Hector Rail is Scandinavia's largest privatized railway company. They offer environmentally friendly transport services of heavy industrial products, raw materials and intermodal shipping as well as transport of passengers in Scandinavia and Europe. In order to guarantee high safety in driving locomotives, wagons and goods in the various infrastructure systems, it is extremely important to have a well-functioning training organization.
How did they train and certify their employees in a complex, changing and international reality?
We asked Hector Rail's training developer, Mathilda Hektor.
Tell us about yourself Mathilda! What is your role and what does it mean?
– My name is Mathilda Hektor and I am a team leader and strategic training developer here at Hector Rail. I have worked here for almost three years and started as a training coordinator and team leader for 15 instructors within the training organization. I work primarily with creating efficient, sustainable and quality-assured educational planning with a focus on our various locomotives and wagons as well as the infrastructure.
We were incredibly lucky with the timing of our investment in e-learning. We started about a month before the pandemic broke out. Today, we have about 70 different courses in our learning portal.
How exiting! How come you got into this industry? Did you play with toy trains as a child? :)
- Haha. No, but it gradually became an interest in my educational journey. I previously worked as a train host for about six years while studying at the university. I then studied polytechnic with a focus on sustainability and logistics. Among other things, a two-year education at the Stockholm International Business School in Malmö as a freight forwarder and logistician with an environmental profile. We read courses such as logistics, environmental and transport law, customs management, transport economics, project management, etc.
I also attended an intensive training as a supervisor (operation and maintenance / railway) at the Academy via Academic Work. So, the job at Hector Rail was a super exciting opportunity that suited me well.
What is most fun aspect about your job?
– To contribute to our strategic development, identify weaknesses and to be a problem solver. In a complex organization, it is important that we plan long-term and implement tools to achieve efficiency and profitability. Learnifier is one of the tools that has become a large part of our development journey in competence supply.
Hector Rail is a very flat organization which I really appreciate. Whether you are the CEO or a train driver, you can contribute with ideas. I have a real privilege with free rein to form an education department. And I am surrounded by competent and committed instructors who are passionate about this. Together, we strive for high-quality education that creates a good safety culture on the railway.
What can be challenging?
– It can be a challenge to create engaging courses at a distance. Our learning is produced for three practical professional categories – Train drivers, Changers and Train hosts. E-learning-based education does not suit all individuals and so we must capture the participants' interest and serve different visual learning methods.
Another challenge is that we educate in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany, which means that we must adapt the courses to the different languages. We need to create and update multiple courses each time we edit or create new content etc. By creating evaluations, we have become better at meeting the participants' wishes and ensuring the quality of our courses.
The last big challenge is to measure our trainings in different KPI indices. How do you know that a training is successful and that the employees have really grasped the knowledge they need? The training activities on the railway are complex with many different courses and individual learning trips. You get a little gray hair sometimes but it's worth it in an exciting industry! :)
Who do you need to convey knowledge to in your organization?
– The main category is train drivers followed by changers and train hosts. But we have also taken the step of involving the office-based staff. Learnifier offers an opportunity to spread knowledge and information to the entire staff. We are constantly working to improve our e-learning and meet the organization's needs.
It has been so good to have a tool that everyone has been able to use. Easy to work with and fun! I usually warn those who create courses that time flies :)
How many are you?
– About 350 employees within the organization, of which 100 are office-based and 250 are train drivers. We are 17 people working in the education department. It is me and my colleague Magnus who work administratively while the rest are instructors.
How were these trainings carried out before your major investment in e-learning?
– Mostly in classrooms, with some e-learning on the side in another platform. It was in many ways cumbersome and inefficient, with piles of manual tests and evaluations that ended up in desk drawers. Today, we work more as a team with training and statistics on test results and evaluations.
We were incredibly lucky with the timing of our investment in e-learning. We started about a month before the pandemic broke out. Today, we have over 70 different courses in our learning portal. We have, for example, 15 different types of locomotives that require a basic training, a refresher training and a supplementary training for the locomotive's extra functions such as radio systems.
How do you work with e-learning more concretely?
