Case Study Summary

  • Pickfords is a household name for removals and storage, handling over 30,000 moves a year in the UK alone and over 15,000 moves overseas each year.
  • It is a progressive and modern company, adapting itself to meet changing needs in the removals and storage industry.
  • The company had online training requirements to meet FSA regulations.
  • Pickfords required flexibility to develop content and courses as new procedures were introduced, with a system that supported all types of learners, giving them the chance to absorb the information and learn at different speeds and in different ways.
  • Ease of access to its staff course results were vital for management to assess their skills and knowledge in order to identify the staff who may need additional training support.
  • The new system needed to be cost effective and meet the company’s internal timescales.

Background

In 2004, when Richard Summers joined the company as Compliance Manager, all financial intermediaries had to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for their role in selling insurance. Pickfords operates through over 50 branches and had to develop, update and change its procedures to ensure that it complied with the regulations; and that staff were trained in the insurance products offered.

At that time Pickfords was owned by a global relocation provider and its sister operation in Australia had purchased a modular online training system for its own regulatory requirements. This inspired Pickfords in the UK to develop its online training to meet FSA requirements which it did by developing and hosting the system in Australia.

Since 2008 a number of significant changes occurred to Pickfords. The company was bought by new owners, some restructuring took place, and, in 2009, the FSA deregulated the sale of insurance for transit and storage for private removals. Consequently, the company’s online training course had to be rewritten due to the change in Pickfords’ ownership, deregulation and associated changes in procedures and practices. To encompass all the work necessary the Company introduced the Pickfords Insurance Charter, which reflects the FSA principles and best practice and still requires its customer-facing staff to be knowledgeable about Pickfords’ insurance products and to undergo an assessment.

Also in 2009 the Australian software company decided to redevelop its training solution proprietarily and it emerged that the underlying software was Moodle but Pickfords would not have the option to administer, develop or host the system as it wanted to do moving forward.

During this time Pickfords had significantly redeveloped its own website with an easy-to-use content management system which meant that their own staff could keep it constantly updated. As a result, Pickfords’ Head of IT was comfortable with the idea of staff making changes and additions to content online and received the idea of using open source learning management system Moodle positively.

 

 

After researching Moodle and meeting HowToMoodle, the UK-based specialist Moodle consultancy and training firm, Richard approached the company for a development solution. Ray Lawrence, Director of HowToMoodle, attended an initial meeting to discuss the business requirements, the new course and if this could be implemented using Moodle.

The go-ahead for Pickfords to develop its own online training courses using Moodle was granted in the 4th quarter of 2009 and by July 2010 Richard had nine comprehensive training modules online.

Simple yet complex: developing a course in Moodle

Richard undertook some initial bespoke training with HowToMoodle. Members of Pickfords IT department along with Richard and other Pickfords senior management met with HowToMoodle to discuss strategic and technical aspects of the implementation. Subsequently further consultancy sessions were arranged with HowToMoodle to address issues that arose as the modules were constructed, refine the site configuration and administration, review reporting requirements and to devise effective testing and communication plans.

Although Pickfords had its existing course from the proprietary development, it needed to be brought up-to-date for the latest insurance policies and current practices and questions had to be presented differently in Moodle. The look of the online course was also important. Richard adds,
While module and lessons stand alone, we felt that they must be part of a generic Pickfords theme, which would also complement the Pickfords’ website. We used HowToMoodle to design the site to complement the website style.

Richard explains, “On the surface, Moodle seems a ‘simple’ solution to online training. However, it requires careful planning to set up the lessons, supporting documents, and images. The system allowed me to develop a large question bank and to make best use of the different types of questions and quizzes available.

Richard says, “Ray was good at understanding what we wanted to achieve for the business and in how to present the training in Moodle. He has helped us enormously in adapting our approach to fit Moodle and our business needs.”

Richard can now add to and edit the modules himself and he can revise and extend the course as new procedures are introduced. A typical module consists of supporting information, such as assessment policy, a lesson with objectives, handy hints and documentation to read and print, followed by various multiple choice tests. Richard had rewritten all the questions and answers to bring them up-to-date, and all 275 customer-facing staff at 50+ branches in Pickfords UK now use the system to complement face-to-face training and Pickfords hosts the system in-house. Staff members are successfully passing the modules, some after a number of attempts. New and existing staff are being tested using the new system. Certificates are planned so that staff have a printed document to illustrate they have successfully passed their individual course.

Ray was good at understanding what we wanted to achieve for the business and in how to present the training in Moodle. He has helped us enormously in adapting our approach to fit Moodle and our business needs

Richard Summers

Compliance Manager, Pickfords

Our staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds, education and ages and some have not taken tests themselves for many years but all have taken to Moodle very quickly

Customer satisfaction results show the training works

The online training supports the traditional face-to-face training through online lessons and quizzes, which also gives the company evidence of tests and modules attempted and passed. Staff enjoy having proof that they have reached a certain level of knowledge.

For the Executive Board, the online courses are the solution to a business need for initial training and also for ongoing retesting, which will take place every 18 months to 2 years. The business results are proof of the efficacy of the training: customer satisfaction surveys show that over 90 percent of domestic and international customers would reuse Pickfords. Staff have an improved in-depth knowledge of the insurance products they offer customers and can better explain the products to make customers more aware of their benefits.

When the Moodle-based courses were introduced to staff they were quick to use them instinctively, perhaps because it felt familiar as many staff have children at school who use Moodle for their homework. Richard adds, “Our staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds, education and ages and some have not taken tests themselves for many years but all have taken to Moodle very quickly.

Richard can easily assess which staff might need additional training support by looking at the grades per module, questions failed and highest scores. Staff work their way through the lesson then take the test, they can take each test up to three times to gain the pass mark required. If they fail after three attempts then there is the opportunity to resit following further study and support. Richard explains, “People learn in different ways and at different speeds and we wanted a system that would ensure learners of all types had the chance to absorb the information and to gain the necessary pass mark in the tests. Staff with learning difficulties have found the online course better suited to them than traditional training methods.

Future developments

Using Moodle for online training rather than the proprietary system has saved the company over 60 per cent of training costs to date and resulted in a training environment which was up and running quickly to meet internal timescales. When Moodle was presented to the Executive Board, there was the immediate realisation that they could extend online learning to other topics such as Health and Safety, Ethics, and Work-Based Practices. Courses for these will be developed over the coming year and further ahead, the online learning is also likely to encompass corporate social responsibility and environmental awareness training.