Alternatives, Inc. is a service provider for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and with mental health issues based in Raritan, New Jersey. They have group homes and supervised apartments as well as a day program. The agency serves about 350 people and has about 425 employees. Alternatives partnered with Relias to address two big challenges: training a geographically dispersed staff and increasing the retention of their direct support professionals.
High Costs of In-Person Training
Prior to signing up with Relias, Alternatives used a blend of classroom trainings and online trainings, which created financial and technological difficulties. “The biggest challenge is that we are very geographically spread out,” said Aggie Niemiec, Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Alternatives, Inc. “We cover six different counties in New Jersey, so we have staff who live and work almost an hour and a half away from our main office where we conduct all the trainings.”
In-person trainings came with many costs.
“There’s the mileage reimbursement, the travel time for those employees, the cost of having the employee not at the program site, and the cost of replacing that person,” Aggie said. “Additionally, the results of our staff satisfaction and engagement surveys showed that one of the biggest complaints from the employees was traveling to the main office for training.”
For its online trainings, the agency created presentations in PowerPoint with voiceovers and kept them in a Microsoft Access database, which lived on the agency’s network. In addition, the state of New Jersey requires its service providers to use courses from a different online company for a few specific trainings. But Alternatives knew it needed a better learning system to address its training and retention challenges.
“Easy to implement and easy to use”
On the recommendation of a coworker, Aggie checked out Relias. “I did a demo and was very impressed with Relias,” Aggie said. “What was most impressive to me was the library of courses. We have access to more than 700 different courses.” Alternatives signed up with Relias, and the agency’s managers were eager to get started. “The implementation process has been very easy to follow, very professional, no issues. Easy to implement and easy to use.”
Alternatives worked with Relias’ implementation consultants to design training plans. “There’s a lot of things that we can customize, and we can upload our own trainings if we want to. It’s very comprehensive and more than I expected. We’re learning all the bells and whistles of the system. It does have a lot of bells and whistles!” Aggie says having a web-based system with a mobile app is a huge improvement over their Access-based training setup.
Relias is cost-effective for Alternatives because, in addition to eliminating the travel and payroll costs of doing in-person trainings, agency staff will no longer have to worry about keeping up with changes in regulations and best practices. “Relias keeps updating the trainings. It’s taken that off our plate, so we don’t have to worry about it.” Aggie added, “I think between all those cost savings, it will pay for itself.”
Boosting Retention With Relias
The fact that Relias provides courses for professional development was a big selling point for Alternatives. “We have a strategic plan for retention, and one of our goals is to provide more staff development and training programs,” Aggie said. “With Relias, we’re able to provide courses and trainings we were never able to provide before, because of that extensive library.”
Aggie was especially excited about the Skillsoft content the agency accesses through Relias. Skillsoft is the leader in corporate training, and Relias offers its courses on leadership, management and business skills. “We have a lot of new frontline managers… The training on professionalism—team building, effective communication, conflict management—will enhance managers’ soft skills.” Aggie added that the Skillsoft courses on Microsoft Word and Excel will help to improve new managers’ business skills as well.
“We’ve been looking to create a staff development program for succession planning, for career development, and to prepare employees who want to go into supervisory roles. Relias fit the bill.”