World-class standards

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. World-class standardsOn 1 Sep 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Unilever decided that its marketplace demanded standardised informationprocesses but first it had to train staff to use the system. Sue Weekes reportsWithout even knowing it, many of us buy into the Unilever brand of goodsevery day, whether it be when we wash with a bar of Dove, eat a Magnum icecream or indulge in a spoonful of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise on a sandwich. To beprecise, 150 million people around the world choose a Unilever brand every dayand its products are sold in 150 countries. It employs a total of 265,000people and its worldwide turnover in 2001 was 52,206m euros. It’s fair to saythat global brands don’t come much bigger. Putting common working processes in place and standardising quality ofpractices to promote growth and control costs is vital in such a globaloperation and, in March 2001, the Home and Personal Care Europe (HPCE) businessgroup embarked on a three-year project to develop and implement its EuropeanStandardised Information and Processes (ESAP) system. As well as streamlining and standardising processes, the implementation isdesigned to give quicker access to better quality information, allow fasterdecision-making to take place and increase the speed with which new productsare brought to market. The ESAP system is proprietary to HPCE and is based on a customised SAP 4.6Denterprise-wide system that focuses mainly on back office functions across thecompany’s financial, manufacturing and sales departments. A survey carried outby the website benchmarking.com, on organisations which had installed anenterprise resource planning (ERP) system, found that the two biggestinhibitors to reaping maximum rewards from such systems are change managementand training. Big and powerful these systems may be, but they are only as goodas the people using them. “If someone makes an error in the data they areentering that can have a knock-on effect all the way down the line through thevarious departments,” says Paul Stevens, operations director of Europe atDA Consulting Group (DACG), which was engaged by Unilever to implement thesystem to its workforce across Europe. “Because of the enterprise-widedata they hold, systems like this enable you to produce really whizzy reports,but inaccurate information is worse than no information at all.” ContinuityUnilever was already using DACG, which is the world’s largest sole providerof end-user training services, in Unilever Best Foods Europe (UBFE), its otherbusiness group, where it had delivered a customised training strategy. Tomaintain a level of continuity within the organisation, it employed DACG forthe ESAP implementation. “The HPCE ESAP project covers a wide scope withaggressive deadlines and a three-year continuous implementation plan acrossEurope,” says Chris Wolff, Unilever ESAP communication, training andproject control manager. “In order to support the users, we needed aflexible consultancy who would provide innovative training and supporttechniques and versatile and multi-lingual consultants providing culturalunderstanding and strong project management. DACG had proven that it was morethan capable.” (The HPCE and UBFE projects won the Institute of ITTraining Gold Award for External project of the Year 2001). DACG had to contend with an ambitious timeframe and a broad remit thatinvolved everything from training needs analysis and business process mapping tothe provision of a change communications strategy. Within this, it had toschedule, manage and provide instructor-led training, develop all end-usersupport materials, including help cards, system task documentation and changecommunication materials, translate all localised material and provide afront-end web-based portal for all training. “The hardest part of a job like this is the complexity of it,particularly the fact that it’s going across different countries and differentcultures. There are all sorts of areas to consider, such as the IT literacyacross different countries. Employees in the UK are at home with the idea ofonline help systems but this won’t necessarily be the case in allcountries,” says Stevens. A whole range of different modules and elements make up the training andsupport solution provided by DACG, but they break down into three core areasbeginning with traditional instructor-led training. This is typically done toget employees up to a certain level on the system, explains Stevens. Withsupport from Unilever’s own ESAP training team, DACG consultants trained morethan 500 homecare users on four sites and 400 personal care users across twosites. A comprehensive set of help cards was also developed by the trainingteam to support users as they start to use the new system. Online helpNext it had to produce online system task documentation – basically,electronic reference material covering each of the tasks that the system cancarry out. This was a huge job since the SAP system can undertake thousands oftasks across the various departments from generating an invoice or purchaseorder in administration, to stock taking and creating a production schedule formanufacturing, to running a cost centre report in finance. If an employee getsstuck in any of these tasks, they click a help button and the system retrievesthe relevant online reference guide. The online help system uses one of DACG’s standard tools called DA Passport,which effectively opens Internet Explorer in the background and collects thehelp material from the intranet or