Case Study of Dell: Employee Training and Development

The Dell Learning Technology Services Group was added to the corporate team in 1999 – to focus exclusively on utilizing technology and other non-traditional training methods. Curriculum road-maps and self-assessments have been based on the skills and knowledge required for job success. The road-maps show logical sequences of learning; the assessments, determine the gaps between employees current abilities and required abilities, enabling them to customize their development. Road-maps include management and executive education, sales, marketing, finance, technical certifications, and IT.

Most of Dell’s competitor’s have corporate universities, however, the biggest difference between them and Dell is that Dell has put the learners in charge. Most companies believe it’s too dangerous to let employees determine what training they require, however, Dell Learning Technology Services Manager Darin Hartley said: “These are people who raise children, maintain households, manage budgets, and solve incredibly complex problems every day. We ought to be able trust them to manage their own learning.”

Dell Learning also partners with several universities, community colleges, and high schools for certain learning needs as they are available online and can be specifically focused as well as offering educational assistance (advanced degrees) to employees. The chief financial officer, Tom Meredith, leads Dell’s alliance team with the University of Texas, he said there were two kinds of knowledge critical to success. The first being your associates’ knowledge and the other being the knowledge that is required immediately, wasn’t required in the past and most likely won’t be required in the future either. He said the first type of knowledge was provided through degree program, adding that Dell Learning provided the second type to its employees.

Dell links where employees can find them easily during the normal course of their work. The ultimate goal is ‘stealth learning’ – -making learning so involved with work that people can’t pinpoint when learning happens. Dell’s HR created an Internet-based, online pay-planning tool. Managers use it to record and submit their plans for merit pay increases for the next fiscal year. The tool comprises formulas and reminders based on company guidelines, this is considered by them as part of their job, however, stealth learning is taking place as they learn to manage their pay budgets and relationships between pay decisions and other aspects of compensation and performance management.

As opposed to the traditional approach where training budgets are determined by the trainers or authorized managers, at Dell, individual lists are provided to Dell Learning by the managers, who have compiled a series of trainings required by them and the costs that they will incur, allowing flexibility and the ability to scale learning according to the business’ needs. That ‘pay as you use’ philosophy has been driven by the vice-chairman’s office, he said: “I’ve been in companies where people are constantly complaining about corporate allocations. They ask what the training people do with such large sums of money, the complaint, however, disappears when you take away the allocation. But the training department better be doing what our managers want or it’ll go out of business.”

Adopting such a technique has shifted talk about training costs in board meetings to how Dell’s investment in learning has paid off – cost avoidance, increased sales, increased employee productivity, and better customer service. Seeing as how several employees say they joined Dell was development, it apparently helps recruiting too.

In 1998, Dell Learning launched a Web-based global measurement system that provides online access to training statistics and reporting at global, business, segment, and departmental levels.

For example:

  • Training Snapshot Report – this documents all training activity, including classes taken, total tuition and enrollment, and total hours by region, business, and segment.
  • Training by Type – this report sorts training activity by category, such as management, executive, customer service, sales, new product, technical, new hire, business initiatives, professional development, and compliance.
  • CBT/On-line Training Report – this documents all computer-based training and online training completed for the fiscal year.
  • Customer Satisfaction Report – this is a summary of all training evaluations by course.

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