Organizations are facing stiff business challenges these days. These have always been there but not so pronounced as in the last 3-4 years. Leadership is focusing on cost reduction in all domains, efficient utilization of resources, and identification of innovative practices leading to risk mitigation in future. Learning and development OR Training domain is one such organizational unit that is one of the most affected of this trend. There has been increasing pressure on L&D managers to slash training budgets by identifying innovative and value added practices that can increase the effectiveness of training programs while reducing overall cost.
This is almost a catch twenty-two situation. However, there could be some possible solutions to the problems. Before we get into these, let us first categorize the types of organizations from L&D maturity perspective.
|Type of organization from|
|Beginner||They are almost at the stage of planning for implementation of effective L&D framework. The processes are at very initial phase for identification of suitable training delivery formats.|
|Advanced||This type of organizations has made progress in framework establishment. However, they are constantly busy experimenting with various training delivery formats and trying to measure effectiveness of programs.|
|Mature||These organizations have well-defined L&D training framework. They have mature practices and work on optimization of various training delivery formats basis effective data analysis.|
Organizations, coming under first two types, need expert and realistic advice in terms of planning, execution and management of an effective training framework. A good training framework consists of suitable combination of various training delivery formats, and an established learning management system to fulfil organizational vision and . The delivery formats should be decided after tho rough analysis of:
- business needs,
- expected level of performance from employees,
- existing gaps in skill set at various levels
- audience preferred style of learning,
- attitude of employees towards change,
- organizational culture,
- available support infrastructure and,
- future reusability or updation needs for easy and cost-effective customization.
These organizations have talented internal training managers who, usually, focus on generalist approach while identifying suitable training delivery formats as per budgetary allocations. Either they depend on existing research available online or work on some general advice of experts who may have their inherent interests at times. This approach sometimes serves the purpose, but mostly fails in mid-to-long term.
There are many reasons behind this failure, some of which are as follows:
- Lack of understanding employees’ learning preferences and attitudes for change
- Lack of alignment with expected performance goals as per business needs rather focus on information dissemination
- Lack of effective data-driven analysis before deciding suitable delivery formats of learning
- Lack of awareness for suitable formats at audience levels
- Lack of consistent evaluation and optimization of existing knowledge resources
- Lack of understanding futuristic needs and changes
- Improper analysis or no analysis for return on investment (ROI) of various trainings
There could be many questions before identifying proper solution to these problems. Can e-learning be a solution for some of these problems or is it blended learning properly combining instructor-led (classroom based) and e-formats OR actually no learning but optimal utilization of existing knowledge resources?
Let’s now have a look at how e-Learning can be an advantage in such situations. There has already been a lot of debate on utility of e-learning or other solutions, so we are not getting into in-depth details here. However, we can still mention some pointers basis research conducted globally. This may assist in finding right solutions.
|Parameters||Benefits (of switching to e-Learning from Instructor-led training)||Notes|
|Cost reduction||Organizations want to rationalize training budgets and look forward to returns of investments through increased bottom-line results. According to several studies eLearning can reduce overall cost of training by 25-50% compared to classroom based training.||For multi-locations, and large audience size, eLearning can provide more than 50% cost savings at times.|
|Reduction in learning times||A Brandon Hall (premier group in eLearning market research) study have shown that eLearning can save 40-60% of employee time involved in learning material that is otherwise delivered through traditional class room set up.||Major factors behind this difference are: unified learning approach, reduced time of interactions in individual feedback and questions in training, and inclusive assessments.|
|Increase in learning retention||Research indicates that through eLearning, a trainee can retain 25 to 60% more of the course content.||Gartner group reports that content retention average rate for instructor-led training is 58% whereas more intensive eLearning can increase this rate by 25-60%.|
|Anytime-anywhere (Self-paced)||Learners can access eLearning as per their preferred time, pace or learning style. They feel in control of their learning regimen.||There is no need of physical attendance. Learners can speed up the pace of learning content or slow down as per their choice. This gives them more control and increase motivation.|
|Consistency in delivery||Regardless of learners’ locations, content can be distributed centrally in the same way and at the same time.||There is no difference in delivery which otherwise may happen due to different trainer, place or difference in explaining same material.|
|Ease of customizations||eLearning can be easily customized as per organization’s needs. It can be modified as per the needs of a certain group and personalized instructions can be included.||There is generally no additional reprinting or rearrangement costs included as in traditional classroom set up. This also reduces any time lag in delivering optimized instructions.|
|Quick rollout||Administrators and developers can update content centrally and it can be distributed across network almost instantly.|
|Effective monitoring and tracking||Through implementation of quality LMS, learners progress can be tracked and monitored effectively through a central location.||eLearning can save Training managers’ time in stand-alone tracking and reduce administration cost. Also, the proof of course completion and performance can easily be tracked.|
Above benefits may indicate that organizations need to make all efforts to switch from instructor-lead training to eLearning because of such tremendous cost saving and other benefits. This may not be entirely suitable in all cases without proper analysis. Analysis should include some of the questions as follows:
- Do you have the proper training infrastructure, content and subject matter experts (SMEs) to support training programs?
- Have you determined the type the content you want to convert to e-Learning?
- Is the existing material properly structured, have suitable objectives, and focus on performance improvement?
- Is available content chunked in logical sequence with assessments at proper intervals?
- Could you develop effective case studies, scenarios and examples with the support of SMEs?
- What kind of e-Learning process do you want to adopt, traditional or rapid e-Learning?
- Would you consider a pilot program on a sample audience so as measure your e-Learning readiness abilities?
Besides answers to the above questions, there are several other factors that determine the success of your e-Learning initiative (those may be part of some other discussion). While a well-defined and properly planned learning or training framework can definitely help reduce training budgets, poorly and hastily defined one can get you in serious troubles.
Sometimes a blended solution (combination of e-Learning and ILT or mentoring) is more suitable or at times rapid e-Learning is suitable to your needs. There may be times when you don’t require any of these solutions but just effective mentoring program. All this depends on how careful, thorough and rationale you have been in your analysis.
Future lies in effectively and rapidly reusing the developed material customized to your needs and identification of proper tools that help you develop e-learning quickly. It may be rapid authoring or a combination of custom flash or HTML with it. The analysis requires time, expertise, resources and real-world experience in e-Learning development. You can do this internally or outsource this to a trusted e-Learning partner and consultant. Outsourcing helps you achieve further cost reduction and you can focus on core organizational activities. Whatever you decide, the ultimate aim should be to provide value to your organization and help optimizing training budgets by cutting unnecessary expenditure, wherever possible.
About the Author
Sachin Kumar Pandey is an experienced professional having 11+ years of multi-domain exposure including eLearning project management & consultancy, instructional design solutions, and content development. He has successfully managed various mid-to-large size eLearning projects of global customers including some of the Fortune 500 companies.