Training is Tops at Starwood Hotels

White Plains, N.Y.-based starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, is a hotel and leisure company with more than 725 properties in 80 countries. Its 120,000 employees staff starwood's resorts, such as st. Regis, Sheraton, Westin and W brands. With such vast holdings, starwood faced a challenge in maintaining timely information flow among agents who staff its 12 call centers.

This challenge became apparent when promotions were offered at hotels and resorts. Often, the special appeared in print advertisements, but when customers called to inquire about the deal, they encountered call center agents who were unaware of any offer.

Ken Dufault, starwood's manager of new media, began to realize that the entire enterprise could benefit from a learning management system.

In the past, starwood relied on faxes and e-mail to distribute the information. Promotions originated at corporate headquarters and were distributed in Word documents that passed down the chain until they reached the employees who distributed them to call center associates. The documents were placed in associates' mailboxes or on desktops--but there was really no way to ensure agents received the information. More complex promotions would require associates to be pulled off the floor to receive training for an average of 43 minutes.

"Being able to track what individuals are doing, what the overall quiz scores are, what the training plans are, what the skills gaps and competencies are, what the jobs are as they relate to the hotel industry and how to measure the level of knowledge at a hotel property is key," Dufault says. "But how do you measure those things? If you're not running any type of statistics, you really don't know how to fix the problem. You need to make an investment in corporate knowledge." Dufault found a solution with click2learn.com's Ingenium product.

"The problem starwood had was, like any other organization, they have a very high turnover of people," says Eric Theobald, click2learn.com project director, who managed the starwood implementation. "They constantly have to try to train people about new promotions...It was something starwood needed to bring their people up to speed on as quickly as possible."

"starwood came to us with requirements that weren't different than most of our other customers," says click2learn.com Director of Engineering Jim Federico. "They had some objectives for cost containment and also for improving profits."

starwood has future plans to implement Ingenium across the entire enterprise, but its original implementation targeted the immediate problem: training associates in promotions.

In the spring of 2000, starwood put its six largest call centers--about 1,700 associates--on Ingenium. "We got it up and running and in use in one day," Dufault says.

Now, faced with a new promotion or change in the system, the training director uses click2learn's Toolbook Assistant to create a course. That course is then published to the Web server where Ingenium picks it up and automatically registers appropriate associates to take the course. When the associate logs into the starwood system, a training icon pops up that, when clicked, takes the associate through the training. Using Ingenium Workstation, the supervisor can check training status and quiz scores.

Not only has associate learning improved with Ingenium, downtime has decreased, Dufault says. "We took that 43-minute process of hauling an associate off the floor and got it down to an average of seven minutes," he says. "And they're not being pulled off the floor."

While other facets of starwood's return on its Ingenium investment are difficult to quantify, the ROI is nonetheless substantial, Dufault says. "The ultimate goal is to give [employees] skills and knowledge to allow them to perform, and how do you measure that?" he asks. "The ROI is your investment in the corporate knowledge of your employees."

click2learn.com has been helping organizations maintain a well-trained workforce since 1984 with its offerings of Internet-based training. Its Ingenium learning management system has increased the opportunities for employee training by offering a system designed to manage every learning approach, including online, on the job and even instructor-led.

"We understand that companies want more than tools to solve some of their e-learning needs--they want complete, seamless solutions," says click2learn.com President and CEO Kevin Oakes.

Ingenium includes sophisticated tracking and skills analysis capabilities, course authoring capabilities, as well as access to a variety of off-the-shelf courseware, advanced reporting capabilities and numerous other features designed to enhance learning opportunities. Ingenium's component-based architecture can be scaled to the enterprise or workgroup.

Ingenium includes five components:

1. Ingenium Workstation is used to manage and administer training. Features include graphical learning maps, training gap analysis, flexible event scheduling and multiple-trainee registration capabilities. Roster management and attendance tracking tools are also offered.

2. Ingenium Web Connect enables self-directed training and career development for employees via the Internet or corporate intranets. Managers can use Web Connect to review and approve requests for training and track progress, as well as develop learning plans. Like all Ingenium tools, Web Connect supports all types of training and features an online registration function for enrolling in training sessions. Other features include a calendar function, training gap analysis capabilities and training information on past courses, as well as current actions and an inventory system that tracks skills acquired from past training.

3. Ingenium Messenger Express automatically delivers training and skills-related messages to employees. Via e-mail, users can notify trainees and managers of training events, cancellations and registration approvals. Messages are hyperlinked to Web Connect and can include hyperlinks to online content.

4. Ingenium Report Browser includes more than 80 designated reports. Users can customize individual reports, which can be organized into categories. Groups of reports can be automatically distributed to appropriate parties, and data filters can be attached to each report.

5. Ingenium Data Update and Import Tool allows data to be exported into Excel or HTML easily.

The solution allows users to track and launch content built with click2learn's ToolBook II Assistant and Instructor course content authoring tools.

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