One of the greatest challenges of managing training is partnering
with the entire business enterprise to ensure alignment,
commitment, support, and results. Given the global nature and
decentralized culture of Caterpillar, addressing this challenge was
a daunting task.
With more than 100,000 employees organized into 30 business units
in more than 70 countries, creating a consistent, annual process to
assess learning needs and identify the high-impact learning
initiatives to meet these needs was fraught with complexity.
Caterpillar University's mission is to improve the performance of
company employees, suppliers, dealers and customers. Central to
this mission was the introduction of an enterprise-wide process for
strategic decisions about learning. Decisions need to be made so
that resources would focus on learning with the greatest strategic
value and business impact.
The enterprise learning planning (ELP) process was designed and
deployed as a company-wide practice to assess the learning needs of
each business unit and plan learning for the entire enterprise.
One unique feature of this process is the inclusion of an
evaluation strategy that guides evaluation and ROI studies while
tracking benefits. As this process enters its fifth year,
Caterpillar has saved more than $25 million through efficiencies
and better resource utilization.
When the process was launched, learning leaders of each business
unit focused on simply taking inventory of learning programs, and
informally prioritizing learning for their employees. Input from
leaders was minimal, but now these leaders are fully engaged in
planning their business units' learning on an annual basis.
Bona Fide Partner
The decentralized nature of the company went against the grain of a
centralized unit that could dictate to the business units not only
the types of learning, but also when and how to initiate the
learning. The key to success was partnership. The corporate
university had to be a valued partner responsible for delivering
strategic learning initiatives, rather than a corporate group
dictating learning to the business units. The unique design of this
process focused on the most strategic learning needs, which
provided a strong foundation for partnership.
The ELP process explores and expands senior leader expectations for
how learning will help achieve business goals. Conversations that
learning leaders have with business leaders explore learning and
business needs that span a three- to five-year period.
The evaluation strategy was a key component of the ELP. This
strategy outlines how each of the learning initiatives will be
evaluated according to Don Kirkpatrick's-Jack Phillip's five levels
of evaluation. The strategy is periodically reviewed and updated.
ROI studies are done on selected initiatives; the business impact
is evaluated in terms of the learning initiative goals and
recommendations are made to increase the initiative's business
impact. The results from all completed ROI studies are organized
into a summary document that captures the value of learning to the
business. To date, ROI studies have shown more than $160 million of
annual benefits delivered to the business from 2002 through 2007.
The university's board of governors made the decision to deploy the
ELP process based on the design recommended by the corporate
university. The board's decision was supported by the business unit
leaders and learning leaders who would use the process.
The design of the ELP addressed the following issues:
Consistency. The process was well-documented and
communicated. Training sessions were conducted so that business and
learning leaders throughout the enterprise acquired the required
knowledge and skills to consistently and effectively execute the
Leadership engagement. All
leaders were consulted early in the learning planning process
regarding their business strategy and needs and how learning could
meet these needs. Each business leader partnered with learning
leaders and the corporate university to develop division learning
Customer focus. The business
enterprise includes customers, dealers, and suppliers, as well as
employees. Enterprise-wide learning initiatives were expected to
influence this broad set of learners. Some learning, for example,
includes customers directly while other learning initiatives affect
customers indirectly through dealers or other groups.
Integration. Enterprise learning planning is
integrated with other appropriate planning processes such as
individual development planning and succession planning.
Results orientation. A rigorous
evaluation process was put in place to ensure that the process was
well-managed, continuously improved and delivered the expected
The ELP has increased collaboration between business and learning
leaders to plan learning, improve vendor management, increase the
strategic focus of learning, increase the business impact of
learning, improve efficiency of learning planning, reduce program
redundancy, and introduce consistency in how learning is planned
for the entire enterprise.
Each of the company's 30 divisions prepares their annual learning
plan based on enterprise learning needs, as well as needs specific
to each division. This goes beyond employees to include dealers,
suppliers, customers, and others. For example, the company has
aggressive growth goals, including increased net revenue. Meeting
these goals depends to a large extent upon the performance of the
dealers. Specifically, the corporate university's college of
marketing partnered with dealers and company leaders to design a
comprehensive and competency-based needs assessment and curricula
for a key segment of the dealer workforce.
Caterpillar has established safety as a business priority and
safety training was established as an ELP priority. The college of
technology partnered with the global safety process owner as well
as internal and external safety-training providers to design and
deliver a comprehensive safety curriculum.
"Learning is now viewed as a business activity and is incorporated
into other business processes," says Frederick A. Goh, manager of
strategic learning for Caterpillar University. "Learning is now
incorporated into the strategy review process at both the
enterprise level and the business unit level. This ensures that
learning is considered during business strategic planning