For the past five years, The Budd Group—a facility service company that employs more than 3,400 individuals—has been using a customized learning management system (LMS) branded “Budd University” for the majority of its employee training. Offering seasonal trainings on topics like black ice, personal protective equipment, and even driving in severe conditions, the company works hard to ensure it provides automated learning opportunities that spark employee curiosity and lend themselves to continuous improvement and responsiveness.
The Budd Group also employs a full-time training and development manager who creates quarterly online content for each unique position at the company. “We also focus on trends,” says Nancy Criscoe, vice president, organizational development at The Budd Group. “So if we have an influx of slips and falls, we do a series on that. Our insurance company helps us match our training topics with incident trends.” Other topics include technology policies to safe handling of bloodborne pathogens.
The Budd Group is not the first facility service operation to implement a tech-based training system like this. Many larger cleaning companies and facilities departments use an LMS to automate training and help managers keep track of the training by their workforce effectively. “The beauty of LMS is that it manages the learning for you,” Criscoe says. “Our administrator can see each day and hour where we are in our learning plans. [The learning management system] has already built auto notifications that tell us when we have open courses that need to be finished.”
Companies of any size can invest in these platforms to deploy learning content to their workforce, but they tend to work best with larger companies that have the ability to provide workstations, such as computers or tablets, where the workers are able to complete the trainings. These systems are web and cloud based, and workers can log in to view content when they want from their own computers or devices on their own time.
Overcoming LMS Challenges
Jim Peduto, managing partner with the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences who specializes in quality assurance and benchmarking, agrees with the automation component of LMS platforms. However, in his experience training frontline custodial workers, there are also real and substantial challenges when implementing online training.
“The first challenge is access,” Peduto says. “Frontline workers typically don’t have access to a computer or a tablet. The technological barriers to train a large number of staff during their work shifts is challenging, so the adoption of that technology for frontline workers is not as broad or deep as it might be in other industries.”
Additionally, when it comes to compliance training, such as the handling of hazardous materials, Peduto believes no technology is going to train better than a hands-on approach. “You can make the analogy to driving a car,” he says. “You can sign up for all the drivers’ education classes you want, but wouldn’t you prefer your kid get behind the car and learn to drive? Workers need to have task work to learn.”
The facilities department at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, MI, which employs 2,700 people, is moving its custodial boot camps online. Upon completion of each training course, participants take a test repeatedly until they score 100 percent on it—unless that is, they earn a perfect score the first time. John Lawter, director of custodial and grounds services at the University of Michigan, believes that alone makes the training effective. “People pick it up because the information is repeating, in some cases, five to seven times,” he says.
The university’s custodial boot camp combines online training and testing with classroom lessons. “In the classroom we talk [in person about our mission], then we go into chemistry of cleaning,” says Lawter. “The science-based training is incorporated into videos and online training.” If employees don’t pass the test, the workers have to watch the video again before retaking the exam.
The University of Michigan’s online custodial boot camp trainings can be done from a campus computer lab that has 30 computers set aside for these courses. The department runs its online custodial boot camp training every two weeks. “We have a lot of temp employees because of limitations with union, so the online training tool is great because the minute they walk in front of the door we can sit them in front of a computer, have them immediately testing and ready to work.”
Lawter’s team also is exploring using tablets for their clock system and would eventually like to incorporate training onto those tablets, as well.
Create an Interactive Setup
Dympash Global, a building services franchise company, utilizes an LMS to train all of its franchisees on janitorial processes as well as business and logistics topics. The company transferred its entire print training program to the online system and uses interactive features and animation to keep the program interesting. “You go to a live training session, and it could be [exciting] and everyone is captured, but sometimes the trainer may not be a good public speaker and puts everyone to sleep,” says Ben Bragg, owner of Dympash. “An LMS can be the same way. If you have a training program that just goes through and reads, it can become monotonous.”
To prevent this type of monotony, Dympash has incorporated cartoon characters to illustrate certain techniques during trainings. The program directs the user to find information they need by touching the desk or an object on the screen, prompting information about that object to appear. These trainings can be done from a phone, tablet, or desktop.
Once trainees begin a course, it prompts them through the entire process, pushing the user through the training courses in a particular order. Dympash currently uses this system to train franchisees, but will be looking at ways to pick and choose LMS training programs that can trickle down the line so franchisees can use them to train their own frontline workers.
A key element of any training program is feedback. Automated inspection tools are available directly from some vendors, like chemical manufacturers or distributors. There are also independent companies that provide automated, online inspection tools that can give feedback directly to individuals.
According to Peduto, when looking for this type of tool, look for one that is web-based, automated, and scalable for the size of your facility. Next, make sure it can do the analysis by assignment or individual. In addition, make sure that it has a feedback mechanism. “So if I looked at an area and it didn’t comply, the software should create a corrective action to close the loop,” Peduto says. “There’s no point in doing the inspection if you don’t have feedback to tell someone how to correct it.”