Through our observations, we have learned that organisations can become over reliant on e-learning solutions to resolve all their training and talent management challenges. In our view e-learning interventions work best when positioned as one tool of many for making business strategies come to life.
We believe that many companies are now beginning to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of e-learning as the market matures. Very often the end-user impact that is needed cannot be guaranteed by an e-learning intervention. In particular, employees often battle to remember and apply theoretical learning from e-learning materials when it is time to use their knowledge in their jobs.
Organisations are starting to think about adaptable training strategies that blend these tools together into an optimal mix for different segments of their workforce and for types of training.
E-learning works well as a means of introducing users to theoretical concepts, ahead of more practical training. It is also well suited to training people in areas such as company culture or basic policies and procedures.
But, increasingly, companies are supporting digital training materials with more tangible learning and job aids, such as summarised decision matrices, graphical business process flow diagrams, paper-based “how do I” guides. A common complaint in e-learning is that people can’t easily find reference notes – they can’t easily thumb through online materials as they can a manual. This makes it hard for people to get to the info they need when they’re in front of their computers trying to use the system in which they were trained.
Another trend is for companies to build support and workflow tools into end-users’ business applications – for example, guiding a call centre agent through a flow chart of questions to ask a client. This masks the complexity of the business system and process from the employee so that he or she can focus on softer issues, such as customer service.
As systems become simpler and more transparent to the end-user, we can expect to see more focus on training in softer skills than on tech training. And here, e-learning can’t compare to role-playing in a classroom environment in terms of impact.
Our conclusion is that companies should take a flexible approach to training and education, starting by focusing on the outcome they want to achieve and the employee audience they want to reach. The training requirements and strategy should determine the tools and technology to be used, rather than the other way around.