Getting with the learning game

by 16 Sep 2009

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 being developed.”

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.”

The solution

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 new skills.”

“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 to Leaver.

“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.