(« Towards Corporate e-Learning », R.Crepon, e-Learning Expo conference, Paris, 03/14/2012 )
Among industrial companies, e-learning content is often used to support information diffusion across the organization, with no geographical and time constraints. Most of time, it is to inform many and dispersed people on a new product, a new service or to virtually train them on « soft » skills: project management, communication, language…
When it deals with in-house technical training, few e-learning initiatives come to mind. However, as in any other field, technology-based training would benefit from innovative and efficient learning methods.
Given the importance of Technical Knowledge & Expertise in highly technical businesses, why technology-based Education and Training is so little democratized and institutionalized?
Below, we discuss the four main challenges to be overcome in order to implement successfully e-learning for in-house technical training purpose:
Resource Hurdle: Have your technical specialists the resources to design a Training Course in blended format? What is their decision power? Do your trainers benefit from Instructional Design support? Do they have the time and money to design innovative didactic tools, even small ones?
Oftentimes, trainers design and produce their teaching material on their own time and with no extra resources. It generally ends up with overcharged and highly complex PowerPoint presentations, an overcrowded classroom and no time to take questions if we want to be gone at lunch time. With few options, specialists might think that their knowledge and expertise is not valued that much.
Motivational Hurdle: Do Trainers know where their courses stand in the overall curriculum? Do they feel they are doing a great job? Do the employees say so?
If we agree that Technical Knowledge & Expertise are essential to operational performance, then we will also agree that adequate means should be spend on Knowledge Management. A lack of empowerment generally results to a feeling of isolation and ends up with poor motivation.
Political Hurdle: Who takes the leadership to make the change happen? Are there opponents?
Good will is not enough. The organization structure and its heavy processes are against change and new initiatives. Demonstrate by example. Take allies onboard, launch a pilot and think of appropriate governance!
Cognitive Hurdle: Do every decision maker along the chain share a common understanding? Do they know what a good e-learning content looks like? Do they understand its value for the business?
If an isolated decision maker slows the process, he might kill your initiatives. Take the example of the Purchase Department in the heavy industry. Buyers mainly source raw material. Make sure the specificity of e-learning is taken into account to take sound decisions. Be creative and use appropriate metrics.
Make comparisons. Your current Training expenses might be hidden. Estimate the real time spent by your specialists to currently develop their course material. Get the equivalent cost.
Propose new criteria. Benefits might be time saving to perform a job well … Think of the time-to-competency metric!
Keep in mind that doing the exercise once with a pilot project is not enough. Institutionalize change! Evaluate your first results and give more dynamic. Make e-learning in your company available to everyone who needs it.