Vi, formerly Classic Residence by Hyatt, was founded in 1987 as a developer, owner and operator of older adult living communities. The company is dedicated to enriching the lives of older adults by providing high quality environments, services and care. The majority of Vi’s 3,600 employees work at the company’s nine continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), and 10 rental communities throughout the United States.
Three of Vi’s corporate objectives are financial growth, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. Financial growth is driven by satisfied customers, and customer satisfaction can only be delivered by satisfied employees. In fact, more than 30 percent of Vi’s sales come from resident referrals. Therefore, a strong customer-centric culture is key to their value proposition. The company developed a custom service philosophy and complementary training and enculturation program known as Vi Service Commitment.
The program not only furthers employees’ personal development but also helps them to serve the residents of the retirement communities even better.
Judy Whitcomb, SPHR, Vice President, Human Resources and Learning and Organizational Development, joined the company in 2007. When Whitcomb joined Vi, there was no strategy in place to address the operational environment of the training process, nor was the company systematically looking at training results metrics. Vi needed a delivery channel for learning to address the dynamic nature of a diverse workforce with diverse learning needs, and Whitcomb set out to find one.
Vi invests heavily in employee education and development to ensure every employee has the opportunity to learn and grown within the organization. When Whitcomb began the search for a learning management system (LMS), she was looking for flexibility and the ability to configure the user experience for the varying needs of the learners and functions within the company. She found the answer in Taleo Business Edition’s Learn solution. “Our partnership with Taleo has made it possible to create highly customizable learning experiences and portals. Taleo gives us the tools and resources to meet our specific needs. That got our learning platform to market faster.” Whitcomb found that Taleo’s tools enabled her and her team to become independent creators, instead of being dependent upon Taleo.
Taleo Learn enabled Whitcomb to spearhead the creation of Vi’s online university, named E-Campus, initially offering more than 200 online courses. While Vi continues to leverage a multi-channel delivery strategy for training—including in-class instruction and webinars—the organization heavily leverages E-Campus to deliver compliance, leadership, remedial skills, and language and professional education courses in 21 locations. To encourage greater employee engagement in online learning, the company took Taleo’s customizable platform a step further.
“In less than three years, we have built nine custom ‘learning center’ micro-sites within E-Campus to create greater relevance in training and communications throughout our organization,” says Whitcomb. These learning centers not only contain the library of courses and knowledge for each department, but they also serve as an engagement tool for each of the functions and departments within the company.
For instance, Vi’s sales organization hosts classes on their site, and they also leverage this site to post best practices through a blog and to publicize sales results by location. Vi’s Medicare Compliance Team uses their site to provide regulatory updates and Medicare resource tools. Because each function has the ability to customize their site, add resources, materials, photos, and content, functional leaders are highly engaged and take ownership of learning.
“The philosophy that says ‘training’ and employee development are HR functions simply doesn’t exist here. That’s huge,” Whitcomb says. The LMS has helped create a true learning culture disbursed across all departments. Whitcomb has facilitated not only the delivery of relevant training and development, but also culture change. Vi is also able to leverage Taleo Learn to track skills, competencies, and development plans.
This ensures that development plans tie into overall organizational goals, compliance requirements for certain staff are met, and employees are more engaged as they work toward personal goals. Competencies are tied to an individual’s annual development plan, created by the employee and his or her manager. Employee development is built into Vi’s annual corporate goals that cascade down to manager goals. Completion of these goals is tied to compensation. “Employee Development” is one of Vi’s leadership competencies that is tied to a manager’s compensation.
Vi’s enterprise-wide, creative use of its customizable learning management system has delivered dramatic results. Since the inception of Vi’s online university nearly three years ago, online course utilization has experienced incredible growth of over 1,000 percent. E-Campus initially had 800 active users and now boasts 2,100. E-Campus began with 200 courses and now offers over 1,000. In the first year alone, Vi reduced its learning costs by 28 percent, due to a reduction in training-related travel.
A commitment to learning and a robust LMS can yield surprising dividends. The company has enjoyed a 5.5 percent increase in customer satisfaction as well. A strong customer-centric culture is key in the hospitality and health industries, and customer satisfaction can only be delivered by satisfied employees. Keeping employees engaged means, in part, offering opportunities for personal growth through training and development programs.
Another dividend is brand differentiation. Vi is now able to offer free continuing education online courses for its nursing, food and beverage, systems technology, housekeeping and engineering, and HR staff. Vi nursing employees in particular have responded extremely well to having free continuing education (CE) courses as a benefi t of employment. Vi’s systematic tracking and reporting of CE credits has improved course completion by 12 percent, as the availability of online courses eliminates the hassle and expense of nurses having to track down and attend courses elsewhere.
In recognition of their efforts, Vi was selected by the Elearning! Media Group as one of their 2011 Learning 100 award recipients, was named to Training Magazine’s 2011 Top Training 125 list and was recognized by Chief Learning Officer Magazine as a 2011 “LearningElite organization.”
“Taleo Learn has enabled Vi to achieve our goal of creating a strong, company-wide learning foundation, and so much more,” says Whitcomb. “Taleo gave us the tools to create a system that was just right for us, without creating dependence on them. The difference between enablement and dependency with a service provider means that our time is spent focusing on learning strategy and internal client needs versus learning management system administration.”