E-learning has come to play an indispensable part in the Learning and Development programs of organizations over the past decade. It is a positive and possibly irreversible trend as the internet forms the backbone of corporate environments today. The biggest advantage among the many benefits of e-learning is that it can afford to scale up the program for large workforces dispersed across geographical boundaries and time zones. The program does little to disrupt the day-to-day work schedule of employees and can be rolled out simultaneously across the organization with assured consistency in the format and delivery of content. The outcomes of an e-learning program can provide invaluable insights into learner behaviors and help in advancing ongoing research in this area.
But while cost-effectiveness and time-savings are important boxes to tick and will get the ready assent from the Finance, HR and Leadership teams alike, it is critical that the initiative is well-planned and effectively implemented. Investments of time and money, no matter how small, need to gather gains in a business setup. What, then, determines the success of an e-learning program and how does one make it work best for an organization?
It depends on the program objectives and quality and robustness of implementation strategy. To develop a robust implementation strategy we believe there are five main areas that need attention; five pillars that are the foundation of any successful e-learning initiative.
Communication: A mass e-mailer is not the answer
The time of deployment is when the HR team needs to briefly put on the marketing hat and introduce the program to its intended recipients in a manner calculated to develop interest. It may help to treat it as a ‘change project’. It is essential that the target audience understands why they are undertaking the course and how they can put it to practical use. A mass e-mailer may not be adequate to drive home the point, in which case the onus is on the managers to talk to their respective teams about it (among other things). For many organizations, asking learners to go through e-learning means changing their preferred learning style. A robust communication strategy focuses on driving this change through multiple modes of communication.
Integration: HR systems with people processes
E-learning programs work best when integrated with HR systems and people processes. This acts as a good incentive for employees and helps in linking the outcome directly to the business and innovation imperatives of the organization. The course could be imparted as part of an internal training session, which also gives the benefit of developing stronger relationships and collaboration between teams.
Blended Learning: Lunch & Learn session
Blended Learning is the latest among disruptive innovations in the field of education and can be quite an effective medium for the delivery of e-learning. It could take several forms, depending on the considerations of space and schedule. The simplest and most fun of these is the Lunch-and-Learn session, which works across most company cultures. One big advantage of blended learning is that it breaks traditional classroom time into mini learning sessions that allow for on the job application and reflection.
Governance: Not necessarily a one-man job
Like any change management project, a sustained e-learning program needs effective governance. Often, companies make the mistake of making it a one-man-job and, naturally, fail to get the desired results. The ideal approach should be to have a steering committee - with representation from the leadership team, divisional heads, and marketing specialists - that meets every quarter to deliberate on issues and align the program with business needs.
Early Adopters: Persuasive skills of not just managers
Every organization has its share of change-makers and influencers, people who embrace change and lead the way for others to follow suit. It is a precious small number of people - the ones with the ability to influence their peers in a manner that no manager, however persuasive, can achieve. It is important to recognize these early adopters and secure their support for initiatives such as e-learning. The chances of widespread and enthusiastic participation are likely to go up quite dramatically.
And finally, the e-learning program should be manifestly application-oriented and relevant to the job. E-learning has often been perceived as being similar to reading a book. By designing the course content to include case studies and practical scenarios, e-learning can serve as a powerful tool for aligning skill development with the business goals of organizations.
There is enough evidence to suggest that the five pillar approach is well worth the time and effort that goes into its execution. Statistical records reveal that companies that used it to implement their e-learning initiatives recorded completion rates as high as 80 percent as compared with 30 percent for companies that only communicated with their employees via e-mail – a margin that distinguishes success from failure. And in times when every company wants its employees to be ahead of the curve, looking around pillars might just be the way to go.
This article is a part of the People Matters- Oracle Let's Talk Talent series. Click here to visit the Let's talk talent page to read more such articles.