Wachovia's Merger Lessons

Wachovia and First Union combine their E-learning initiatives to build a multimedia approach

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 5, 2003

4 Min Read

The 2001 merger of First Union and Wachovia not only created the largest consumer-banking presence on the East Coast but also provided the catalyst for a world-class training and E-learning organization.

In the past two years, about 80% of Wachovia's 84,000 employees have taken E-learning courses. "Because we're geographically dispersed, virtual classrooms and E-learning gives us flexibility," says Ron Garrow, director of learning strategy and senior VP at Wachovia. "We do have key learning centers throughout our footprint, but in this day and time, people need bite-sized chunks of training. They need it when they can get to it."

The combined institution, which has $342 billion in assets, recently introduced My Learning Connection, a learning-management system from Docent Inc. Accessible from the company's intranet or any Internet connection, it centralizes Wachovia's training and development programs onto a single platform, letting employees access nearly 1,000 courses at work or home.

A portion of that training comes from E-learning provider Ninth House Inc., which First Union had used since the late 1990s. The courseware offers research and presentations from business gurus such as Ken Blanchard, William Bridges, Tom Peters, and Peter Senge. Wachovia employees can access 12 courses plus almost 500 Instant Advice modules, which address day-to-day business issues. Wachovia uses courseware from Element K LLC for IT and technical training. SkillSoft Corp. provides an additional suite of courses to complement the Ninth House courseware.

Wachovia also has a centralized design team to develop its Web-based training. It has produced 75 E-learning courses, many of which have aided with the merger transition. "It's not as great as Ninth House, but it's getting up there," Garrow says.

Wachovia even has its own employee TV network, called V-net, which features programs produced by a team using its own training studio and distributed via satellite. The bank has invested in a classroom virtual campus product, developed with Centra Software Inc.

The result is a blended approach to E-learning. Rather than use courseware from Ninth House or SkillSoft as standalone training modules, Wachovia incorporates them into other types of learning activities, such as workbook, video, V-net, virtual campus, and classroom training. Each training initiative is analyzed to determine the most effective delivery method.

Many of the courses are about ways to shield customers from the impact of the merger. As transition-related activities wind down, however, demand for other E-learning is expected, and modules are being developed for managers at all levels. Many divisions have established individual learning plans for employees that employees set up in conjunction with business-unit leaders, line managers, and learning managers.

The company also is developing methods to measure the effectiveness of its training programs. "What we don't do today is pull it up on an overall corporate level, and that's something that we're putting ourselves on the hook for by third quarter of this year," Garrow says. "We'll just continue to look at different metrics while we're building this assessment measurement and evaluation strategy so we're using data to make good decisions."

Meanwhile, employee feedback has been positive, and the bank's service scores have improved consistently during the last 15 quarters, even during the merger. "We do seem to get a lot of recognition externally," Garrow says. "It is clear we're doing something right."

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