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2016 ATD Conference summary: Day one

Posted by Staff Writer  6/15/2016   1 Comments


The following article was written by Tom Merritt, Principal at Latitude CG:

Latitude was in attendance at the 2016 Association for Talent Development (ATD) conference in beautiful downtown Denver. I'm excited to share a little bit about what I learned from the sessions I attended to provide some insight into what's going on in the Training Industry. Each week I will feature one action-packed day filled with my experiences while attending the four-day ATD Conference.

Session One: Unleashing Analytics
This session was hosted by Raytheon, one of the biggest and best known training solution companies in the world. It was focused around a case study of their client NCR Corporation. Aside from their LMS, they also provide end-to-end training services for their clients. This particular session was titled "Driving Performance at the Intersection of Learning and Business".

Most conversation during the session focused around obtaining business performance data and targeting training to improve those business performance metrics, or "move the needle", as they liked to say it. They cited things like targeting improvement of automotive technician's Fixed First Visit (vehicle is fixed properly the first time technicians work on it) and then working backwards trying to figure out what would improve that score. Then formalizing learning content and having a method to ensure all technicians take training.

Analytics is a big deal in the training and development industry... but there is no one methodology or tool for performing analytics. Raytheon said they have tools costing upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I can assure you that a large portion of the companies needing analytics to drive training WON'T have any of these tools. The Raytheon analyst admitted that it would be best to start with Excel.

The result of this case study was that the training division of NCR was able to show executive management at NCR how the training programs "moved the needle" by lowering repair costs, warranty costs, and fixed-first visit scores. Which in turn got NCR management to invest more into the training program.

Session Two: Lessons Learned Launching an LMS
The previous session was by one of the world's leading training professional services firm (Raytheon) speaking on industry-changing approaches. This session was about a franchise company teaching its plumbing, electrical and heating contractors the basics about their business. Throughout the session they covered the process they took to find and launch their LMS.

The organization was Direct Energy, and they have three franchise brands for home repair:

  • Benjamin Franklin Plumbing
  • Mister Sparky Electrical Services
  • One Hour Heating and Air Cooling
They have around 6,000 franchisees and they all need to constantly improve their processes and products to compete in the marketplace.

For years they conducted in-person training where hundreds of franchise owners would come to their training center in Florida and learned about running the business (how to repair equipment, customer service, etc.). Training was tedious, intensive and resulted in a lot of negative feedback from franchisees. Eventually they even noticed a trend of decreased attendees.

With a goal of improving the effectiveness of their training, they started putting their initial plan together for an LMS in 2009. They spoke with several LMS companies, picked the best one that they could afford and launched in 2010. As they started using the LMS they noticed it was very difficult to manage. Direct Energy requested support from the LMS vendor on how to address administration. The vendor suggested that Direct Energy hire at least three full-time administrators to run the LMS. With that news, Direct Energy cancelled the project and started over again.

This is where it gets interesting. They put together a small team in charge of creating an approach to finding the right LMS. After talking with franchisees, management and more LMS vendors, they came up with some guiding principles to finding a successful LMS:

  • It must continuously represent the franchisee's branding within the look and feel of the LMS, as well as within the training content.
  • It must be very easy for franchisees to self-register.
  • It must be very, very, VERY simple and easy to use. With simple graphics to launch courses.
  • Reinforce, reinforce and reinforce again the importance of participation in training. Launching the LMS is only the start of the project, not the end. Continuously market the LMS to the franchise population and encourage them to continue using it.
They also put together a list of all the specific requirements for an LMS:

  • Easy to use for the franchisees
  • Easy to administrate
  • Customizable (not so much in terms of functionality, but with regard to graphics and visual content
  • SCORM-conformant
  • Offer e-books, PDF's, Powerpoints, etc.
  • Robust reporting
  • Scalable
  • Outstanding reputation for customer support
  • Works well on tablets and smartphones
To launch the LMS, the team decided to focus on a high-energy approach to engaging their user base. They waited until their annual convention came around and literally walked the floor signing people up for the LMS, along with setting up stations for self-registration. They created their own 30-minute video-based courses with an assessment at the end required a score of 100% to pass. The team then promoted a new course every week. They reported to the executive team weekly on courses taken and courses completed.

After starting over with their simple graphics approach to a new LMS, here is what they have accomplished:

  • 86% participation rate per year (that is, 86% of their franchises were logging in and taking courses)
  • Over 60,000 courses are now taken per year
  • Taking online courses as prerequisites to instructor led training has led to a significant increase in participation and positive feedback from the instructor-led events
  • Everyone feels like the company is focused on THEIR brand
  • Net Promoter Score of 72!!!
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved customer feedback on franchise services

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Categories: categoryPress Release


  • JR Schroeder 6/24/2016
    Thanks for the valuable excerpts and insights from the events of the day!

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