The impetus for this online learning system was a cultural change at Dow. In 1995, executives wanted the now 104-year-old chemical company to begin to act more like the global company it had become. The company was organised around locations - what happened at the company's Cairo, Egypt, location was entirely separate from what occurred at its Horgen, Switzerland, offices, which had nothing much to do with the Midland, Mich., headquarters, even though similar business processes were taking place at all three. That fractured management approach affected training. A technician in Greenburg, La., and her counterpart in Joliet, Ill., might have had to complete the same compliance training, but nothing was done to standardise its content or delivery.
As Dow Chemical executives decided to restructure around business processes rather than locale, HR processes like training had to be changed. It was a huge organisational change for the company, and technology was a major enabler of the transformation. David E. Kepler, CIO and corporate vice president of e-business, took the first step to support the new global entity by installing the PeopleSoft 7 Human Resources Management System (HRMS) in 1996. The following year, Kepler's team joined with human resources to create an intranet-based HR system called the People Success Finder, which offered employees access to career information, training resources, compensation figures and job opportunities. Within the People Success Finder, the company launched Learn@ dow.now in January 1999 to deliver standardised, online training.
Learn@dow.now didn't succeed immediately, however. When the global learning team launched it, employees were instructed to take a course via the online learning system to learn how to use the online learning system. "We made a mistake in thinking the system was easy to use," explains Lyn Hamilton, a Dalton, Ga.-based global learning leader for Dow Chemical, who worked on the project. So Dow initiated live Learn@dow.now classroom demonstrations and published a quick reference guide for employees to keep by their computer.
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