internet. It eliminates the user having towaste time finding the correct documentation themselves since all they have toworry about is clicking help and waiting a few seconds for it to appear onscreen. All documentation and online support is written in concise, everydaylanguage, which is in contrast to the earlier help systems that tended to bewritten by ‘techies’. The third core area of training is aimed at new joiners and those who movedepartments or to a new role, and comprises a set of online business processmaps and diagrams created in Visio. These take the form of simple step-by-stepflow diagrams. The backbone or hub of the online help system is the DA learning centre,which provides a web-based front-end or portal through which all the trainingand support material can be accessed. “It’s basically one big web page andjumping-off point for all the information users could need,” says Stevens.”It can expand to hold any training material but will probably be kept forsystem-related support rather than be extended to something like softskills.” DACG has customised the learning centre for Unilever so that it includes arange of other functions and features. These include: training feedback formsthat give course attendees a facility to comment on the training content anddelivery; a link to training course materials for pre- or post-courseadditional study; a library of FAQs derived from the training courses, withanswers supplied by the business; and a communication platform for additionalsupport materials such as help cards and online competitions and quizzesdesigned to assist in the change communication process. It also offers amultilingual capacity, offering support in a selection of languages. TranslationThe multi-lingual demands of the project are considerable and after UKroll-out DACG moved on to translating and adapting all of the material andtraining for the Italian market – which is next to go live – followed byGermany and the Netherlands later this year. Further European roll-outs arescheduled for 2003. But, as Stevens points out, it isn’t just a case oftranslating training in to the relevant language. “You can’t just takewhat you’ve done, translate and plonk it in Italy for instance, where the wholestyle of training is different. In the UK, we like our training to beinteractive and have more of a fun element. If a trainer comes in and throwslots of sweets out to the class, a UK audience will often respond to it. InItaly, it’s more a case of talk and chalk because they expect to belectured.” He adds that as well as translating the words, DACG’s multi-lingual trainershave to localise all the training materials. “This means making sure allthe Italian training has Italian examples, as they’re not going to respond toor understand UK ones.” The project also involved a major change communications exercise and anyonewho has implemented a new system of any kind knows that communicating itsbenefits to the workforce to ensure their buy-in is as important as thetraining itself. HPCE tied in its strategy for this with the phases of theproject: ‘awareness’, ‘understanding’, buy in’, ‘commitment’ and ‘post golive’. Specific materials and specific messages were developed for each phaseand the range of materials spanned e-flyers, posters, competitions and games toESAP lunch seminars. “You have to ensure people are ready for a new systemlike this and make sure they know what’s happening and why,” says Stevensemphatically. “You must break down any resistance beforehand so that whenthe system is put in place, you don’t then spend time arguing over, say, whyyou need it and how it has changed a particular job role.” It is still early days for the project in terms of ROI but Stevens providessome simple arithmetic to demonstrate the potential cost savings. “If youhave a new system and users have to stop to call the help desk five times a dayand each question takes eight minutes to ask and answer (which is fairlytypical), across 200 staff that adds up to 133 hours a day when your staff arenot devoting their time to their real job and therefore your customers.” As future roll-outs continue, DACG also hopes to be nurturing the earlierusers into more self-help methods that will further save costs and time. Itaims to build-in more self-learning elements into the overall educationprogramme and ultimately reduce the amount of classroom training. “We’llalways use face-to-face training, but I guess we’re moving towards a blendedapproach and, a year on, the users will be more accepting of methods likee-learning and computer-based learning,” says Stevens.In summaryStreamlining the working process Unilever’s requirement: To train aEuropean workforce in its new SAP enterprise-wide system.Why? The new system was brought in as part of a three-year planto streamline its business and working processes. The scale of the project andtimeframe demanded that the workforce was trained as quickly and efficiently aspossible if the system was to live up to its promise, followed up with ongoingonline support.Has the training delivered? It is early days for hard figuresbut the online help system should dramatically reduce calls to an IT helpdeskand ensure staff spend more time using the system fruitfully.Unilever’s tips for systemtraining– Plan and plan. Understand exactly who needs to be trained andthe kind of training they need– Communicate to employees what you are doing at all times andwhy, so you break down any resistance from the beginning– Involve the business at all levels from the boardroom to thecoalface and start to cultivate ambassadors who are going to championthe system last_img