Cleveland airport employees learn on the fly with SaaS system

Learning management system gives department flexibility

Cleveland is using a performance management and productivity software package to run its airports more effectively. The city is using the Web-based system to greatly increase personnel efficiency, training and to select the most skilled personnel for specific jobs.

Cleveland’s airports are the responsibility of the Department of Port Control, which administers both the airport system and city harbors, said Jeanette Saunders, the department’s chief of administration and performance management. The city’s airports include Hopkins International and Burke Lakefront regional airports. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) system is used throughout the department, she said.

In 2006, the city reorganized its performance management department and services. During this process, officials realized that new training and performance management systems were needed to help increase operational efficiency at the city’s airports. These new systems were selected in 2007, she said.

When it was time to choose a learning management system, the department wanted one that could be integrated with legacy software and equipment. The city had three choices, a SaaS system, an in-house system or an off-the-shelf solution. Saunders said the city settled on the Web-based SaaS system from Cornerstone On-Demand because the city wanted a capability that all employees could access on a 24-hour basis. In addition, it requires little or no maintenance from the IT staff.

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The strategic plan for deploying the training and performance management systems first originated in 2007. In 2008, a senior staff appraisal was ready and a pilot program was launched in 2009. The system was implemented across the department in 2010.

The system was rolled out in phases to help acclimate the staff, with the learning management capability being introduced first. Saunders explained that work plans are monitored on a quarterly basis. This December, users will be able to conduct appraisals and measure metrics on the system, she said.

The department’s performance management and training capabilities are integrated. As of this year, every employee in the department is now a part of the system, Saunders said. The department is currently developing competency and performance standards for every job in the organization.

Saunders said the system allows the department to set benchmarks and to identify skills gaps in individual and departmental assessments. When a gap is located, steps can then be taken to close them up at the individual, divisional and organizational level.

From an organizational perspective, administrators can log in performance metrics from the division level down to individual employees. This has helped with efficiency, she said. Prior to the system, staff members didn’t have a picture of how they contributed to the organization. Now they can get metrics on their individual contributions, which has increased engagement and productivity she said.

Saunders said that, in 2009, the international airport won awards as the most improved airport in the industry. She credited this improvement to the pilot program that was underway at the time, because it allowed staff to see how they connect to organizational goals.

Cornerstone provided the department with a customizable learning management system, Saunders said. It is scalable and allows organizations to tailor the software to meet the needs of an organization as it grows and contracts. The software’s look and feel can be modified to meet different requirements, such as variable access permissions for the staff.

The department is currently appraising and procuring training products from different vendors. Among the e-learning tools that personnel will be able to access include safety training, IT and business training, and Lean Six Sigma process improvement. The courses are provided in a mix of instructor-led and online formats. With the exception of some specialized courses, all of the training classes will have some online components. Prior to the system, training pulled staff from their jobs. The department is now looking to make online training available for the staff.

In the future, Saunders said, she plans to move the department beyond simple efficiency. The goal is to maximize the system to get the most out of the organization’s human capital. One goal is to use session planning. For example, when a project team is needed, the system will provide administrators with a list of qualified staff from which to select candidates.

Performance is another key issue. Saunders said that the department’s 2014 strategic plan will emphasize this by seeking to close performance gaps at various levels. The system will now have the metrics to prioritize department and personnel needs. The department will be able to integrate competency models and get a picture of the skills required to meet future organizational goals.

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