No Borders for Borders

Engaging, interactive modules become foundation for e-learning.

Challenge:
Standardize training platform in order to blend online learning into an overall training strategy.

Solution:
Combine two proprietary software suites to provide rich, interactive experiences and help overcome bandwidth limitations.

Adding online training to the overall training strategy of the Borders Group, Inc., was practically a no-brainer. The $4 billion company manages more than 1,100 bookstores around the world from its headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. It has more than 32,000 employees from Sandusky, Ohio, to Singapore; from San Juan, P.R., to San Francisco.

En Route to Standardization
“Our first goal was clear,” explains Sally Hoyle, Borders’ senior manager of learning and development. “And that was the decision to standardize our training platform on a hosted version of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro solutions, so we could blend online learning into our overall training strategy.”
After benchmarking other solutions, the team opted to use a combination of Acrobat Connect Pro and Adobe Presenter. “The Adobe solutions are easy to implement and use, provide rich interactive experiences, and help overcome bandwidth limitations and differing levels of technological challenges at stores worldwide,” adds Hoyle.
With those solutions, the company could quickly and cost-effectively roll out a broad range of training modules, as well as keep content development in house rather than outsourcing it.
According to Hoyle, the organization values the notion that every employee needs to understand the Borders brand principles as soon as they join the firm. Previously, Borders relied on field personnel to deliver face-to-face training, which inherently posed challenges. But without e-learning tools, new employees often had to wait for a trainer to be in their areas or travel to attend a scheduled session.
Given the company’s commitment to streamlining costs without impacting service quality, the focus was on adopting solutions that limited travel budgets and the time employees spent out of stores. The team also wanted to ensure that all employees received training that was consistent and in alignment with the Borders brand.

Blended Implementation
Hoyle and her team of content developers targeted four states and rolled out a sexual harassment compliance-training program to find out how well internal staff could create and deliver content. Less than 14 months later, nearly 85 Connect Pro training modules on operation skills, sales training, and management skills were rolled out company wide. “[Those] solutions enabled us to fast track an interactive, easy-to-use training program that succeeds in content creation, implementation, and user adoption.” says Hoyle.
Results are evident in the metrics. Borders reduced its field training staff from 55 to 42, saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and travel expenses, and redeployed former field trainers to in-store jobs. Additionally, some field trainer work has been redirected to focus on training issues in more practical ways.
New employee training has been shifted to store managers, who can now use software to gauge employee completion of operator training, customer interaction, sales skills, and other training modules. Every learning assignment includes a hands-on component to guide users through in-store skills, which store managers can readily oversee.
“By blending online learning into our training, we can use classroom training more effectively,” says Hoyle. “Now we spend classroom time on things that make sense to do in the classroom.”

Brand Impact
An important aspect of the Borders brand is that customers from North America to Singapore receive a consistent, quality shopping experience.
“To get tens of thousands of employees through the same training would take a tremendous amount of time and resources,” says Hoyle. “With Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro solutions, we have accelerated staff access to training by as much as 90 percent and lowered our overall training costs.” With support from operations, the training team can rapidly respond to changing needs and keep employees at the top of their form. The software has already paid for itself in payroll savings, travel expenses, and time out of stores.
Other benefits:
>> reduced travel training expenses by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually;
>> accelerated time to train new employees;
>> improved appeal of and access to corporate training;
>> retained content development in-house; and
>> helped ensure more consistent training of global staff.
At the corporate level, Borders’ managers — in groups of about 20 — are using Acrobat Connect Pro to collaborate in real time on critical organizational initiatives. “Many managers work outside of the corporate office,” says Hoyle, but they can still “virtually communicate and collaborate in real time, as well as securely share reports, chat live, and share desktops.
“It’s clear that online learning has benefited our staff and customers.”

—For more information on Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro and Adobe Presenter, visit the Website www.adobe.com.

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