Instilling a service-first mindset.

FirstService Residential provides exceptional learning experiences to associates with Adobe Connect.

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Established

1989

Employees: 15,000
Toronto, Canada
www.firstservice.ca

GROWTH

Train and inspire associates to grow in their roles and realize their professional ambitions 

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Objectives

Consolidate and streamline continent-wide training curricula following years of decentralization

Introduce online courses to maximize trainer availability and participant reach

Deliver an engaging, blended learning experience to employees

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Results

Established a common service ethic among 15,000 associates

Scaled training by almost 6x (~500%) during the COVID-19 pandemic

Reduced training costs by thousands of dollars while employee satisfaction with training increased

Putting a smile on residents’ faces

People who live in master-planned communities, high-rise condominiums, cooperatives, senior living villages, and other large-scale residential developments depend on their property managers for quality of life and to ensure the smooth running of their facilities.

 

A good community manager is one who listens and communicates effectively. They are also knowledgeable, level-headed, resourceful, personable, and solutions oriented.

 

FirstService Residential is the residential management company of choice for over 8,000 residential facilities across North America. Every day, the company’s 15,000 associates — from community managers to valet, housekeeping, landscaping, and maintenance teams — work hard to enhance the value of each property and the lifestyle of every resident in the communities they serve. 

Differentiated by people

The secret to FirstService Residential’s success is its highly skilled and trained staff. The company’s internal online learning platform — FirstService Residential University — has set an industry benchmark for sector, service, and job-specific training for community managers, support teams, corporate office employees, and even external customers such as community association board members.

 

FirstService Residential was formed from 15 independent companies spread across 28 markets in the United States and Canada. Initially, the decentralized structure presented a challenge to uniting the company under a new employee training program.

 

“Becoming part of a larger organization involves considerable adjustment,” explains Claudia Eftimie, National Director for Training and Organizational Development for FirstService Residential. “In our case, although some autonomy remained locally, it was vital that we came together under a common ethos and operational approach. I felt the best way for us to do that would be to introduce a blended learning approach for our employees.”

A journey toward blended learning

In crafting the overall program strategy, Eftimie began by auditing existing local programs to identify best practices and pain points. Not surprisingly, she found significant disparity in the curricula and a varying standard of delivery from market to market.

 

“One of our objectives was to increase the proportion of online courses to maximize the availability of our 19 regional trainers,” explains Eftimie. “To do that, we had to overcome common beliefs across our various markets that training had to be conducted in person to be effective. The fact is, instructors can only travel so much, and we need to make the best use of their time. Moreover, taking an online approach allows us to train more people in a consistent manner.”

 

Once buy-in on the new approach was obtained, Eftimie and her team began to define processes and search for a tool to create stand-out, interactive training programs. FirstService Residential’s legacy solution couldn’t deliver the levels of engagement training requires. “You can have a great presenter and great content, but to keep participants engaged online, you also need to give them a dynamic, immersive experience,” Eftimie says.

Creating stand-out digital content

Margharita Nehme, Senior Manager of eLearning and Operational Training on Eftimie’s team recommended Adobe Connect. “We ran a trial of Adobe Connect at a corporate-level, train-the-trainer certification course,” Eftimie says. “I took one of the courses myself and was blown away. I knew at that moment we should roll out Adobe Connect company-wide.”

 

Adobe Connect offered the breadth of interactive features training teams were looking for, including whiteboards, breakout rooms, customized meeting pods, polling options, chat, and the capability to play and pause videos. Additionally, the solution enabled trainers to seamlessly toggle between these elements while teaching. Now all the national training team had to do was redesign some of the existing courses for online delivery.


“Adobe Connect enables us to customize courses based on the topic and duration of the session. We can incorporate an icebreaker session at the beginning, determine how much time we spend on slides, and add breakout sessions and polls. In other words, we can design every course for maximum learner engagement.”

 
Margharita Nehme

Senior Manager of eLearning and Operational Training, FirstService Residential


Meeting diverse learning requirements

Today, FirstService Residential uses Adobe Connect to design most of its training programs, from new hire orientation and deep dive courses for facility managers to leadership, HR, operational, and compliance training. The company’s sales and operations teams have also adopted Adobe Connect to help them upskill their teams. Most courses are no more than three hours in length, with breaks interspersed throughout.

 

“Adobe Connect enables us to customize courses based on the topic and duration of the session,” says Nehme. “For instance, we can incorporate an icebreaker session at the beginning, determine how much time we spend on slides, control the amount of webcam time, and add breakout sessions and polls at just the right moments. In other words, we can design every course for maximum learner engagement.”

 

Meanwhile, all of the company’s instructors have been trained to use Adobe Connect and run sessions in different layouts. Maggie Smith, the National LMS Architect on Eftimie’s team is the designated Adobe expert and holds ‘mixers’ with course participants three to five days prior to a scheduled training session to familiarize them with how to use the virtual training tool. This includes helping them download the app, log on, configure audio and camera settings, and explore training layouts.

 

“Just as you’d set up your physical classroom before your students arrive, the same applies to Adobe Connect,” says Smith. “Preparation increases the chances of a smooth start to a class and an exceptional, memorable experience thereafter.”


“Just as you’d set up your physical classroom before your students arrive, the same applies to Adobe Connect,” says Smith. “Preparation increases the chances of a smooth start to a class and an exceptional, memorable experience thereafter.”

 
Maggie Smith

National LMS Architect, FirstService Residential


Adjusting to changing business conditions

FirstService Residential’s decision to implement Adobe Connect became even more significant following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. When Lupe Mujica, the company’s Chief People Officer, asked if the pandemic was going to disrupt any training plans, Eftimie responded: “Not at all. We’re going to do what we said we’d do.”

 

Illustrating her point, before the pandemic struck, the national training team averaged four online training sessions per month with up to 10 attendees each. Just a month after global restrictions started taking hold, those numbers had expanded to 12 sessions per month with as many as 20 trainees each.

Driving staff retention and satisfaction

Now versed in the use of Adobe Connect, the regional and national training teams created a number of new training modules, deployed in Adobe Connect, including an in-depth series called Taking Charge of Your Career, which is designed to help employees realize their professional ambitions.

 

“The world hasn’t stopped with COVID-19,” explains Eftimie. “We still need people to carry out the company’s mission and business, and opportunity abounds wherever you look. It’s important we continue to challenge our associates and present them with potential career paths.”


“Employees feel the company is putting their growth and development first and recognize the role that tools such as Adobe Connect are playing in helping them master new skills.”

 
Claudia Eftimie

National Director for Training and Organizational Development, FirstService Residential


Since the implementation of Adobe Connect FirstService Residential has seen year-on-year increases in employee satisfaction in three core curriculum areas: Leadership, Training and Development, and Growth and Opportunity.

 

Meanwhile, the cost of the global training program has been lowered by thousands of dollars per year through the reduction of travel and accommodation, the rental of training venues, and related catering and printing expenses.

 

“I’m pleased we’ve reduced our training costs without compromising the quality or effectiveness of our training programs,” says Eftimie. “Moreover, employees feel the company is putting their growth and development first and recognize the role that tools such as Adobe Connect are playing in helping them master new skills.”

Looking ahead

FirstService Residential plans to more than triple the number of internal Adobe Connect licenses as more internal stakeholders take on the task of creating new training content.

 

“Over time, I expect we’ll hold at least half of our training courses online as part of our blended learning strategy,” says Eftimie. “Going forward, I know that with Adobe Connect we’ll always be able to sustain our training efforts which, in turn, supports the continued growth of our staff and the company.”

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