Company: SabaCustomer: TXU EuropeSubmitted by: Grant Butler CoomberTXU Europe is the European arm of Texas Utilities (TXU), one of the world’s top ten energy service companies with assets of $40 billion and over nine million customers.
The European subsidiary is one of the leading integrated energy companies on the continent, owning Eastern Electricity and Eastern Natural Gas in the UK which between them serve over 3.75 million customers.Investing in re-skilling its workforce through e-learning has enabled this European energy giant to spot skills gaps, meet business needs more effectively, increase staff training, and save time and money, while improving staff motivation and career prospects through the introduction of computerised, self-help, personal development plans.The move is a tangible commitment to improving employee performance and can only boost staff recruitment and retention in the long-term.TXU Europe went live with the Saba Learning Network in December 1999, delivering elearning courses in basic desktop computing skills, project and time management, and language training, to the companies 4,200 staff across 13 countries.All the courses complement the needs of TXU’s new performance management framework, which consists of 16 core competencies across four different levels.
These competencies are the cornerstones of all jobs within TXU Europe whatever the discipline, and range from team working and influencing to rigorous analysis and drivers for success. The company has identified that such generic skills make for a more successful company.Indeed, it was TXU’s new performance management framework that drove the company to look for an elearning solution to complement its already established range of 1,800 courses provided via traditional, classroom-based training and open learning. It was essential that the whole should work smoothly together to support the common goal of enhancing employees’ understanding of TXU’s chosen core competencies.”We chose Saba as opposed to other products because it was the best at supporting this strategy,” says Kevan Skelton, TXU Europe’s HR technology consultant.”We wanted to tie all our training and development courses into our new performance management framework and its core competencies, and also offer another way for staff to catch up on their learning.
There’s a lot more pressure on peoples’ time these days and it’s harder for staff to take half days out of the office to attend a course. Saba enables a more flexible approach to learning at the learner’s convenience.”Just like all business today, TXU Europe is in a constant state of evolution and it must find ways of adapting its staff to the changing needs of the business. One way it is achieving this goal is to transform employees’ careers by empowering them with computerised personal development plans that they maintain themselves. This also has the added, major advantage of exposing skills gaps so that they can be acted upon before they can have a detrimental impact on the business.
The Saba Learning Network has provided TXU Europe with a company-wide picture of its current and possible skills needs in real-time, enabling management to be proactive in mapping training onto business goals however quickly they evolve.”We’re at the stage where we can take our business plans and cascade them down to staff to input into their training, which helps us keep ahead of skills gaps that otherwise might constrain the business,” says Skelton.The company is already exploring how to introduce online courses in “soft” skills, and include some form of elearning in all its courses, to effect more efficiencies in time and money.”Using elearning for some pre-course work and post-course assessment could shorten the length of time taken to complete courses, and also make them more focused,” says Skelton.Prior to Saba, courses were detailed in physical catalogues held in personal development centres scattered around the UK.
Staff had to visit a centre to research and arrange training, and courses were not cross-referenced with the company’s skills needs in any way.Today, the catalogue is help online in the Saba Learning Network and is accessible from everyone’s desktop machine. Most crucially, the catalogue is tied into TXU’s performance management framework, so anyone can request a skills gap analysis that can be matched against assessments of training needs carried out by line managers or staff themselves, and see immediately if they are meeting the needs of the performance management framework.Staff work with their line managers to agree annual objectives that match the company’s business plans, thus identifying learning needs. Progress meetings every six months ensure that training is kept on track and that no new skills gaps grow unseen. The incentive for staff to self-manage their personal development plans is that their career progression within TXU Europe is likely to be that much faster if they meet their key objectives effectively.
It also enables them to shape their own learning, allowing them to pursue special areas of interest.”The personal development plans have certainly been a training motivator for staff,” says Skelton. “The amount of open learning being undertaken has quadrupled since December and its better targeted learning, helping to save money and make the company more effective. Also, more people new to training are trying it out, which is encouraging. Staff are also assessing themselves against the skills needs of jobs they aspire to, so they can plot a training path towards their goal. It’s an incentive for them to stay with the company.
“Recruitment of staff has also benefited from the application of the Saba Learning Network.”Interviews are conducted using questions stored online which are geared towards identifying candidates that have the core competencies we’ve identified as key to our success as a business,” says Skelton. “This makes for more structured interviews and also enables us to provide good feedback to all candidates. We can also develop accurate personal development plans for new members of staff for the day they join.”Skelton is confident that the Saba Learning Network will continue to prove its worth in the future.”The business is in a constant state of evolution and it’s a challenge to keep ahead of deregulation in mainland Europe, but I think Saba will help us meet the skills needs of our business however they evolve,” he says.
“It’s has made training more accessible to staff, and enabled us to target learning so that it meets the needs of the business more effectively. I think it will make a big difference when take-up is 100% because we’ll be improving peoples’ performance, and that has to have a positive effect on our bottom line.”