University challenge

first_imgDespite the uncertain climate in the leisure sector, hotel giant HiltonInternational continued with its methodical approach to establishing an onlinecorporate university, and its launch provides useful lessons for all employerswanting to establish learning for all. Sue Weekes reportsJust before the attacks on the US last September, the Hilton Group, whichdevelops, owns, manages and franchises 2,000 hotels, resorts and holidayproperties worldwide, had just finished putting in place and presenting thebasic design for the Hilton University. It followed a pilot project, in-depth analysis, research and exhaustiveemployee interviews. No one would have thought the group faint-hearted had itdecided to delay or shelve the project in view of the decline in world travelthat followed, but preparation for the university went ahead as planned and itwas launched on 6 February 2002. John Guthrie, head of international management development for Hilton Group,says: “We proceeded because we are in it for the long-term. In allbusiness and service businesses, the contribution of people is of centralimportance. We have a great commitment to learning and development and careers.This is intended as a global university for everyone at Hilton.” Traditionally, corporate universities, which provide a centralised learningand development resource and reinforce the ethos of the organisation and itsvalues, exist as bricks and mortar institutions. With the advent of e-learning,many have now added an online arm and some exist purely as virtualuniversities, typically accessed via the company intranet or a web-basedportal. Hilton’s university exists online and can be accessed via the intranet orinternet but in the medium to longer term it will become the gateway to a mixof traditional, blended and online learning programmes. “It’s not abuilding but it’s got to be lot more than an e or virtual university. We’vekick-started it with e-learning but ultimately it [Hilton University] is thename given to all of our learning development and knowledge programmes,”says Guthrie, also stressing the internal commitment to and investment in theproject. “This is not just an HR initiative that sits around. It comes straightfrom the top and if anyone can be credited with initiating the product it’schief executive Anthony Harris. Those on the advisory panel include the deputygroup chief executive, the group finance officer and the head of global HR.It’s a central part of our business so it’s got to be led by the people who runthe business and who have profit and loss responsibility.” The kickstart that Guthrie refers to was provided by e-learning providersIntellexis and SkillSoft. As well as soft skills content, the latter is alsosupplying the learning management system, SkillPort, which runs and hostsonline content. “For us it’s almost a textbook job,” says SkillSoftbusiness manager Russell Harper. “It’s been about 14 months, which is along sales cycle, but the university is being built exactly how it should be bystarting small and building upwards. It’s also helped that so much interest andenthusiasm has been generated to support the project.” Skillsoft, which provided the General Motors university (set up in 1927 andwidely considered the oldest corporate university in the world) with a newsuite of business courses, is a content rather than an LMS provider but Hiltonbegan using SkillPort and decided to stick with it because it serves its needs.However, Harper says there may come a time when they need to upgrade it,especially when the university carries more classroom and instructor-ledcourses. “We’re quite honest with them about that. But at the moment,SkillPort works fine for them.” Intellexis, meanwhile, is providing courses in financial skills, which aredesigned to enable managers to understand the fundamentals of financeirrespective of the job function. The two providers worked closely together toensure both sets of products ran under the LMS. “As a content provider, wehave been at great pains to see our products run under all the LMSs. Thedeveloping industry standards [AICC/Scorm – see opinion page 27] are a good wayto enable flexibility of choice for a user,” says Intellexis chiefexecutive Paul Palmarozza. “Customers are moving away from using one-stop shops. A user such asHilton can now choose the best of breed in each subject area and feel confidentthat these products will operate consistently under whatever LMS it selects.This is not always the case but we have given a high priority to this level ofcompatibility so it works for us.” Intellexis’ content was also chosen because it could be adapted to meet Hilton’sneeds. The course content shows how business decisions affect the financialperformance of an organisation and requires numerous examples to enable thelearner to make the connection with their own industry, company and job.”To make our Finance for Managers curriculum even more appropriate, ourchief developer went to Germany to meet key Hilton finance and project people.They worked together for two days, reviewing the product screen by screen anddeveloping new exercises,” explains Palmarozza. Hilton version After a final review by Hilton, these were incorporated into the product toproduce the ‘Hilton Version’, which was then integrated into the SkillSoft LMS.”The essential nature of the changes is based on the fact the hotelbusiness is a service business and that some of the management decisions aredifferent from those made by managers in a manufacturing business,” saysPalmarozza. The university is broken down into seven faculties. Four of these are splitacross the group’s four main areas of activity, which reflect the organisationwithin the hotel: operations; finance; business development; and HR. The otherthree are the Faculty of Management Skills; the Faculty of Executive Education(aimed at senior managers and which acts as Hilton’s business school); and theFaculty of Research, which is a library and knowledge resource. “Anemployee may aspire to be a team leader or senior manager we’re providinglearning journeys so that people can plan a career when they join,” saysGuthrie. Employees access the courses in a learning and development room at the hotelor from home. Since the university launched, 1,916 have been started and 1,059have now been completed. “Out of those who’ve completed the courses, 90per cent are recommending them to colleagues,” says Guthrie, adding thatHarris e-mailed the workforce about the launch of the university, followed upwith localised meetings and communications from champions of the project ineach country. In May, Hilton put the next phase of the project into action with its Food‘n’ Drink Business multimedia learning CD-Rom. This was sent to every hotel in the group and to hotel schools, recruitmentagencies and the trade press. Complementing this is online tutoring support, devised in collaboration withthe Hotel School of the Hague, and which offers 30 hours of learning, designedto be spread across a six-week period. It focuses on kitchen and servicemanagement and includes an e-based assignment. The Complete Learning Approach’sfinal component is a residential programme at the advanced level. The business development courses and then the executive education programmewill be next. Guthrie is a great advocate of the methodical, planned approachand this also gives learning and development a chance to become embedded in thecompany culture at Hilton, a vital part of the overall strategy. “When we set things up we were determined that it wasn’t going to betraining from 1978 with a Hilton wrapper on it. We want the learning and theacquisition of knowledge to become worthwhile in itself,” he says. In summaryGiving employees learning journeys Hilton Group’s requirements: To create a Hilton University. Although accessed online, itwill be the gateway to a blend of training, from pure online programmes toresidential courses.Why? To create a learning and development centre for all Hiltonemployees. People are of central importance in the service business so trainingis vital. Hilton’s strategy is to give employees learning journeys when theyjoin the companyIs e-learning delivering? It’s still early days. The university is being kick-started bytwo programmes of e-learning and so far 1,916 courses have been started and1.059 completed. Ninety per cent of those who have finished the coursesrecommended them to others.Hilton group’s tips for success– The lead must come from the very top. This should not be aninitiative that stays in an HR cupboard somewhere. Those who run the businessand have profit and loss responsibility must be involved from the beginning– Don’t just do it: plan thoroughly, run a pilot and trials andget lots of user feedback that you can learn from– Make learning and development a worthwhile activity foreverybody University challengeOn 1 Jun 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

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