By Bob Violino
Like many other local government entities around the country, the County of Champaign in Illinois trains its employees in a variety of areas related to their jobs.
Until recently, training of county workers was never formalized, and there was no consistent method used throughout the organization, says Kirk Bedwell, project manager for the county. Trainees were not quizzed on course material, nor did they receive certificates for completed training.
“When a new process was introduced, it was explained in an email,” Bedwell explains. “New hires were expected to learn their roles by watching a few PowerPoint presentations. At times, there was some one-on-one training, but that was informal and varied greatly between the individuals providing that training.”
County officials determined that they could address their various training challenges through online learning technology, so, in August 2013, they deployed a cloud-based training solution from Mindflash.
“It was the start of a new business process for training,” Bedwell says. “Mindflash is becoming the standard by which all training is done in our organization.”
The county initially used online training for criminal justice activities, such as courtroom dispositions, working from court calendars, electronic discovery and other work-specific topics. The departments involved included the sheriff’s office, public defender, state’s attorney, courts and probation. “The rest of the county is now starting to use it,” he adds.
The biggest benefit of the software is consistency in training, according to Bedwell. “Every employee is trained the same way, and there is documented proof of the training,” he says. “The quizzes that are created as part of the training helps the manager know if the employee truly understands the job.”
This formalized approach to training has freed-up trainers to focus on their regularly assigned duties. The county expects to increase use of online training as trainers and trainees get more comfortable with the format.
Every county employee will eventually be required to complete and continue training programs. Already, the county has created 20 online training courses, and nearly 300 invitations for online training have been sent to county employees.
“We still have a lot of employee training to complete,” Bedwell says. “One of our next planned uses of [the software] is conversion of the employee handbook, including policy and procedures.”
Each employee will be able to go to his or her Mindflash page and review the personnel manual. Management will receive confirmation from the application that employees have actually done this. “In this way, we can slowly start eliminating a lot of the paper copies of documents that plague so many of our offices,” he says.
Change is never easy, and the move to the new platform has meant a shift in thinking about training. “Mindflash represents a substantial culture change for our organization,” Bedwell says. “As we develop our skills with the software, we are starting to include videos into the training.”