Jan Neels has been working for over ten years as a learning consultant at Proximus, and he has seen training and education change fundamentally in that time. ‘The budgets for training became smaller and smaller while at the same time more training was needed. Due to rapid changes, the period during which the content of the training courses remained relevant also became ever shorter. And just to top things off, in the first few years, setting up e-Learning modules was very labour-intensive too,’ he explains. ‘I made all the digital training at Proximus, but I myself became the bottleneck, because my limit was 40 modules a year – I simply couldn’t get more done than that.’
When you know that Proximus provided approximately 311,000 training hours for its 13,500 employees in 2018, you get an idea of the challenge that Jan Neels faced. In 2017, when there was an acute need for advanced tests for the certification of helpdesk employees, he had to go in urgent search of a digital solution.
At that time, there were 1,600 operators staffing the helpdesk at Proximus, together handling 13,000 calls a day, and 80% of those operators were external parties. To improve the quality of the helpdesk, Proximus had to increase the knowledge and know-how of the operators and give them a solid base for their work.
In FLOWSPARKS, Jan Neels found his digital solution to increase the knowledge of helpdesk employees via drills, test their knowledge and certify them. ‘For us it was important that we could roll out the training quickly, that we could manage the content ourselves, that that content was reusable and that there were possibilities for reporting. But FLOWSPARKS was still in full development and I wanted to use it for things that were not yet possible, so I decided to lend a helping hand. We entered into a kind of partnership in the development of the tool,’ he says. ‘This requires a lot of trust and also ushers in a bit of fear initially, but it is bearing fruit.’
‘The group involved in the pilot project was very diverse. It is only logical that it included people who saw the potential, but also people who were a little wary of change. Gradually you could see people developing new talents and that motivated the whole group.’ In the end, the user experience of FLOWSPARKS was considered very positive and the ease of creating and managing content is a very important asset.
Accountability and ownership
FLOWSPARKS is based on the principle of user-generated content, and at Proximus they are noticing that this leads to cooperation across the various departments, because everyone now uses the same tool and sees each other’s work. ‘And that’s great to see, much nicer than doing it all yourself. Didactically, we at Proximus have never evolved as quickly as in the past five years. Accountability and ownership are increasing, and that gives me the space to grow as well.’
Digital learning and the use of FLOWSPARKS continue to grow exponentially throughout the organisation. ‘In 2019, we had already produced 300 digital learning modules, albeit not only with FLOWSPARKS but also for example with our ‘Make Your Own Digital Learning’ concept, with voice-overs in PowerPoint as a basic tool. This year in 2020, we were already above 450 modules in June – partly due to the coronavirus crisis. Those are great figures,’ says Jan Neels.
A huge acceleration thanks to FLOWSPARKS
The coronavirus crisis has created a huge acceleration. The lockdown was set on a Friday and by the following Monday evening we were ready with a full training course for the people in our shops.
Proximus / Jan - Digital Learning Specialist
Acceleration during times of corona
The coronavirus crisis has thus created a huge acceleration. ‘The lockdown was set on a Friday and by the following Monday evening we were ready with a full training course for the people in our shops. Most of our employees were able to continue working, but of course the shop employees were out of work. They felt the effects of the lockdown much more than the other employees. We worked our fingers to the bone to get digital training courses ready for them so that they could carry on working.’
The crisis caused many organisations to start thinking in more depth about digital transformation, but at Proximus they had actually already prepared for this unforeseen acceleration. Jan Neels explains: ‘We no longer had to look for a good tool, because we had already one for two years. People were already familiar with FLOWSPARKS and many were already able to make e-Learning modules. That allowed us to move quickly. People from the sales team started developing training courses at a rate of knots so that they could immerse the sales employees in digital training courses. For many, this was a handy Plan B at a time when people would have been forced to sit and twiddle their thumbs otherwise. For others, those training courses were already planned anyway, but they got them sooner than anticipated. Hundreds of people took up their virtual pens because we had got the message loud and clear: it has to happen right now.’
The lockdown was therefore the ideal opportunity for many sales employees to refresh their knowledge of existing products and services via digital modules. The lesson Jan Neels learned from this period is a clear one: ‘When you’re well prepared, you can do it.’
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