perception of job insecurity. As a result, employee loyalty was low, and turnover rates were high. Shared Technologies found itself investing significant resources in training programs for its service technicians, who, once trained, would leave for a competitor.
The company’s future success was, in a very large part, tied to the performance and loyalty of its field technical force. Leadership wanted to reassure its technicians that their careers were safe and that their contribution to the business was vital. Senior leadership recognized that the business should focus on improving several areas, including workforce development and training, and, more importantly, employee retention and loyalty.
While management recognized that a comprehensive and strategic training program could address all of these goals, we were uncertain where to start.
As a supplier of Nortel Networks’ equipment and a member of Nortel’s Elite Advantage Partner program, Shared Technologies sought advice from Nortel. Recognizing the importance of training and certification, Nortel immediately recommended Global Knowledge, its premier training partner since 2000.
Nortel arranged the initial brainstorming session. The three companies spent the next few months working through the strategy and logistics required to develop and implement a comprehensive training program customized for Shared Technologies’ objectives.
Clearly, the best place to start was with the target audience—the service technicians. Global Knowledge conducted an exhaustive analysis of the training histories of Shared Technologies’ 300-plus service technicians and then recommended training tracks for Nortel certification. In addition, we solicited insight from our employees. The need for more training was verified, as well as the need for Shared Technologies executives to be actively involved in ensuring employees were prepared to stay abreast of new products and technologies.
With all the data assembled, Shared Technologies and Global Knowledge moved quickly to the originate phase to customize a tailored Technical Advancement Program (TAP) to motivate and train employees. Under the TAP program, each service technician began with a skills assessment review, enabling Global Knowledge and Shared Technologies to develop a customized training curriculum tailored to meet the professional needs of each individual. Each employee was then selected for specific certification paths and was provided with a blended learning track to prepare them for the training as efficiently as possible. Upon the completion of a new certification, service technicians received 25 percent of a two-phase bonus payment. On the one-year anniversary of their certification completion, technicians would be paid the remaining 75 percent.
With field technicians operating out of 34 regional offices, Shared Technologies needed a flexible delivery strategy that would enable technicians to take training courses at their convenience. Global Knowledge proposed a blended learning solution that offered classroom and e-Learning courses. Employees accessed the courses by going to a custom-developed Shared Technologies web portal. Students pre-registered and received an e-mail alerting them to the courses they should take and a timeframe for participation. Once a student completed the training, he was offered an end-of-course assessment test. After students passed a Nortel certification exam, they could then progress to second-level training with a fresh batch of courses and a new timeline.
Additional services such as eMentor allow technicians to send questions directly to an instructor; surveys to assess student satisfaction with the courses; and an online reporting tool for administrators to see which students accessed courseware, dates of access, and pass/fail rates.
In the fall of 2004 for five straight weeks, representatives from all three companies visited every office to launch the program. Global Knowledge and Shared Technologies developed and implemented the TAP program in less than three months. After the first six months, TAP has resulted in more than 57 Nortel certifications with an additional 195 technician enrollments in online courses.
Field technician retention has also improved. Eight months after rolling out the TAP program, the employee turnover rate was less than a half percent. The web-based approach created savings of at least $1,200 per employee per week of training by eliminating travel and expenses associated with classroom training. Before TAP, Shared Technologies’ certification pass/fail ratio was estimated at 10:90. We now estimate the ratio is nearly the inverse at 80:20, with 80 percent of students passing and only 20 percent failing.
The program is working well to improve workforce performance, employee retention, loyalty, and customer satisfaction. The key points of the program were built in from the start—buy-in from the technicians, active involvement from Shared Technologies executives, continuous monitoring of activity with messaging to technicians, a phased-in course implementation, and structured motivational rewards.