Pipeline and energy field training organizations are under increasing pressure to do more with fewer resources, and to do it faster. They are expected to produce, deliver and measure results in alignment with complex safety regulations — and then turn around and demonstrate how these efforts produce measurable impacts on employee performance.
One might expect that tools and technologies can be acquired and deployed to meet these demands, but training organizations are finding this not the case.
In a benchmark study conducted by Mosaic in July 2016, 13 participants from major pipeline, utility and energy companies shared their experience in trying to meet these goals. Mosaic found that four challenges stood out:
1. All of the organizations benchmarked feel confident in their ability to train and evaluate field workers to operate safely, and in compliance with the law, but they struggle to manage large volumes of complex and ever-changing content. They also wrestle with the maintenance and reporting of compliance requirements.
2. This problem extends to all aspects of content and learner management: including training materials, performance support artifacts, learner management, assessments, and metrics and reporting.
3. Nearly all participants struggle with benchmarking these information management challenges, improving upon them with current systems and technologies, and reporting meaningful and effective results to executive stakeholders.
4. In every case, benchmark participants cited a lack of adequate financial and/or human resources, combined with a general lack of understanding from senior management, as a fundamental barrier to addressing these challenges.
While none of these challenges are new, changing expectations — fueled by recent advances in software, machine learning, big data and modern process implementation — are increasing the need to address and overcome obstacles. The risks to the organization are high in terms of safety and compliance with laws and regulations. New technologies are making it easier to expose gaps, and training organizations are struggling to scale their limited resources to address the demands and expectations of this new environment.
We believe that a new approach is required, one that changes how training organizations view themselves within the broader information enterprise, and how they bring and demonstrate value to the business. By embracing an approach that accounts for business goals and processes — as well as technology — training organizations can shift their value proposition from merely training and certification to being a source of organizational intelligence.
In many business strategies, training is viewed as a necessary cost center, but one of limited value in achieving company goals. As a result, training rarely receives the support it needs to address gaps and demonstrate a positive impact to the business. It struggles to implement one patchwork initiative after another, always chasing the business need and never truly “getting there.” So when times get tough, the training budget is often at the top of budget cut lists, further aggravating the problem.
A training-only perspective is too limited. Instead, training should position itself as an enterprisewide partner, one that is better able to understand how the organization’s people, processes and technologies align with broader business goals. This approach will shift perceptions of training to that of a valued partner, freeing up precious resources to enable training to reach its goals. Ultimately, training would become a source of organizational intelligence. Training would be able to clearly demonstrate how investments in learning, development and certification directly impact safety, financial and other business metrics. It would allow everyone to make better decisions, and help the organization operate as safely and effectively as possible.
First, training leaders should better understand the organization’s strategic business drivers, and where and how training can directly contribute to the success of the business. They also should examine the organization’s strategic and tactical business priorities, and then determine where they can bring measurable value to the conversation in three, key ways:
1. Effectiveness – How does training adequately meet the organization’s tactical and strategic goals — especially in the face of increased regulatory complexity and growing demands for data and documentation?
2. Efficiency – How effectively does training use time, effort and integration points with other teams and systems? Is it uncovering and addressing gaps in organizational and employee performance, and how do those impact the business?
3. Data Quality – How does training establish its performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPI) in alignment with business goals? How does training equip stakeholders to make better decisions?
Next, training leaders should begin changing the tone within their organizations by augmenting their team’s skills, knowledge and attitudes to better align with how the business thinks and acts. This cultural shift will help training team personnel have deeper conversations with the business. It will allow them to build confidence and further capitalize on their successes, and obtain the resources needed to accomplish their goals.
From the technology perspective, workshop participants described organizational, process and technology challenges beyond the capabilities found in traditional learning management systems (LMS). Yet, in nearly all cases, the LMS was identified as the main reason for the training organization’s problems. While several participants expressed a desire to upgrade or replace their older LMS with a more modern variant, LMS functionality hasn’t fundamentally changed over the last decade. As a result, training organizations continue to spend money on tools that fail to address many of the challenges they face.
Why is this? By design, learning management systems approach the problem of learner and training intervention management from a “one size fits all” perspective, enabling LMS to appeal to the largest number of possible customers. However, this approach falls short of meeting the unique and changing demands of energy and utility companies without significant and continuous investments in other training enterprise technologies, the integration of those technologies, and overall governance and maintenance processes.
In addition, LMS vendors unintentionally muddy the waters by continually positioning their tools as the primary — if not the only — training enterprise system needed to cover a client’s array of needs. While this approach works for some training organizations, it doesn’t address the needs of many others, especially those invested in public safety and regulatory compliance.
Training technologies should encompass more than just a learning management system. They should cover a broad range of additional functions. These include:
• document and content management,
• compliance management,
• assessment and reporting,
• certification, and
• performance support and knowledge-management systems.
In many cases, several of these functions are performed manually or are nonexistent, leaving organizations vulnerable to outdated and/or inaccurate content, process information and performance metrics.
To help build the case for training as an enterprise function, training should identify the business process within which these technologies and systems reside, and how the training function and their systems support it. For many who participated in the benchmark, this process is driven by Federal PHMSA-regulated Operator Qualifications (OQ). As a result of our partnerships with many gas and pipeline companies over the last decade, Mosaic has developed the Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) to use as a framework for these conversations.
The modern training organization’s traceability and reporting challenges are about more than just gaps in technologies. They are also about the people, processes, perceptions and culture that surround how these systems are selected, implemented, used and maintained. To make headway, it is vital that training leaders can show real value to the business through a more holistic approach that impacts employee behaviors in measurable ways.
For example, a training organization can:
• Make the shift from being perceived as a cost center to a valued partner by changing the way it describes the business benefits it brings to the enterprise.
• Engage directly with the business to better connect training to the employee behaviors that the business believes impact its bottom line.
• Classify and prioritize the training team’s goals in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and data quality.
• Develop a comprehensive understanding of the CAP to help everyone better understand the function of each piece of the enterprise, and to identify where the gaps are and how to close them.
• Finally, focus on identifying, baselining and reporting metrics and KPIs that directly support these efforts, and demonstrate real business value by providing organizational intelligence.