How an integrated eLearning solution supports massive growth

Helena Stucky de Quay heads the Viking College, the training department of Viking Cruises. Together with LearnChamp they implemented a LMS and 6o online courses in five months. After the successful implementation of the initial project we asked Helena to answer some questions about the cooperation between Viking and LearnChamp.

Here is what she said:


Michael Repnik: Can you please give us a little background on Viking Cruises?

Helena Stucky de Quay: Viking Cruises is a cruising company operating on the rivers and seas of several countries (EU, Russia, China, etc.). Our Head Office is based in Basel, Switzerland. Viking employs approximately 5,000 people worldwide, half of which, were only recruited in 2013 and 2014. This growth was driven by a strong marketing strategy. Viking Cruises even won a Guinness World Records Nod for ‘most ships christened the same day’. As the leading company in river cruises and soon ocean cruises, Viking Cruises sets the standards for the cruising industry and delivers a high-quality experience to its guests.

MR: With regards to L&D, what where the challenges Viking faced before the project start?

HSdQ: Viking Cruises created its training department in 2013, now called the Viking College. As the Head of the Viking College, the first challenge was to create training solutions which were embedded in the culture of the company. This was a huge challenge since the culture was impacted by Viking's massive growth.

The second challenge was to use simple language in every training solution we developed together with internal stakeholders and external partners.

The third and most important challenge was to develop a transverse ‘learning sharing’ culture with our management team. I remember the first train-the-trainer workshop I organized, where it was difficult for our managers to understand that training and coaching are part of their role.

Investing a lot in the skills development of our managers to sustain the integration of more than 2,500 newcomers in two years was the right choice!

These challenges were addressed before our online course project was launched. The design of online courses also contributed to the development of a shared learning culture at Viking Cruises, thanks to Stefan’s [Director E-Learning Solutions at LearnChamp] team.

MR: What were the requirements you had for the project itself and for your project partner?

HSdQ: The challenge was to develop approximately 60 online courses in three months. From scratch. We chose to work with different eLearning providers in order to compare different products from this first experience.

Due to the amount of courses and the very short timeline, one criteria for the vendor selection was the capacity of the vendor to deliver high quality work in a fast and pro-active way. This has proven to work very well with Stefan’s dedicated team. They gave their hearts to the project and without them we could never have achieved such a result!

This is why I am glad that I can share this experience.

MR: How did LearnChamp help you overcome the challenges previously mentioned?

HSdQ: LearnChamps team was the most amazing team of energetic and pro-active training vendor which I have ever met in my career. The timeline was really short and last minute changes are definitely part of our company’s culture which handles ship deviations on a regular basis. Not only LearnChamp’s team managed to guide our stakeholders’ team through the different stages of the project together with me, but they especially managed to create great quality with only few inputs! As Viking Cruises grew fast, none of the procedures were formalized. Their understanding – through curiosity and open-mindedness – was a real asset to the project. Their tenacity and availability during for example winter break was exemplary! They gained their client’s trust rapidly and it was an immense pleasure to collaborate with each of the members of their team. Thank you Stefan, Mathias & Team!

MR: Please describe the new learning solution that you implemented.

HSdQ: We have implemented a new LMS and 60 online courses in 5 months. This was an incredible challenge as I was working alone on this project and responsible at the same time for the face-to-face trainings at head office, ships and intermediate layers. Without LearnChamp we could never have achieved such a project!

MR: What was the motivation behind such a fast implementation?

HSdQ: We had to rapidly develop new learning solutions to sustain the growth of Viking Cruises! Therefore distant learning was the right complementary training solution to face-to-face training, in order to train and retain our newcomers. Ensuring the same level of service is delivered to our guests while integrating so many newcomers and getting up to 19 new ships per year was a challenge that the training & development department tackled together with Viking Cruises Operations.

MR:What are the key learnings from this project?

HSdQ: I see 3 main key ‘take aways’ from this project:

  • Learning objectives need to be really well defined and agreed with internal stakeholders.
  • You need dedicated people who commit to a very tight timeline and who work hard. Experience has proven that not all vendors offer this client-oriented mind-set.
  • PowerPoint is an obstacle to a consistent quality in learning solutions and I am not only talking about online courses design but also training facilitation.

MR: How would you describe working with LearnChamp?

HSdQ: First of all, LearnChamp has a 21st century company culture, where I feel that the autonomy and initiatives of their young and dynamic teams is encouraged. This allowed us to share relaxed and productive meetings, where a debate could arise in order to produce the right solution. Sharing the discussion about challenges and solutions, listening to the client and its concerns is definitely part of the asset of LearnChamp. They are not a consulting company coming with a product or a standard solution. No, they listen to you and make sure they have all information before proposing a solution.

Second of all, they have a well experienced method which does not start from collecting a PowerPoint. Their deliverables model for every phase is something they built from their experience, it’s their own method which really allows to share back and forth discussion between the technical and the pedagogical aspects of the courses. In order to allow this they have mixed teams of technical specialists and training specialists. You don’t find this in every company where most of the employees are technicians but don’t know how to formulate a learning objective! I have seen lots of companies focusing on graphical and technical aspects but the learning scenario and objectives are neither clear nor discussed. LearnChamp’s strength comes from their people!

MR: Thank you Helena, for your insights and your time. We look forward to working with you and Viking on more projects!