What do conglomerates with highly complex product lines do to keep people charged on gaining skills? What does a multi-national company with years of hard-built reputation do, especially when it is aggressively entering newer markets , expanding and adding newer products or lines to its already overflowing basket of products? How can the issue of crunching voluminous data be addressed? Can filling hundreds and thousands of rows and spreadsheet columns help? Are there ways to simplify complex procedures? Businesses can ill-afford to ignore the rapid pace of development or remain isolated by not embracing newer and latest technologies. Learning cannot be static anymore. It is the dynamic dimension that is making growth-oriented organizations look at newer ways of keeping workforce engaged.
Consider the case of a Fortune 100 transportation company, which has been in the locomotive business for many generations now. The MNC’s world-wide presence meant that each of its location had its own unique requirements as the employees operating out of every location had profiles with diverse skill-sets. They came with different understanding and expertise of the range of products. For instance, the profile of workers included engineers (experienced, novices), craftsmen, mechanics, electricians, and plumbers. Their academic exposure and experience were varied as well.
As a learning solutions company, Origin was mandated with the task of providing a customized solution to upgrade the competencies of its workforce. What did the assignment entail? For starters, the learning framework had to accommodate multiple factors including the level of education, the years of experience, the expanding product array and the sub-sects of the locomotive range. So, to make an effective customized content delivery tailored to meet individual skill gaps was indeed a big challenge.
Note that the transportation company was building close to 900 locomotives annually. The operation of highly complex pieces of machinery in locomotives meant that the workers with maintenance and troubleshooting experience had to come with specialized skillsets. In its sales and service agreements, the MNC was contractually bound to provide its customers with its own pool of technical advisors (TAs) and technical directors (TDs). Additionally, the company was tasked to train the resources identified by its customers on maintenance and servicing procedures.
Origin conducted a job task analysis (JTA) study whereby tasks could be identified and mapped to duty areas. Small focus groups were made to record the past and current roles, expertise, experience, and the availability of people for a designated role. A mix and match of roles to match functionality with capabilities was done enabling each focus group to build on the previous one in terms of accuracy and completeness. In a short period of time, a process was set up that helped in identifying the skill development needs across roles – from the supervisory level to higher levels.
An elaborate excel sheet was prepared to map each task to a training objective and then to a module/course. With the help of the JTA excel sheet, as it is referred to, close to 1000 tasks were identified. These were classified as Duty Areas. With the roll-out of the JTA tool, efficiency of resources showed a drastic improvement.
Incidentally, the MNC had already an exclusive instructor-led training program in place. But, it came with a constraint that prevented scaling up of training for the diverse set of learners across multiple client locations. Besides, variations in the content across different sessions in these places proved to be a major issue for the company.
Manually entering data into a spreadsheet would not only be tedious and voluminous but also ineffective, given the adjacencies and redundancies. To elaborate, the addition of newer ranges in the locomotives meant that though a majority of the locomotive components remained common, there were newer dimensions and technologies that had to be understood. Also, not to forget that a new product line itself offered scope for customization, which could mean knowledge of sensory parts or other latest technological advancements in the locomotive space.
By converting the spreadsheet process into an automated tool, the scope of coverage, search and other functionalities expanded. Also, this way the automated tool could tackle redundancies. The online tool proved to be effective as it could do the following:
• The solution is not limited to a single job role any more
• The tool could accommodate as many job roles as needed
• There can be multiple business units with varying access levels
• A robust backend to manage business units and job roles
• The tasks and courses are linked to job roles to complete the mapping
• The tool enables filtering of tasks by course and also by duty area
• A task is always unique in the system, which can be tracked across courses
• Notifications related to creation of tasks, objectives, and courses are available
• Each of these – job roles, duty areas, task categories – can be managed in an isolated way
• Provides an opportunity to add new courses depending on needs and track their availability
Therefore, by converting an existing JTA excel sheet – the primary point of capturing data, into a separate online tool – a level of progression in the context of learning could be achieved. Since the tool was reusable for other departments and business units, assignment of tasks and tracking the learning progress has been far more effective. It became easy to add new tasks and map them to courses. The dashboard in the tool helps to plug in the gaps by knowing and mapping the tasks to available courses or training sessions.