Learning professionals are masters at supporting the workforce, but too often their own development is lost in the shuffle. Ingersoll Rand recognized an opportunity to connect these professionals through a customized learning technology tool.
Workplace learning and performance (WLP) professionals often build innovative collaboration instruments and carefully crafted learning tools for their customers, but lack these resources to develop themselves and connect with one another. As the learning function continues to be scrutinized in a challenging economy, there is no better time for learning professionals to ask: What are we doing to partner together, use resources, and strengthen our skills to ensure we offer the most value to the business?
Ingersoll Rand employs WLP professionals in a wide variety of roles across multiple regions and business units. The company employs hundreds of people responsible for learning and performance management around the world. This wide and diverse scope presented challenges when attempting to link and share resources among the professionals. Specifically, Ingersoll Rand lacked visibility with the following:
- Who are the WLP professionals across the globe, and how can they collaborate together?
- What learning solutions are provided in each business unit and regionâ€”are there redundancies?
- What resources can WLP professionals use to streamline efficiencies and aid in growth and development?
To begin to address these issues, Ingersoll Rand developed a website for all WLP professionals. The site now serves as a one-stop shop for resources that aid in daily work, professional development, and collaboration with peers.
The company formed a design team to build the website, which is sponsored by an advisory council of learning leaders representing each business unit and region. The team consisted of a site designer who built the website, a site owner who gathered and organized content, and a leader who provided strategic guidance. Together they gathered input from WLP professionals and business leaders to assess their expectations and needs.
The team identified four key design requirements to ensure the site content and features aligned with current needs:
- All WLP professionals worldwide must be able to access the site.
- The site must support cross-business-unit and cross-region collaboration.
- Site navigation must be simple, self-explanatory, and user friendly.
- Site content must be valuable, relevant, accessible, and easy to maintain.
The design team selected Microsoft SharePoint 2010 as the platform for building the site based on several benefits, including nontechnical design tools (no coding required), user-friendly lists for organizing content, and collaboration tools such as discussion boards. Team members collected site content in a master spreadsheet and designed the site's architecture based on these content categories.
During the course of six months the team built the site around five main topic areas.
Learning toolbox. Using standard processes and tools enables efficiency gains, improved consistency, and quality of learning solutions globally. The learning toolbox section of the site provides published research for benchmarking and standardized instructional design processes and evaluation tools.
Professional development. A library of professional development resources enables WLP professionals to better plan activities to grow and advance their careers. The growth and development section of the site provides recommended webinars, certifications, and reading materials, as well as expected competencies for WLP professionals.
Business impact. Showcasing learning solutions that affect business results and sharing criteria for external awards encourages WLP professionals to design learning solutions for maximum business impact. This section of the site offers in-depth case studies of learning programs that have had measurable impact at Ingersoll Rand, and a listing of internal and external awards available for excellence in the WLP profession.
Special interest groups. Communities of practice and advisory boards provide opportunities for employees with common interests or expertise to share ideas, support one another, and join together to achieve common goals. The special interest groups section of the site provides a hub for groups, such as e-learning developers, learning management system administrators, and training facilitators, to connect and collaborate.
Directories. Lists of available training programs, training vendors, and WLP professionals across the business provide access to learning programs offered globally, suppliers that have been used successfully, and colleagues available for suggestions or support. The directories section of the site includes an enterprise-wide course catalog, list of preferred training suppliers, and index of contact information for all WLP professionals in the organization.
Additionally, the team designed the website to promote collaboration among WLP professionals through
- a discussion board for posting questions, ideas, or announcements
- an announcement space for highlighting important information
- a link for submitting feedback or suggesting new content for the site
- a five-star user rating feature for lists such as recommended reading materials.
Communication was a key component of the intranet's success. Engaging stakeholders and keeping them informed throughout the project to secure their buy-in and support was imperative. Preparing effective pilot and launch communications also was necessary to generate interest and use of the site. To accomplish these goals, the design team developed a plan that organized communications throughout the life of the project.
Creating a maintenance plan for the site was another critical success factor. To ensure that site content remained current, relevant, and valuable, designers restricted site editing permissions and created a process for evaluating and reporting site usage and feedback to a governing board. Selected individuals filled key maintenance roles such as content area owner, site owner, and site administrator.
Lessons learned and results
The design team gained several insights throughout this effort related to scope management, site usability, and technology constraints.
Scope. Clearly define the design requirements before creating the site, and refer back to them often to curb any temptation to add bells and whistles that are not necessary. Content and features that do not align with requirements may result in wasted time and effort.
Usability. Minimize content on each page to prevent information overload. When a page has too much text, users lose interest and the site becomes irrelevant. For example, when using lists, display brief information for each item, and provide detail in a pop-up window that displays when clicking on an item.
Technology. Invest time and effort in learning the features and limitations of the site platform instead of making assumptions about what the site can do. This will prevent designing the site based on features that do not exist, or missing out on useful features that are available. Additionally, be prepared to spend extra time formatting data that cannot be uploaded directly from a spreadsheet to a website (for example, hyperlinks, graphics, and rich text).
Within 60 days of its launch in August 2011, approximately half of all known Ingersoll Rand WLP professionals visited the site. Six months later, site analytics continued to show unique visitors each week, indicating growing interest in the site.
Anecdotal feedback has revealed that WLP professionals worldwide are beginning to collaborate and share best practices by connecting through the directory of learning professionals and the discussion board.
By searching for existing programs in the enterprise course catalog, they also are sharing curricula across multiple business units and regions instead of designing new learning programs from scratch. Additionally, WLP professionals are taking advantage of the development resources available on the site to build new professional skills.