Case Study

American Water

american water training intake case study

American Water Creates Brand New Training Intake Process to Better Connect With Business Partners Through Synapse

April 21, 2021

8
L&D Team

Public Utility
Industry

7000
Employees

american water logo

Meet Jeff Balmer!

Learning Designer at American Water

About American Water:

With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 14 million people in 45 states and Ontario, Canada.

The learning and development team at American Water had been making a concerted effort to find more advanced and engaging ways of delivering digital learning to their employees. But while they had the authoring tools and LMS in place to create more effective learning experiences, other areas of the training development process were holding them back from reaching the true potential of American Water’s learning program.

Jeff Balmer is a learning designer on the L&D team who began to express concern about the inefficiency of some of the team’s existing processes. At the core of the issue was the need for a culture shift, so the team could expand their capabilities as a learning organization. 

It quickly became apparent that two fundamental processes would need to be overhauled so the team could collaborate more effectively with the organization and move further towards a more dynamic digital learning program:

  • Training intake
  • Project tracking

The Challenge

What training intake process?

Prior to implementing Synapse, Jeff and his colleagues had no concrete process in place for monitoring or accepting requests for training from business partners.

“I used to say that we would operate on whispers – ‘I think someone needs training in this area or someone needs training in that area.’ Or someone would call or email one of the team and that’s how the projects would get to us.”

But without a process or system in place, things inevitably fell through the cracks and the team found it challenging to identify and prioritize training needs from across the organization.

Coupled with this was an internal struggle to move business partners away from basic training solutions to more engaging learning experiences. But without a training intake process, engaging with the rest of the business was proving to be a challenge. 

“We still had a lot of business clients who just wanted Powerpoint or an instructor-led session. But we wanted to try and push into a more digital format.”

The lack of insight into training demand inevitably gave way to further difficulties once requests and projects were given the green light.

“I used to say that we would operate on whispers – ‘I think someone needs training in this area or someone needs training in that area.’ Or someone would call or email one of the team and that’s how the projects would get to us.”

But without a process or system in place, things inevitably fell through the cracks and the team found it challenging to identify and prioritize training needs from across the organization.

Coupled with this was an internal struggle to move business partners away from basic training solutions to more engaging learning experiences. But without a training intake process, engaging with the rest of the business was proving to be a challenge. 

“We still had a lot of business clients who just wanted Powerpoint or an instructor-led session. But we wanted to try and push into a more digital format.”

The lack of insight into training demand inevitably gave way to further difficulties once requests and projects were given the green light. 

“Our project tracking was not working. We had spreadsheets here and there with different people’s notes but there was no consistency.”

Project tracking 

Without a project tracking system in place, Jeff and his colleagues had no oversight into ongoing projects or who was working on what. Sometimes they would uncover the fact that multiple people were working on the same thing or they would discover orphaned projects that had not yet been started.

The team were aware that a lack of project tracking was impacting their productivity and had tried several different solutions:

“We’ve tried sharing documents in One Note. We tried spreadsheets. We tried a Sharepoint. We even had one guy on the team build a Power BI app – and none of it worked.”

Other solutions were too complicated for what they needed. They included too many project stages and were not learning-centric, making them difficult to adapt to the L&D team’s needs.

The Solution

Having tried other solutions, Jeff was still searching for the right way for his team to manage training projects.

In Synapse he found a way to incorporate a brand new training intake process that moved seamlessly into project planning. For the very first time, the L&D team had full oversight into what they were currently working on and what was in the pipeline.

From training request to project planning

Having previously fielded training requests in the form of phone calls and emails (or “whispers”), Jeff and the team have created two core training request forms so business partners can easily surface their needs to the L&D team.

Now the team can capture the training needs and key data to make their project scoping far more efficient. For example, one of the forms captures the following information:

  • The training request owner
  • Point of contact
  • What goal needs to be accomplished
  • What will employees do differently as a result of the training
  • Who is the learning audience
  • What is the proposed timeline
  • How will the success of this training effort be measured 

 

Within one centralized digital location, business partners can submit requests to L&D in a way that ensures the full team has visibility. Not only that, but promoting the new training request portal has contributed to the team’s efforts to engage the organization with L&D’s internal services.

Jeff and his colleagues are promoting the training intake portal on the internal intranet page, in the L&D team’s email signatures and will soon be adding a link to their LMS.

“We've been able to establish a process where we didn't have one before. Now we can see who requested the training, what are they looking for, and everyone on the team can see it.”

Training project oversight and insight

With an L&D department of 8 servicing an employee base of over 7,000, Jeff and his colleagues needed a way to maintain oversight on all the current and upcoming training projects. Synapse provided that oversight and more.

Now, the team can move a training request seamlessly into creating a new project, all within Synapse. Not only that, but it’s happening in one spot where the full team can see it. Everyone is aligned to what is currently being worked on and the current demand for training.

The Results

The main goal for the L&D team at American Water had been to achieve a cultural shift, not just in the way the organization viewed and interacted with L&D, but in how the team operated. By implementing Synapse and re-imagining the way training requests and project planning are managed, Jeff and his team are now firmly on the right road.

In terms of training intake, the L&D team find themselves working more closely, but also more efficiently, with the organization to surface training needs. 

It’s also made their involvement in solving training issues much more proactive as they now have a better pulse on what business partners truly need. As it turns out, business partners across the organization are ready and willing to engage with L&D in this new format.

In just 3 months during a soft launch of the new training intake portal, Jeff has received 30 training requests.

“The plan this year is to further socialize Synapse and then potentially open it up to all employees or designate key stakeholders throughout the business to submit training requests through the portal.”

On the project planning side, the L&D team are now working with data, insights, and a centralized location for their training projects to keep everyone on the same page.

“We’re a lean L&D team, so being able to see all of the projects coming in and all in one place isn’t really something we had before. For example, I can instantly see how many courses we currently have in active design. And that’s not any insight that anyone on our team had before.”

“We now have access to business partners and insights that we never had before. Previously a request would have got stuck in this general mailbox or they wouldn't have contacted us at all.”

Why not schedule a personalized demo?

We’d be delighted to show you how Synapse can increase the productivity of your team. Our learning solutions consultants will personalize the presentation so it’s focussed on how Synapse can help you achieve your goals.