By George Eybers
Companies are burning their fingers on e-learning, because they do not link employee development to business strategy. They also do not reward employees for upskilling themselves, says George Eybers, GM of Skills2learn Africa.
He says introducing the concept of lifelong learning is a massive undertaking for most organisations. It requires a major shift in culture, commitment, management buy-in, careful implementation and ongoing support to be successful.
"It is no use thinking you can simply dump the courses on the server, everyone will train themselves and you will end up with a clever employee base.
"Companies should rather ask themselves where they are going and what skills they need to fulfil their strategy. The skill level should grow as the company grows."
The best approach, says Eybers, is blended learning, which is a combination of e-learning and classroom lessons. The reality, though, is any training intervention requires a culture change to encourage employees to use e-learning at their desks, rather than getting out of the office for a while, as is the case with traditional training.
"The only way to change the culture in a company is by using the carrot-and-stick approach. Develop a training plan for the year, in line with the business strategy. Reward employees with prizes of their choice, in line with how far they are in completing their plan."
Management can force employees to complete their development plan by making a percentage of performance bonuses and salary increases reliant on how far they have reached their training target, says Eybers.
"Organisations need to grow their people continually. They might be the best in their class today, but if they don't grow, next year they will be left behind.
"Even if companies are offering both e-learning and classroom training, they must still close the gap by sending their people to conferences and workshops. Analyse what you are trying to teach and determine the appropriate method of education. For example, role play cannot be taught by e-learning. The concept can be taught through an e-learning module, but simulation is essential to learn the skill properly."
Change management is an essential part of training, particularly in cases where layoffs are made or there is business process reengineering.
Eybers says there are 12 steps to a successful learning implementation:
· Step one is that management must demonstrate the programme's importance to the company's strategic objectives.
· The second step is to form a team of people drawn from each department in the organisation, ensuring it is truly representative of the whole company, and empower them to assume overall implementation responsibility. This ensures specific departmental priorities and problems are highlighted. Each team member is responsible for reporting back to management and feeding back to staff.
· Step three is to install and test software components of the e-learning programme: The learning management system (LMS), the enterprise intelligence system (EIS), and e-learning courseware library. Employee information, once loaded into the LMS and EIS (step four), establishes the backbone of the e-learning process management system. Details of prior learning can be loaded into the EIS. Taking into account the current situation, management can state as a strategic objective what skills staff in specific departments should have acquired at the end of a period. Assessment testing is undertaken, followed by competency profiling. This identifies skills shortfalls, resulting from comparisons of assessment test results and job requirement specifications. Using the gap analysis, the LMS develops a student-specific study curriculum. Depending on management's informational needs, additional employee information is logged in the EIS, such as salary information and results of other learning activities.
· Step five is to establish internal e-learning experts in each department, power users who know the system well and can be relied on to assist others when the need arises. This gives the organisation a degree of self-sufficiency and confidence in managing the programme.
· In step six the e-learning implementation project is launched to employees, stressing the importance of the initiative. "The CEO should outline the strategic objectives behind the training programme, followed by a demonstration by the implementation team, preferably to small groups of employees," says Eybers.
· In step seven the implementation team works with department managers to develop local level plans and timetables. Each individual must understand the plans for the group and specifically what role they will personally play in achieving the success and timing of the e-learning implementation.
· Step eight ensures specific e-learning personnel appraisal objectives are developed and formalised with each employee. The employee should understand their own personal e-learning development programme and how they must go about achieving these objectives in the specified timeframes.
· Incentives programmes, which can help bring about the organisational behaviour modification required for the successful integration of e-learning, are developed and publicised to all employees in step nine.
· Step 10 is the ongoing monitoring of EIS and LMS information. Specific management groups and/or managers will have access to certain portions of this large volume of information. By delegating certain responsibilities for specific individuals and/or groups, measures can be taken in the appropriate timeframes to optimise human potential.
· Employee feedback is done in step 11. "This is invaluable to both management and the implementation team in order to make appropriate mid course corrections to the programme," says Eybers.
· With the programme under way, in step 12 management, using the information and power of the LMS/EIS, monitors system key variables and takes action where indicated to ensure there is ongoing progress.
Skills2Learn Africa, a provider of world-class e-learning courseware and services, serves its worldwide customers' e-learning systems requirements completely, consistently, and affordably, leading its staff and suppliers in achieving this goal. It is dedicated to increasing the quality, reliability, performance, and value of its e-learning products and services on an ongoing basis.
Skills2Learn Africa strives to positively impact the global communities where it conducts business, in particular assisting the disadvantaged in their quest to compete in the digital revolution. It brings best-of-breed learning tools to emerging markets at a price and value that makes mass access possible.
Together with US-based In2ition, Skills2Learn Africa specialises in IT-intensive educational courseware, as well as soft skills training, delivered in a variety of electronic formats. It also provides learning management systems to assist in tracking and managing employee progress through the training process.
Skills2Learn Africa recently released a South African first HIV/Aids e-learning program, in an interactive story format, concentrating on behavioural modification as well as education.
George Eybers, Skills2learn Africa, (012) 997-6046, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rashmika Jeewa, FHC Strategic Communications, (011) 608-1228, email@example.com
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