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A centralized learning management system (LMS) should be the backbone of an organization’s training program, but it is rarely “plug-and-play.” It takes patience and a big-picture view of talent development to create a sustainable system that can serve the needs of employees and the business. This is how Domtar—a multi-national manufacturer of pulp, paper and personal care products with $5.5 billion in 2018 sales has used technology to skill-up its 10,000 employees over the past five years.
Sarah Waltman’s first task when she joined Domtar’s Talent Management team in 2013 was to implement a single solution for deploying and tracking mandatory legal compliance and safety training. It had to be flexible enough to adapt to the varying needs of each site, while satisfying corporate requirements.
“Domtar has been built through mergers and acquisitions over many decades, leading to a fairly complex organization and all kinds of unique processes,” Waltman explains. The company has dozens of operating sites and offices in North America and Europe, and five working languages. Adding to the complexity, only about 30 percent of the workforce sits at a computer; 70 percentare on the manufacturing floor, in labs, warehouses, or on the road.
Waltman partnered with local site leaders and HR managers to understand and harmonize the patchwork of different learning management systems and manual processes. Site by site, she showed them the value of being part of a corporately managed LMS: locations would save money, and they could benefit from pre-loaded content. And when non-desk employees take classroom training, facilitators can still use the LMS content, and track completion in the system.
In less than a year, Waltman and team successfully launched Domtar’s first global LMS, branded My Knowledge Tree.The platform has given leadership and managers a global view of compliance—critical for both legal and safety training. Domtar has won four awards from industry leaders in corporate learning, with particular recognition for its training in compliance and ethics.
Having a customizable LMS, along with training and support, was key. Holly Fox, Senior Instructional Design Specialist at Domtar says, “At first we helped sites build safety modules as needed. And eventually the safety leaders saw the power of My Knowledge Tree. They took ownership and created a Safety University within the platform, which is one of the most accessed sections of My Knowledge Tree.”
From Compliance to Retention
Waltman is now Domtar’s Senior Director of Talent Management, and she says that compliance training was just the first step in the LMS journey. More and more, employees are looking to expand their skills. “From a recruiting and retention point of view, providing learning resources is an absolute necessity. Our LMS is one important way we do this.”
My Knowledge Tree contains thousands of resources (courses, videos, books, job aids) that are continually refreshed, helping employees develop skills in communication, project management, marketing, operations management, leadership and more. This includes accredited courses that lead to industry-recognized certifications in HR, project management and IT. A mobile app also makes it easy to access training.
Fox believes that in the not-too-distant future online learning will leverage AI to curate content for employees, further enhancing the learning experience. Fox also points out that an LMS does not solve every learning need. “We have a blended approach, and offer other formats, such as in-person classes and mentoring,” she says.
Despite all these choices, it can be hard for employees to make the time to learn. “This is one of the biggest hurdles, even though the benefits of learning are obvious,” says Waltman. Domtar now asks employees to create a personalized learning plan as part of the formal performance management process, bringing accountability between managers and employees. “Domtar has been around for over 170 years. By strengthening our culture of learning, we will continue to adapt and grow.”