Amway, an $80 billion global direct-selling company, relies on a sales force of more than four million independent distributors for its health and beauty products. To support and retain such a large number—in 80 countries and more than 30 languages—e-learning was the only thing that would do the trick.
"The problem was, we weren't reaching all of our distributors quickly enough with individually targeted training," says Randy Fingleton, global LMS Manager for Amway. "Some new applicants might even decide to leave the business before they could get trained in the areas that interested them."
In what may be the largest e-learning implementation in terms of number of users, Amway installed three SumTotal LMS platforms to manage learning in the Asia-Pacific continents, the Americas, and Europe, with a fourth planned for
China. In a little over two years, the company expanded e-learning into
Latin America, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.,
and currently is rolling out the system through Europe with plans to expand
to Russia next year.
"To be able to roll out a system to three-fourths of the world—over 1.8 million people—in less than two years is nothing short of astronomical," says Fingleton.
Improving Sales Readiness and Retention
Amway offers people a distribution business of their own, selling products
and recruiting others to do the same. "We could launch a product in a given
market, such as Japan," explains Fingleton, "but it would be more than six
months before people got the message and got properly trained. We weren't
able to track learning activities or do business analytics, or even gather
level one evaluation data."
These problems not only affected sales revenue, but also reduced the potential for business growth and adversely affected its brand. Another key challenge was keeping learning content consistent across global markets. Lack of consistency could put Amway at risk with regulatory compliance issues in different regions. "We needed a platform to design, develop, and implement learning electronically and translate our consistent message globally to improve sales readiness and assure our distribution force that the content is consistent," says Fingleton.
Spanning the Globe with E-Learning
Amway turned to SumTotal. "We were impressed by SumTotal's stability as a
market leader," said Fingleton, "and also by its global support, multiple
language packs, and ability to deliver blended e-learning. We needed to
execute globally on a really large scale and in a compressed time period, so
it was important to choose a mature, proven system."
Amway needed to address wide-ranging requirements of markets as diverse as Korea, which has a high penetration of broadband Internet access, and Latin America, which has a much lower penetration. "The flexibility of domain management with the SumTotal LMS helps us manage different regions with different business rules," Fingleton points out.
There are separate domains for countries and regions, with learning management administrators for each domain. All tracking and evaluation data from all domains are brought into a central data hub for business analysis and reports. "We're able to roll out country by country according to our best practices, but with the flexibility to make minor changes and configuration decisions based on each market."
For example, due to the bandwidth constraints present in Latin America, Amway didn't have a mechanism to capture level one evaluation data, which is critical for evaluating training. With the SumTotal solution, Amway now is gathering evaluation data using cell phones and SMS text messaging, with a backend data base to capture the evaluation results of each participant. Amway uses the Training Migration Utility (TMU) to bring that data into the system on a daily basis. The solution enabled Amway to deploy a DVD-based training program that can be unlocked via cell phone SMS messages to collect test answers, again to circumvent regional bandwidth problems.
Another key feature is the ability to create virtual classroom sessions (using Microsoft Office Live Meeting) so learners can access these classes using a single sign-on and one application. The LMS complies with the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) framework that enables sharing of learning objects among different management systems—an important capability for Amway to seamlessly integrate new course content.
Amway maximized the return on its investment in the e-learning system by
identifying the most relevant training audiences. "The ability to create
custom audiences within the learning system is a huge asset," explains
Fingleton. "This allows us great flexibility to isolate specific content for
those who are allowed to see it."
Accelerating Training and Reducing Risks
Amway now is able to deploy training rapidly around the world and reach new
distributors faster, with better support. "It sounds simple, but the result
has been sheer penetration," says Fingleton, citing a 30 percent increase in
the number of people reached. The company increased productivity six
percent in less than a year in Latin America alone. "We were never able to
track activities, collect evaluations, or do business analytics before,"
explains Fingleton. "SumTotal gives us the foundation to do this with our
global data warehouse. Now we can see how effective we are and make
And the consistency of content also is making a difference—Amway has reached a 96 percent satisfaction level with distributors for the training that helps them do their jobs. The company at first realized an 18-month return on investment (ROI), but as it opened more new markets the ROI has shortened to ten months. "It's a stable system, not plagued by problems, so we don't need as many IT people to babysit it," says Fingleton. "In SumTotal we picked an excellent partner that could help us with the expertise and support we needed."
Amway says the e-learning solution not only increased retention of new distributors and improved sales readiness, but also helped Amway bolster its brand with distributors globally, providing one more excellent reason for people to choose it.