How KLM Cargo’s learning method replaced the recurrent exam

Aviation | 27-11-20


Recurrent exams have always been a vital thing in the air cargo industry, and it is a lot of work for both the companies and their employees. It’s not easy for an aviation company to ensure that its employees are well equipped for the exam. And it’s stressful for the employees to demonstrate a satisfactory level of proficiency in order to keep their job. 

These difficulties were felt by the KLM Cargo team. As a key player in the air cargo industry, KLM Cargo has almost 2,000 air freight employees who work every day to deliver 1.2 million tons of cargo to 457 destinations worldwide. Just like any other company, of course, KLM Cargo wants the best for their employees. Thus, to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being, an air freight employee has to follow strict working protocols, rules, and regulations. It used to include their participation in mandatory face-to-face training, followed by an exam to be (re)certified for the ‘Air Freight Employee’ compliance program. This was stressful and time-consuming, so KLM Cargo decided to do things differently.

Why KLM Cargo needed a different solution

Unfortunately, the recurrent training and exam method caused some challenges, to say the least. Firstly, it is a costly endeavour to get all cargo employees to attend face-to-face training. You’ll need locations, trainers, supplies, learning materials, etc., and a full day from every employee. Secondly, the exam caused a lot of stress amongst the employees. As they don’t use all information on a regular basis, they will forget some information rather quickly – which is natural. Thus, most of what they’ve learned for the previous exam has faded away, and they practically have to start all over again. As a result, they start cramming right before the exam in order to pass the recurrent exam. Studying this intensely with the added anxiety of an exam causes stress levels to spike. Lastly, a lot of the rules and protocols have changed, mostly minor changes. Even though personnel might have been notified of these changes throughout the year, that information usually did not really stick. This resulted in the fact that cargo employees only learn the new rules before the exam, though they should have been applying them already. 

This way, what is the point of a recurrent exam if everyone forgets the information within a few weeks? Do they know how to make the right decisions half a year after they’ve hit the books? KLM Cargo realized that there had to be a smarter and more efficient way for people to learn. More importantly, there needs to be a better way to retain and anchor knowledge. The search for a solution began…

A continuous learning and knowledge anchoring solution

KLM Cargo’s compliance and learning departments started searching for a more sustainable way to anchor and retain essential knowledge, while still being compliant with the local and international regulations. Whatever solution they would implement, needed to be approved by the Royal Dutch Constabulary. 

After an extensive search, KLM Cargo found a solution to their challenge. It came in an adaptive learning application Drillster, with a unique methodology that enables its user to develop, retain, and anchor knowledge continuously. The app uses microlearning modules (‘drills’) that only require 5-10 minutes of time per learning session. The adaptive nature makes sure that people learn more of what they find difficult, and repeat less of what they already know. With Drillster, air freight employees will get notified just before essential knowledge declines so that they can brush up in time, anytime and anywhere they want to. On top of that, the learning modules allow for easy changes. When rules are revised, drills can be quickly adjusted accordingly. With smart assessment-based drills, paired with photos, videos, and last but not least; the use of (ambiguous) casuistry, KLM Cargo ensures that the need-to-know knowledge and skills are anchored, year-round.

The results 

Now, KLM Cargo has already been using Drillster for six years. In fact, the implementation of the Drillster’s adaptive learning app has so much impact on KLM Cargo, that two years ago it was approved by regulators to use instead of the face-to-face training and recurrent exam. All employees who have satisfactory results on their drills are approved to keep doing their job. A true breakthrough in the aviation sector! The results show:

  • Money and time savings. With the new learning solution, employees learn more efficiently because they can practice anytime and anywhere throughout the year. This resulted in both time and cost savings as employees do not need classroom training anymore.
  • Improved productivity and safety. Employees are better equipped to perform on their jobs every day of the year. Essential knowledge is anchored and retained on a regular basis. This leads to improved operational performance and fewer accidents amongst employees. 
  • More Insight = easier governance. As Drillster provides insights into employees’ historic, current, and future knowledge levels, KLM Cargo management can easily prove to the authorities how staff members comply with the Employee Air Freight requirements.
  • Less stress. Employees can now track their own proficiency and do drills whenever they need it. This resulted in improved confidence and it reduced their stress levels tremendously. 
  • Support of authorities. The authorities that evaluate the Employee Air Freight compliance program, The Royal Military Constabulary, and the Dutch intelligence services AIVD are very enthusiastic about the new way of continuous learning.
  • No more exams. For the last two years, KLM Cargo employees that keep their proficiency between 80% and 100% throughout the year are no longer required to attend face-to-face training. No more recurrent exams are taken. The Drillster way of learning is now a continuous compliance monitor. 
Learn on the fly

Now, all cargo employees have their crucial knowledge at hand at all times. They also work efficiently, safely, and let’s not forget: experience less stress. The recurrent exam became obsolete. Moreover, KLM Cargo is not the only KLM department that uses the adaptive learning methodology. The pilots, cabin crew members, engine & maintenance, and ground service crews now also use Drillster to anchor knowledge and improve efficiency and safety.  This way, everyone can brush up on their knowledge at their own pace anytime and anywhere they want to, and be ready at all times!