Training: employees want more and more of it – putting pressure on HR professionals to be more creative with tighter budgets. Craig Donaldson looks at how The Collingwood Football Club did more with less through the implementation of a new learning management system
Established in 1892, the Collingwood Football Club
is one of the biggest and most well-known sport
ing clubs in Australia. Behind the scenes, a team
of almost 70 staff members manage everything
from finance, operations and HR through to IT,
sponsorships and membership.
As with any other organisation, the club’s HR director
(and only HR resource), Belinda Leaver, needed to find a
way of ensuring the club was compliant across the board
with legislation training in a way that met the diverse and
specific development needs of employees.
“Training seems to fall into the ‘nice to have’ basket and
can often be the first budget to be culled when times get
tough financially,” she says. “This was a problem for our
workforce, which is primarily made up of young, dynamic
and ambitious individuals who want to feel like they are
Given the current economy, she says, having a cost-effec
tive solution that allowed the club to offer training to employ
ees in areas both core to their roles as well as developing
their professional aspirations has been vital to retention and
development of key talent.
“Despite the common misconception, our business runs
for 12 months every year – not just during the football sea
son. Depending on the time of year, different parts of our
business will be at their peak times whilst others will be in
their downtime,” she says.
“This makes it particularly challenging to schedule face-to-
face training for the business, as there was always a high drop-
out rate at the last minute due to business requirements.”
Leaver wanted an online learning management system (LMS)
that provided staff with the flexibility to complete training
either from home or at work that would fit in with their
workload. The club opted for a system provided by Learn
ing Seat that enabled it to tap into an extensive library of
courses without any requirement for course development
from the club’s end – and to badge the program so that it
appears to users to be the club’s own system. “For us, this was
the perfect solution,” says Leaver.
Because it is a web-based system, trainees can log in from
any computer and also complete the training in their own
time, which can be monitored by Leaver from her own desk.
“Having our staff located all across the country, getting them
all trained was an impossible feat,” she says.
The LMS has also been a cost-effective process for the
Collingwood Football Club. With a diverse range of roles
and experience within the club, Leaver says it previously had
to send everyone to often expensive courses offsite to cater
to everyone’s training needs. “While we still offer other train
ing options outside of the LMS, our training costs have been
significantly reduced over the last 18 months whilst actually
providing more training to our staff of both core and aspi
rational development opportunities,” says Leaver.
With the new LMS, users can tap into an extensive library
and access everything from basic merchandising skills train
ing for retail staff members through to complex compliance
training for the club’s company secretary. “In addition, we can
also develop our own online training programs, which means
that if there is a need specific to our organisation, we can
use the same learning method to cover this off,” Leaver says.
In conjunction with the implementation of development
plans for all staff, the club is now able to deliver on prom
ised development opportunities which can be completed in
the employee’s downtime, and even across multiple days if
required, she says. “There is no longer a need to accommo
date having an employee out of the business as a trade-off for
“The other feature which has been a great benefit to me is that the
system sends automatic reminders to the employee and their manager
– so there is no need for HR to be nagging people to complete the
training,” says Leaver.
Challenges and lessons learned
The biggest challenge in the implementation of the LMS was simply
getting people to log in for the first time to see the system, according
“In order to officially launch the system, we ran a series of compli
ance-based training courses which every employee was required to com
plete,” she says. “The positive feedback and discussions from the first
few people to complete the training meant that people were encouraged
to log in, and the feedback since then has been fantastic.”
The club is also in the process of finalising an online induction pro
gram, which means that it can give all new employees an opportunity to
immerse themselves in the history of the organisation as well as provid
ing clear and uniform expectations of how staff are expected to perform.
The only challenge in this, according to Leaver, was in “balancing
out what is really important for new starters without giving them an
information overload in their first week”
Top LMS tips
As with any new HR program or system, Belinda Leaver, HR director for The Collingwood Football Club, says it's important to take the time to find a solution that works for your specific needs. "Online learning is not for everyone and it can't completely eliminate the need for face-to-face courses or university studies," she says.
Given that the costs per course are low under its new online learning management system (LMS), the club has tended to use this as a first stop for training needs, and then investigated further courses if there was still a skills gap. "This has often meant we were able enrol the employee in a more advanced course as the foundation skills have been covered off with the online training," Leaver says.
It is also important to look into the backend/administration processes before you commit to an LMS. Simple enrolment and reporting processes are essential, according to Leaver, particularly when you are doing mass enrolments.