February 28, 2002

fyi… Larry Green/P&G says an ROI of “18 months and conservatively
projects that over five years RapidLearn will generate $14.8 million in
after-tax savings.”

This article appeared in KM mag (which is now strictly online as one of
the Line56.com B2B mag suite)

Learning to Learn at Proctor & Gamble
At Procter & Gamble team-members scattered across dozens of countries,
needed a way to efficiently access all the learning opportunities
provided by the company.
by Robert McGarvey
Monday, February 25, 2002

Procter & Gamble had a sprawling knowledge management mess.
Over the years, the Cincinnati-headquartered consumer products company
had developed rich, deep and extensive learning resources for its
110,000 employees across the globe.

“We promote almost exclusively from within,” says Larry W. Green,
manager of P&G’s Global Learning Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. “As such we
have to develop our people.”

The problem was that nobody even really knew how many courses there
were, or where they were offered The process was time consuming for
employees and their managers. Different P&G groups offered core
trainings–one for desktop computing classes, another for leadership
courses, for instance. Multiply that by five global business units in
140 countries.

New kinds of learning

That all changed on August 17, 2000 when P&G launched a new learning
system called RapidLearn, designed to let employees quickly and easily
find the courses they need. The RapidLearn Web site, says Green,
“catalogs all learning within P&G and gives the employee the ability to
register for courses online.” This means that employees no longer have
to spend valuable time searching multiple catalogs for the desired
course or going through a cumbersome registration process.

Green was able to sell the idea for RapidLEARN to management by
stressing effectiveness and efficiency. “We pointed out that RapidLearn
would let us quickly get knowledge and skills to employee so they can
better do their jobs,” he says. “The efficiency side is the extent
RapidLearn can reduce travel expenses but still let employees get the
learning they need–that’s a number you can take to the bottom line.
There’s also real efficiency in having everything related to training in
one spot, rather than having the various organizations developing their
own sites.”

With this initiative, P&G has also began a dramatic reshuffling of the
kinds of learning offered to employees. Previously more than 95% of the
courses were traditional classroom training. But by June 2001, almost
40% of the offerings were e-learning, says Green, meaning web-based,
live distance, or on CD-ROMs.

Getting their attention

In launching RapidLearn, there were no pilots, demos or phased
roll-outs, just a plunge into full-scale deployment. “They wanted a big
bang approach,” says Bobby Yazdani, CEO of Redwood Shores, CA-based
Saba, a vendor that played an integral role in providing the software
tools that catalog and manage the content at the RapidLEARN site.
Yazdani’s team had hands-on involvement for seven months.

That “big bang” strategy might seem risky but, says Green, it really
wasn’t. His thinking was that by going live with a huge splash, he could
instantly grab sizable mindshare for RapidLEARN inside P&G. So on that
day in August 2000, any employee who tuned into the P&G home page
suddenly saw a link to RapidLearn. “That got attention right off the
bat,” says Green. There was also a write-up on the P&G intranet. And in
late August, all 110,000 employees got an email that explained
RapidLearn and included an embedded link to the website.

In the first 30 days, the site received more than 400,000 visitors
suggesting an average of four sessions per employee, says Green. “We are
still averaging over 200,000 visits monthly.”

Start-up problems were mostly minor. Not every employee was recognized
by the system at launch if their names didn’t get ported into the
database. Integrating all five different databases of worldwide learning
opportunities took until the end of last year.

A bigger issue, however, is one that potentially involves any company
launching a similar initiative: how do you get employees to use a
training portal without training them how to use it? In P&G’s case,
Green’s team filled the site with online help tools and wizards. “We
tinker with the site, trying to improve the employee experience,” he
adds. Eleven months after RapidLearn’s launch the portal was re-launched
with a wholly new look and feel.

Measurable results

“This has been an expensive proposition, but the pay-out has been very
high,” says Green. He estimates the initial investment would be recouped
in 18 months and conservatively projects that over five years RapidLearn
will generate $14.8 million in after-tax savings.

“This is just smart business,” says Elise Olding, a principal in
Berkeley-based CLK Strategies. “It helps employees take control of their
careers and the learning they need. It’s a win for the company and for
the employees.”

A lot of companies, adds Giga Information Group researcher Claire
Schooley, have not aggregated their training resources onto one website
and they are suffering inefficiencies. Any company with scattered
training resources would do well to look at what can be learned from
P&G’s efforts, she adds.

At P&G, adds Green, still more benefits of RapidLEARN are emerging. “We
keep finding more ways this portal brings value. For instance, we are
finding that as employees shift to e-learning there are huge time
savings. A very popular full-day time-management course now is delivered
in five hours.”

He adds: “The longterm goal of RapidLEARN is for it to be the single
point where employees connect to any learning materials within P&G. Not
just training, but also documents, speeches, everything that sets out
our way of doing business.”


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