In its first five years of existence, My Learning Centre (MLC), Scotiabank Group's virtual corporate university, was emphatically embraced company-wide—with over 1,366,000 enrollments and 1,247,000 completions.
Yet despite MLC's success, one problem continued to plague the company. Many Scotiabank employees possess several licenses and designations and are required to complete a continuing education plan for each license and designation every few years. "The problem was that our reporting requirements were so complex, no learning management system (LMS) on the market allowed us to manage them in an automated way," says Linda White, Scotiabank Group’s VP of Global Performance and Learning.
That all changed recently, when Scotiabank Group enhanced the Saba LMS upon which MLC is built to make the process of tracking continuing education and regulatory requirements less onerous for everyone.
Training recently spoke with White about the enhancements, their impact and her tips for others looking to solve similar problems:
Training: How problematic was your previous system?
White: It was a mess. We used a massive Excel spreadsheet to track everything. As you can imagine, it wasn't the best process. People would get a certificate, complete a course or attend an outside seminar that counted toward their requirements, and they'd have to mail the certificate to our head office, where it would be adjudicated and manually entered into our spreadsheet. The spreadsheet itself was cumbersome and required a lot of manual work. It was populated with thousands of formulae, and whenever an employee reached a certain number of continuing education credits, the spreadsheet would flag the employee's entry. We'd then send a report to regulators.
Not only was this an extremely unsophisticated way to handle regulatory reporting, the system itself was open to errors. And because there was no way for employees to easily reference whether we had received their certificate or to determine where they were in their continuing education plans, they’d routinely inundate us with one-off requests to check on their status. The whole process was incredibly inefficient and time-consuming.
Training: What prompted you to remedy the problem?
White: Eventually, the process became so painful, with so many people involved, that we simply reached a breaking point. We knew that Saba had a continuing education system, but we’d always thought our requirements were too complex to use it.
Finally, we sat down and looked very carefully at how we might retrofit the system to meet our needs. Surprisingly, we found that a fix was very doable. Using Saba as a foundation, we only had to make seven modifications in order to make it work. The software investment was small because we already had Saba in place, and because most of the modification work was done internally by our HR systems department, fixing the problem was very cost-effective, too.
Training: How does the new system work?
White: Within MLC, employees now have easy access to the required certification training and links necessary to trigger licensing fulfillment, expiry and renewal. This includes both Scotiabank-managed plans, which are automatically added to each employee's profile, and individually managed plans, which can be added and managed by employees themselves. With the individually managed plans, it's still up to employees to report plan completion to the governing body in order to keep their license or designation, but now they can simply print this off from MLC and send it to the regulator.
Regardless of which type of continuing education plan an employee is on, whenever he completes a course through MLC, his plan is automatically updated to reflect the completion status and credit the requirement. If the course is completed through an external vendor, the employee can request, through the HR administrator, that the course be counted toward her plan and listed as complete. What’s more, courses that count toward several continuing education plan requirements are automatically credited across all plans. MLC can also generate e-mail notifications to remind employees of key milestones to help them keep on top of their requirements.
Training: What tips can you share with others who are interested in implementing something similar?
- Partner with your content partners. Because we work with many of our external course vendors quite frequently, we asked several of them to incorporate their reporting into our new system. This means that instead of learners having to report their own course completions, many vendors now automatically feed this information into our system. This eliminates the need for our learners to report the information themselves and automates yet another step of the reporting process.
- Over-communicate the benefits of the system and how to use it. Many of our users are high-touch. They are used to being catered to and don't necessarily like "self-serve." To encourage user adoption of the system, we took a number of steps, such as distributing user and leader guides, asking branch leaders to hold meetings to talk about the system with employees, and holding several virtual classroom sessions where we walked users through the system step-by-step.
- Stand your ground. Our learners are accustomed to being able to call us up whenever they have a question or want to check on their completion status. While we want to maintain that relationship with our learners, we realized early on that it was important to stand our ground and force them to use the system as much as possible. So when learners call, we try to consistently direct them to MLC and show them how to access the information they need for themselves—instead of doing the work for them. If we hadn't held firm, user adoption wouldn't have been as high, and we wouldn't have achieved the productivity gains we had hoped for.
Scotiabank Group is a financial services organization headquartered in Toronto, Canada. In 2008, it placed 14th on Training magazine's Top 125 list, an annual ranking of organizations that excel at human capital development.