Vi, which runs retirement communities across the country under the Classic Residence brand, has seen more than 1,000% growth in the usage of its online learning management system over the past 18 months as different constituencies within the company formed their own online communities. That's according to Judy Whitcomb, a learning and organizational development specialist in Vi's human resources department.
The Learn.com learning management system that was acquired last year by Taleo, the online recruiting and talent management specialist, allows Vi to designate people within each functional group as community managers who have a great deal of control, within broad guidelines and style sheets set down at a corporate level, Whitcomb said in an interview.
"We've been able to use that configurability to get users more engaged," she said. "They own that content rather than us having to drive it out."
This is what Taleo promotes as "social learning" features, offered in combination with more traditional online training and certification tracking capabilities in its product, now known as Taleo Learn. The hosted Web application supports an unlimited number of communities, each of which can include blogs, forums, and wiki-like functionality for creating articles, as well as access to online training and classroom course schedules.
"We're at an inflection point in how people learn in the workplace," Michael Gregoire, CEO of Taleo, said in a statement. "As we move toward social learning and enterprise collaboration, it's important to remember that organizations still need LMS solutions to satisfy complex regulatory and compliance reporting requirements as well as the delivery of more traditional learning such as instructor-led training, which still accounts for more than 50% of the training in large enterprises."
Whitcomb said the social component of the system has allowed her to establish communities for sales, food and beverage, and her own human resources group. These communities also incorporate external content -- for example, RSS feeds from the Culinary Institute for the food and beverage community. Sales people blog about best practices and monitor news feeds about trends in the real estate and senior housing industries. When the company was changing its brand to Vi from Classic Residence by Hyatt, it got all these communities engaged in spreading the word, she said.
One of the best indications of success is how they have proliferated, Whitcomb said. After the first few proved successful, other groups within the company began coming to her asking for their own online community. One example was accounting and finance. "Because we have a lot of field locations, they decided this would be the ideal way to create a one-stop shop for information, training, and communications," she said. So now in addition to offering training, the Web portal is used to educate financial workers on company expectations and standards, she said.
"We've really leveraged this as a way to direct communities of employees and their specific functions," Whitcomb said.