Previously offering classroom-based training to over 2,500 employees, Turner and Townsend was keen to embrace the powers of technology and take its learning and development strategy to new heights. The company felt that it was highly important to ensure a fully IT trained workforce to enhance its business efficiencies. Jenni Lawrence, Learning and Development Manager at Turner and Townsend, explores the company’s journey.

Turner and Townsend is a global consultancy providing project delivery and business improvement services to a range of clients, from global blue chip companies and national governments to local developers, funding institutions and local authorities. Our 2,500 employees operate from a worldwide network of 59 offices located in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Previously, we offered a predominantly classroom-based approach to training to our staff. Employees took part in traditional ‘pen and paper’ learning in a range of courses such as management and soft skills. This provision was warmly accepted by our employees, but we realised that to further our training programme the integration of ICT was key for effective progression of both the employees and company as a whole.

Turner and Townsend has a well developed IT infrastructure, which supports an intranet-based knowledge management system that is accessible to all staff working in base, client or site offices. This has made the consideration of e-learning a real possibility - it is full of information, which amongst others help our staff keep up-to-date with best practice technical skills.

What we lacked, however, was the range of expertise on the essential business skills subjects, such as time management, negotiation and presentation. We were keen to be able to monitor such activities more effectively and record when essential training was completed by staff members.

In order to find an e-learning provider that matched our company philosophy and culture, we looked at a number of providers who we considered to be the global leaders in e-learning. We decided to collaborate with Thirdforce, a highly flexible organisation that understands our needs and appreciates the value of working in a partnership.

We now offer a range of IT-specific training on Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, MS Visio, MS Project and Lotus Notes. We also offer business skills e-learning courses such as interviewing skills, appraisal skills, innovation, effective time management and persuading and presentation skills.

In order to ensure a smooth, company-wide roll out of e-learning, we designated ‘e-learning champions’ to each office across the globe. As the e-learning courses are highly intuitive, we felt that staff training on how to use the system was not required.

In the event of any queries or learners requiring additional ICT support, the champions were to act as supporting personnel. At each office we have two champions - one director champion to engage with managers and one admin champion to answer questions on e-learning and provide support to all those completing their training.

Our IT e-learning courses commence with the basic functionalities of each programme and progress through to the more advanced details; from the basic opening of a document to advanced functions in packages such as Excel.

Each course is broken down into clear sub-headings so that employees can select areas of interest and those that need practice. This may be a full course (for which a certificate of completion is available) or just a single topic - in this way they are useful for staff who have no experience, or lots of experience and feel the need to ‘brush up.’

We have a range of course titles and we are rolling out a total of 22 business skills courses.

In particular we have found the combination of text and audio based learning most useful; we consider this to be essential to ensure all learning styles and levels in the company are engaged.

A further benefit that we have found immensely helpful is the range of global business skills available, such as working in China or India. As we grow in these regions, this will be central to our progress and productivity.

A further example of a course that is proving to be highly beneficial is Lotus Notes. It is proving invaluable to not only our learning and development strategy, but also to the daily efficiencies of the consultancy. Available any time and place, our employees can access training materials at the click of a button.

We have found that employees who perfect their Lotus Notes skills in emailing, calendaring, instant messaging and web browsing to be more effective in managing their time and operation. For a task such as emailing, if our staff lack knowledge of how to use the programme, not only is their job and communication with customers significantly hindered reducing their productivity, but also their confidence.

E-learning has proven highly rewarding and satisfying for the workforce. A recent user satisfaction survey found that 85 per cent of learners ‘got what they wanted and more’ from the e-learning provision. On completion of a course, a certificate is issued to the learner, providing a method of recording continual professional development (CPD).

A number of benefits have been experienced from the roll out of e-learning, not only for the employees, but for Turner and Townsend as an employer too. As a global solution, the e-learning content is consistent across all regions, whilst allowing for flexibility for local requirements.

Cost savings through the reduction in travel expenses and subsistence are also anticipated as the need to travel to and from classroom-based training has been reduced. ’No shows’ have always been a concern given our client-facing industry and we cannot always predict demands that far in advance. This is where e-learning comes into play; our staff can now complete their training whenever and wherever it suits them.

Administration of a learning and development strategy is crucial, and e-learning has its advantages here too. Individual accounts can be set up for each learner allowing details to be added to their profile; for instance the names of the courses that they are completing and the number of times they have accessed a particular module. Statistics on course completions can also be accessed at the click of a button.

Our training programme has proven popular with staff, motivating them to further their business skills and professional development, in particular their IT skills. Incorporating technology into our training delivery has not only empowered our employees to take responsibility for their own development with 24/7, computer-based learning, but has also increased our business efficiencies. In turn this has made it possible for us to remain competitive in the continually advancing market.