- We create, test, evaluate, edit, approve and launch our courses via Learnifier's platform. All employees receive a common onboarding training and a course package based on their professional role. In onboarding, the new employee also receives information-based courses on, for instance, our ISO certification, code of conduct and sustainability work.
For those of us who create training that is mandatory and where employees must be certified, it is very important to be able to ensure that the employees have assimilated the knowledge.
We have many different target group-adapted trainings. The majority are for train drivers, followed by changers and train hosts. There are trainings for locomotives and various carriages that you must complete to be an operator in traffic. Our operations are governed by everything from internal regulations to EU directives. Here, it is extremely important that we have a functioning training business that gives us a high level of safety in driving locomotives, wagons and goods in the various infrastructure systems.
It has been great to integrate Learnifier – where we share and administer the training – with elements of Virtual Reality. For these elements, we have worked with the AR / VR platform together with Vobling. Unlike regular e-learning, you have been able to go into the locomotive and really "see" what everything really looks like thanks to so-called 360-degree photography.
To some extent, this means we don’t have to take expensive locomotives out of production to stand still during training. Instead, we use a digital copy. We also have 360 photographs from different tracks that prepare the driver for what a new place looks like with signals, track numbers and length.
As different groups need different types of knowledge, it is a matter of designing learning journeys that can sometimes be quite complicated. For those of us who work with training that is mandatory and where employees must be certified, it has been very important to be able to ensure that the employees have assimilated the knowledge. At the end of each course we have a quiz that they can only do once. They must have 75 % correct answers to pass. This has led to the employees taking the courses more seriously and advising each other to read the different parts more carefully.
Just by doing two courses / projects with e-learning, we have saved SEK 1.2 million the first year. We currently have about 70 active courses.
How did you create the courses? Did you hire any external help or did you do it yourself?
- We have done everything ourselves in-house. It’s been "learning by doing". We have tried different routes, collaborated and evaluated the projects at all levels of the organization. It may have taken some time but we are getting better every day. There were many experimental courses in the portal there for a while. :)
It is mainly the training unit who have created the courses, but other parts of Hector Rail have also been engaged in the material production. Our group of "super users" have helped with the last touch in, for example, settings for certain sections or the layout. It has been so good to have a tool that everyone has been able to use. Easy to work with and fun! I usually warn those who create courses that time flies. :)
How do you measure success?
- We do it in various ways. For example, the satisfaction index and test results must be above a certain percentage. If we don’t reach the monthly goal in certain courses, we go back a few steps and improve in different ways. We also measure throughout – for example how many employees that are trained per month and which courses that are the most prioritized.
If you could pick one great result from working with e-learning?
– It has saved an incredible amount of time and money. For example, a half-day of a four-day training is now moved to e-learning. Just by doing two courses / projects with e-learning, we have saved SEK 1.2 million and today we have 70 active courses.
You don’t have to take full courses, part e-learning is enough to make a profit. Learnifier also gives us better conditions to administer and compile our complex training activities.
What challenge has e-learning solved and what do you want to achieve? What is your dream scenario going forward?
– The goal going forward is to have a good structure and processes where we don’t miss those who are not approved, forget to add participants, miss deadlines, etc.
We have found good and clear working methods with the courses – "this is how you do a course with us". In the end, it is about constantly having updated courses of the highest possible quality and about our employees getting the skills required.
How has Learnifier helped you get closer to that?
– We have now been able to map our different trainings and gotten a good overview. We have also made all our courses easily accessible to admins, instructors and participants.
Tips for others on their e-learning journeys?
– My main tip is to create order from the beginning.
- Use the folder structure in "Library".
- Determine names for courses and certificates.
- Archive unused courses.
- Sort the trainings under different portals and groups.
- Set aside time to clean up from time to time.
- Dare to give the participant a visual educational journey.
Add more than just texts and images. Create and upload videos. Link documents and checklists.
- Create tests! Take advantage of the creative possibilities that exist in the tool. With VR / AR, we have, for example, created new and modern learning experiences.
Interview by: Rebecca Cannerfelt
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