As a licensed Caterpillar dealer, Thompson Tractor is not only responsible for the sale of Caterpillar tractors and other equipment, but also the service and repair of that equipment. As industrial equipment such as tractors, engines, and forklifts become increasingly technically complex, Thompson relies on a well-developed training program to make sure their technicians are highly-skilled and capable.
Ashley Self, Corporate Training Director, talks about the scope of the training program:
"We have six technical training instructors and the primary responsibility there is to serve the technicians," says Self. "And that's everything from basic skills of technicians all the way up to very advanced troubleshooting diagnostic skills, failure analysis, that sort of thing. But we also have responsibility for supervisory skills training, our leadership development programs, safety training, and the coordination of other training activities such as sales training and Microsoft Office or software skill development."
On average, a technician at Thompson will come through the training department for an instructor-led training class two to three times a year, in addition to doing federally-mandated MSHA training live, on-site in Birmingham each winter. Self says the greatest challenge was staying on top of each employee's training status for all the different training they were receiving.
"We were having trouble keeping track of our instructor-led training and the career path development for our employees," says Self. "We needed a system that would provide a training needs analysis report that could forecast what it is that we need to do and when do we need to do it. We needed a system that said, 'These employees need this training in this time period,' and the Convergence LMS gives us that ability."
"We were keeping track of our training in a spreadsheet. The records were being kept in a HRIS system, but trying to figure out what we needed to teach and who we needed to teach it to had become a real challenge for us."
Thompson Tractor began to roll out the new training in bits and pieces, slowly introducing employee development training, instructional education training, and policy documents and company communications to employees through the Convergence LMS.
"We found that the ability to put documents into the LMS and push those out to employees gives us the ability to track who's seen it," says Self. "So we can always email policies and documents to employees and know that they've received and read them."
But the biggest benefit Thompson Tractor has seen from the Convergence LMS is the ability to generate reports that clearly show which employees are up-to-date on their training and which are not.
"We've set up learning paths for all of our employees with all the required learning that we ask them to complete as they advance in their career," says Self. "And we get a weekly report in our inbox that tells us exactly who needs what, so we can always plan our instructional ed training schedule. We can keep it up-to-date every week."
"That was the key thing we were looking for from the beginning. We generate an exception report every single week that tells us who is required to take a certain class and has not yet taken it. It works beautifully for us every week."
"We definitely recognize the value of training on demand, web-based training," says Self. "But in our business, there's huge value in instructor-led and hands-on training. Formal training. Delivering basic information can be done through web-based training fairly efficiently, but the hands-on, skills-based training needs to be done in person, so those classroom sessions are critical for us. The Convergence LMS allows us to handle both."
"It's also critical that our employees get the training they're supposed to get. Remember, it's required for them to advance. Now that we're using the Convergence LMS we're finding that we're not missing people."
"Having this weekly report come out means that there's fewer and fewer opportunities for someone to fall through the cracks on their training. And that's not acceptable to us, that someone fall through the cracks."