Corporate e-learning programs deliver the best value when integrated with other enterprise systems and processes, says a Canadian expert on the subject.
“It’s no longer a matter of e-learning vs. conventional learning,” said Jacques Gaumond, vice-president of sales and marketing at Montreal-based Technomedia Training Inc. With the growing adoption of e-learning by companies across the board, he said the larger issue is how e-learning tools can be seamlessly and successfully integrated with Human Resources (HR) and other enterprise-wide processes. In a lot of HR trade magazines today, e-learning is increasingly being talked about as being closely allied to HR. The concept is progressively getting understood. But it may take some years before we see any big changes.Jacques Gaumond>Text
For example, Gaumond noted that e-learning programs could easily be blended into performance-management reviews and competency assessments – done when employees are recruited, or at milestones in their career. “Or it could be used within succession planning to develop new executives.”
He said unlike back-office enterprise systems that are not directly used by most employees, e-learning processes deliver the greatest payoff when seamlessly linked with daily, weekly, or monthly business tasks of managers, supervisors, HR administrators and employees in general. “We need to move beyond using e-learning as standalone tool and take a more integrated and holistic approach.”
These views are echoed by industry analysts.
In a recent white paper, Sunnyvale, Calif.–based research and advisory firm, brandon-hall.com urges businesses to “think about the big opportunity of…enterprise-wide e-learning, which it defines as “a system-wide implementation of e-learning aimed at making a significant business impact.”
Titled E-learning Guidebook – Six Steps to Implementing E-learning the report says many e-learning implementations today lack this enterprise-wide focus – especially in the early phases. “It’s tempting for a trainer to focus on issues related to “my course.”…How do I get my course online? What authoring program should I use? How do I learn to author? This is natural because (it’s) how we adopted previous classroom technologies.”
By contrast, the report says, an enterprise-wide approach aligns e-learning with the company’s broader business goals. “Training is seen as integral to the organizational strategy. E-learning not only enables e-culture within the organization, it also creates synergy among knowledge management, performance support and high commitment management practices.”
Such an approach, the report says, offers wide-ranging benefits…lower training costs, greater relevance, employee satisfaction (as staff take ownership of their own learning), and greater efficiency.
Despite its obvious benefits, however, linking e-learning to company-wide processes such as HR is more the exception than the norm.
That, says Gaumond is because HR is not the primary investment domain of large IT corporations. “Financial, manufacturing, supply chain, security – all these are given priority. But so far HR has been on the backburner.”
However that situation is changing, he said. “In a lot of HR trade magazines today, e-learning is increasingly being talked about as being closely allied to HR. The concept is progressively getting understood. But it may take some years before we see any big changes.”
Flexibility is yet another hallmark of successful e-learning programs, according to Samantha DeSouza, Technomedia’s Director of Business Development.
She said a flexible approach to e-learning paid off in spades for Technomedia customers such as Bell Canada that implemented e-learning programs at call centres in Quebec and Ontario.
Prior to the program the turnover rate at some of these call centres was high, DeSouza said. “(For Bell Canada) training employees on the latest products and getting them up to speed on all the different systems was a difficult task. It’s a challenge many call centres have.” Technomedia, helped resolve that challenge by implementing a “flexible” e-learning program based on its proprietary SIGAL technology. SIGAL, she said, is one of the very few Web platforms that can integrate competency management (e-HR) and development (e-learning).
Bell Canada’s call centre employees, said DeSouza, could to go through the training at their own pace, and at the most convenient time. “They could also decide the length of each training session – five minutes, 10 minutes, an hour” and the next time resume where they left off. This flexible approach she said, dramatically improved employee satisfaction and productivity, while Bell was able to move its call centre business forward.
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