To meet the demands created by rapid growth and a worldwide workforce, engineering services company Oceaneering International integrated learning and talent management systems to create a sophisticated delivery and tracking system.
Since its founding in 1964, Oceaneering International has grown into a global provider of services and products with employees and operations on five continents.
The company provides engineered services and products primarily for the offshore oil and gas industry, with a focus on deepwater applications, and has operations in the major deepwater markets of the world, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil, India, Singapore, Angola and Nigeria. In 2000, the company had slightly more than 2,000 employees and has grown to approximately 7,500 globally. That worldwide workforce creates significant training and talent challenges.
One of the major expansions within the company has been in the remotely operated vehicles (ROV) group. As a result of the growth in this division, traditional on-the-job training was simply no longer viable.
The ROV group had a comprehensive classroom training program for skills, abilities and technical knowledge in place, but this approach did not meet all operational needs. Transferring classroom skills to the offshore operating environment required a different approach. And as employees became more experienced, they required additional training and expertise.
The logistics of training and managing the global workforce and its increasing time constraints created a significant challenge. Without a system to track, view, find and select employees within the organization to fill specific positions or a system to measure, review and fill the knowledge and training gaps as workers changed positions, the company was not as productive and efficient as it could be.
A Global Training Challenge
During Oceaneering’s strategy meetings during the past two years, leaders from worldwide operations listed training as the top challenge faced by the company. This acknowledgement led Oceaneering on a quest for a learning management system that would provide global online training and be capable of supplying detailed employee data that could be maintained, updated and made easily accessible.
“We had a great training division and a lot of training assets, but it was hard to coordinate training for the employees who were offshore most of the time,” said Frank Klein, worldwide competency and development manager for the ROV Group. Klein coordinates development and training for ROV Group employees when they are hired, and then tracks their progress to plan for their growth into critical positions, such as supervisors and superintendents.
“When we had 300 people, this process was fairly simple, but with 700 people it’s easy to lose people,” Klein said. “They drop off the radar.”
Tammy Shook, Oceaneering’s corporate training and development manager, said the remote offshore locations of many of the company’s 7,500 employees created additional challenges.
“There is really no way we can hold enough classes in all of the topics and course titles that are needed,” Shook said. “What we really wanted was a way to help deliver training, not only standardized or packaged training, but something we could put together. We wanted a customized curriculum to deliver to our employees no matter where they were or what time zone they were in.”
Integrating Learning and Talent Management Systems
Oceaneering chose two systems from LearnShare to address its needs: a learning management system (LMS) and a talent management system (TMS).
The Web-based LMS allows employees to search and register for online and instructor-led classroom training. All data associated with training is tracked online, and employees can see which courses they’ve completed and what other training is needed for their positions. Managers and supervisors are able to view this information to pinpoint deficits in employees’ knowledge and skills.
The TMS tracks employees throughout the organization to plan their job growth. It identifies specific characteristics of employees, such as who has completed specialized training or who is multilingual. Managers can search the system to find employees with the right profile to fill a job need. After managers and employees determine individual strengths and weaknesses, they can create a plan to overcome weaknesses and maximize strengths.
The LMS has been especially useful for tracking employee certification. “These certifications are vital to the Oceaneering business because employees can’t do their jobs if that certification is not current,” Shook said. “Often we have to produce the certification to our customers to prove the employee is qualified for the job.”
The LMS automatically sends a notification prior to the expiration of a certification or training, which gives Oceaneering a better method of tracking training requirements and making those requirements visible to employees.
“Manually tracking certifications is a living nightmare,” Shook said. “There were copies in file folders and file cabinets, and it was crazy trying to find them. We had a certification customization added to the LMS, so now we can attach scanned copies of their certificates to the employees’ records. The employee has access to it from any Internet connection and can print it off and hand it to the site manager right there.”
Reconciling Gaps in Training, Knowledge and Skills
Two years ago, the ROV Group developed a competency program to determine the training needed for new and existing employees as they advance within the company. This is done through the TMS and helps the company deploy appropriate resources.
“The talent management system has broadened our strategy planning and allows us to identify gaps in employee training,” Klein said. “Then the LMS lets us look at where we can best close that gap, whether it’s through third-party online training, an internal classroom program or an outside class.”
The ROV Group also uses the TMS to identify employees ready for advancement, allowing them to compare and contrast candidates for a management position, for example.
“If we have five spots available for supervisor positions and there are 10 people available, we can look at their training, work history and talent profile to truly pick the best five,” Klein said. “Those not picked are then given a plan for improvement. This plan is added to their talent profile, and if they continue on this path and do everything we ask, it’s almost a guarantee of promotion.”
Oceaneering’s TMS also includes a customized team-building hierarchy. A manager can search the database and pick appropriate crew members based on the skill sets needed for a job, rather than calling around to find out the training and skills for these employees.
The combined systems address many of Oceaneering’s human capital challenges and help track training needs, requirements and testing of employees to determine the ongoing education and competency of the actual workforce.
“It give us more data points, views and insight to our employees and gives them a transparency for what we’ve planned for them,” Klein said. “When you enter something into their talent or learning profiles, the employees see it every time they log on and know that’s what you expect of them. If they fail to do that, they also realize that. It gives them control of their destiny and a strategy for promotion.”
Shook also sees the benefits of these systems for the employees and the organization as a whole.
“It’s beginning to change the mindset of the company and has changed the way we do business around training,” she said. “It’s also changed the importance of training and helped to increase the awareness among upper-level management as to how important training really is.”
Because of the formal enrollment process with the LMS, including automatic wait lists, e-mail notifications and reminders, employee participation in training classes has increased. This reduces training costs because Shook now holds fewer classes due to a diminished absentee rate.
The LMS also helps reduce costs associated with data entry. Prior to implementation of the system, the ROV division had three full-time employees dedicated to entering and tracking training of the 3,000-4,000 offshore employees. Now, there is only one employee entering data a few hours daily and tracking training that wasn’t automatically pre-enrolled in the LMS. The other two jobs were eliminated, and those employees moved into other positions within the company.
Company officials also said the new systems have created positive feedback from Oceaneering employees. They take courses specific to their jobs but can also take any course they want if they are willing to pay for it and take it on their own time.
“The employees see this as a huge benefit,” Shook said. “They are really excited because we offer several hundred different topics of online training that are available from third-party vendors. They love it when I add new topics to the LMS. If they have an interest in a particular topic that’s not in the LMS, they let me know and I can go back to LearnShare and see if they have a vendor that has a topic on that.”
Oceaneering’s training and talent management challenges are not unique. The company’s industry is experiencing growth, which translates into an influx of new employees lacking the appropriate training and experience. The processes and tools provided by the LMS and TMS allow for the global needs of the company and its employees to be managed more effectively.