ALCO’s mission is to provide quality, affordable homes for residents, meaningful work for employees, reliable returns for investors and excellent service for regulators. Since 1974, ALCO has successfully acquired, developed and managed thousands of apartments across the Southeast. With a portfolio focused on affordable apartment properties, ALCO excels at managing vibrant communities filled with places people are proud to call home.
Realizing the Benefits of a Learning Management Solution
ALCO’s training program was a hybrid of in-person training sessions held in live, virtual meeting spaces and some online coursework. Timing classes with the availability of in-office staff proved difficult. Keeping up with evolving compliance standards required time and effort.
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2018 was a transitional phase for ALCO. The affordable housing provider sought to maximize the benefits of its internal training program, and had just hired Ebonye Edwards as the organization’s new director of learning and development.
ALCO was a licensed client of Yardi Aspire at the time. However, Edwards discovered that ALCO’s use of the Learning Management Solution (LMS) was not extensive. Team members were simply using it to access a select number of courses that covered important, but not company specific topics such as fair housing, sexual harassment and maintaining a drug-free workplace. All other topics, including affordable housing compliance subjects, were taught by in-house instructors.
“Our trainers would set a schedule and hope to reach everyone who needed training. Despite our property management staff’s best efforts, some missed scheduled training because they were attending to the immediate needs at their properties,” says Edwards.
Not only was scheduling individual training for each employee a challenge, but ALCO’s former training program also dealt with issues such as finding time for live, online instruction, and dealing with unknown delays and absences.
Ebonye took a closer look at Aspire and found that it had affordable housing property management and compliance training content that could supplement, if not replace, much of the training ALCO was having difficulty coordinating across its regional workspaces.
ALCO trainers then considered the different roles within the organization, such as property managers, maintenance teams, compliance specialists, etc., and created learning plans based on those roles using coursework included in Aspire.
Developing Custom Content
ALCO’s training team finds value in the standard courses included with Aspire, and their ability to flesh out various learning plans. However, ALCO soon discovered that custom content would be required, so they hired a senior instructional designer to use course authoring tools.
“Our designer is great at creating custom courses in Aspire. She uses the templates and design tools to roll out coursework to our team, and can normally complete a module in a matter of days,” says Edwards.
One of the biggest differentiators Ebonye has found with Aspire is that it’s not simply a medium to get training content onto the screens of learners. Aspire is different because it also has built-in, proprietary content that meets ALCO’s needs as well as the ability for the design team to easily tweak the classes or build new learning modules from scratch.
Tracking the Benefits of Training
Aspire gives ALCO the ability to centralize all training efforts on a single learning management solution, which replaces a lot of administrative work. Instead of keeping track of training schedules for each employee in a spreadsheet or database, ALCO automates reporting using Aspire. Team members receive automated alerts when it’s necessary for them to recertify on subjects such as fair housing, employment standards and changing laws.
“Anytime there is an update from HUD or a state agency on compliance regulations, we feel assured that the training content in Aspire will soon be updated to reflect those changes. The Aspire team communicates very well with regard to compliance changes and how the courses have been amended. That communication helps us as trainers keep our team in the know about what’s coming down the pike,” says Edwards.
Working Through the Unexpected
Yardi Aspire helped ALCO remain productive and able to serve its stakeholders during the COVID pandemic. For example, Aspire helped onboard new employees even when in-person meetings were not feasible. Because ALCO’s learning plans in Aspire were accessible over the internet, new and existing employees could access training, even when not working in the office.
“Aspire is a great tool for delivering training consistently, so that team members who are in the office and those who are remote share the same learning experience. We’ve continued to have remote team members post-pandemic, and Aspire is one of the reasons why we’ve been able to do so,” said Edwards.