As a leading supplier of automotive coatings for car manufacturers around the world, with a global network of distributors and end-customer car body shops, Axalta has a prospective training audience in North America alone that reaches 100,000. People who sell, distribute and use Axalta coatings and refinish products need to be kept up to date with product advancements and specialized application techniques. How?
Patrice M. Marcil, Director of Customer Experience for North America, is responsible for the Learning and Development strategy of the Refinish side of the business. Already deploying a number of training modalities to reach internal audiences, distributors and customers, he knew there was more, there must be other ways, to reach wide audiences with just the right amount of information needed to upskill, just at the right time.
“When I first met Xprtise and we talked about point-of-need Adaptive Learning, it just clicked, it clicked into place.”
Extending the reach, evolving the model
Axalta’s learning landscape contains a mix of learning delivery methods to reach its huge audience. Nine physical training centers in North America run a continuous, schedule of instructor-led training (ILT) events offering foundations, certification or specialization courses in subjects such as Color Blending Techniques, Micro Repairs and Advanced Matte Finishes.
Axalta also employ digital, distance learning technologies. A Learning Management System (LMS) with over 300 e-learning modules offers 24/7 self-paced, on-demand learning; a Customer Care line offers ad hoc live calls and virtual assistance for common questions and troubleshooting; and virtual instructor-led training (VILT) courses broadcast from a live studio, beam almost face-to-face training direct to the body shops.
Despite this panoply of delivery methods, Marcil knew the business wasn’t reaching its learning consumers with the on-the-go, point-of-use type of knowledge needed. ILT courses meant travel, a relative cost, and the difficulty to schedule in time for full training events, where often the knowledge needed would be incremental fine-tuning. And e-learning modules wouldn’t address this need either. They don’t ably isolate that discrete bit of knowledge that individual needs, at that particular moment.
Drillster: point-of-need Adaptive Learning
The Drillster Adaptive Learning platform secures long-term learning in a different way Marcil was keen to try out. “We need to adapt to our customers’ needs, we cannot use delivery strategies that are 50 years old.” Axalta engaged with Xprtise in 2017 to use Drillster with two key training audiences in mind initially: internal product specialists and one of their major distributors.
Drillster employs a question-based learning approach providing ‘drills’ on discrete learning objects of information. The Learn, Reinforce, Retain model introduces the theory for one learning topic (Learn); then a series of questions with feedback raises learner understanding and proficiency in that one element; the questions adapt to a user’s mastery and repeat in different ways until the knowledge is secured (Reinforce); a smart algorithm then decides when retention of that knowledge is about to decline and prompts a renewed drill to keep proficiency high (Retain).
Drills are accessed on mobile devices where learners are prompted to check and raise their proficiency on-the-go, just at the moment when new knowledge is released, or important existing knowledge is about to decline.
A role group of 200 technical product specialists in Axalta were the first to consume this new form of point-of-need, adaptive learning with drills on subjects like Paint Processes and Color Tools. Next Axalta extended the solution to a major distributor of 1100 people who used the drills to keep up to date with Axalta product releases and technical marketing info.
“It’s so easy and swift to create content and publish it. We want to be quick with our info. If there’s an issue or we want to deliver something very quickly, it’s so much easier than creating an e-learning module, a PPT, or a lesson plan for example…”
To deliver Drillster, Axalta dedicated a small team who worked with Xprtise to learn and implement the platform. Drill content also proved quick to create as the core knowledge for the questions was already held in Axalta’s myriad of learning materials, so it could easily be repurposed.
Point-of-need knowledge access, up
The business immediately saw some significant results with Drillster Adaptive Learning. There was over 80% take-up of this new form of learning in the two groups. And it reached people who may never have consumed any courses before where even e-learning means committing a chunk of time in the calendar. Now, participants would receive Drillster on their mobile phones, and answer questions to learn and improve in short bursts of time, convenient to them.
“It fits the need of the individual really at the moment of need, that’s what I like about it”
Axalta used drills for discrete learning subjects and also as pre and post ILT course activities. These would orientate the learner into the subject matter before the course, then reinforce and improve proficiency after, giving a more rounded, learning experience that doesn’t stop just because the ILT course ends.
Responsibility for keeping proficiency high was now transferred to the learner, but visible by the business in the platform analytics. They could assess overall proficiency, and surface if there were any problems with understanding of any particular concept, and if so, remedy that through targeted messages in the other learning channels. Target problem-solving.
Nor did the Drillster way impact demand for courses in instructor-led training centers, and e-learning traffic and completion rates didn’t drop. Rather, the Adaptive Learning model seemed to enhance the other learning offerings. As Axalta could reuse and recycle core knowledge from other learning materials into the drills, that promoted and raised interest in the original subjects themselves.
Training costs per individual, down
With Drillster Adaptive Learning, Axalta Coating Systems was able to bring more learning, to more people in a more digestible and long-term effective way. Without the usual travel costs and lost opportunity costs inherent with other forms of learning, Axalta delivered more learning at less training cost per individual.
“We increased the access to knowledge for our people, and decreased the cost attached to that access.”
And it gave the business another touchpoint with its customers, another value-add to offer, to strengthen their relationships, and the customer experience.
Widening the model
Patrice M. Marcil has seen such good results with Drillster that he has more plans in mind. Work is already underway to extend the solution to more of their distributors; in 2020 the plan is to deliver to customers in body shops; internally it will be used for Sales staff to educate about product launches and new service initiatives.
“There are lots of possibilities. We are only just scratching the surface…”