By Cornerstone

16 Apr 2014

The consumerisation of IT has resulted in a dramatic cultural shift in the modern workplace, writes Cornerstone.

Employees now use high quality technology – smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks or netbooks – in their everyday lives and also expect to be able to use them at work. Many HR departments have begun to embrace this shift, but many are still catching up - training, learning and development need to reflect the trend to online and mobile not simply because it is the ‘next big thing’ but because it can have genuine and measurable benefits.

For example, e-learning provides organisations with a great opportunity to develop their employees, whilst giving them the flexibility to learn at their own pace. This not only benefits employees but also the organisation as a whole, ensuring members of staff have more of an opportunity to develop their talents, review the learning and apply it. However, it is not as simple as replacing existing training techniques with e-learning. Instead, employers need to understand how e-learning can support the organisation and its employees, and communicate with them to ensure that they are overcoming any barriers and using e-learning to its full potential.

Understanding your workforce

When introducing an e-learning programme, L&D professionals need to take into account the differing technical experience of their employees. Most organisations have a mix of skills and understanding, which means there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Managers need to take the time to discover the training methods which have the best fit with their workforce and the topic, which may be a blend of both e-learning and traditional learning.

When employees are fearful or hesitant about e-learning, it is important for a company to take time to engage them, demonstrating how e-learning can benefit their careers, removing any fears or negative connotations associated with technology-based training. It is important for L&D professionals to break down these barriers and communicate the benefits of an e-learning training programme.

For example, employees now expect to be able to work flexibly and remotely, catching up with emails on the train or at home. Therefore, by demonstrating that e-learning fits into this mould, and that employees can fit training around the day job, allowing employees to access material at the most convenient time, L&D professionals can help members of staff get on board with e-learning.

Similarly, once employees understand the benefits of e-learning, they may also need training about e-learning itself. Using a Virtual Learning Environment, taking a mobile training session or watching a training video for the first time can be an unnatural process, so it is important that HR staff take the time to show employees how to use e-learning tools properly and get the most out of them. This will not be necessary in many cases, but it is important not to make assumptions. 

Take advantage of new technologies

Once a workforce understands the benefits of e-learning and is on the road to becoming comfortable with using it, L&D professionals have the opportunity to provide employees with the content they need to learn on the go. Over the last few years, new approaches such as webinars, social and video learning have been introduced to training programmes. These techniques provide a great opportunity for workers to learn at their own convenience and discuss key learnings with their colleagues from around the world. E-learning provides flexibility and convenience, allowing employees to hone their skills and subsequently helping to improve efficiency and effectiveness, to the benefit of the business.

As well as the social and video learning, organisations can go one step further and work to motivate their employees in sales and learning environments, to name but two examples. L&D professionals have the opportunity to introduce gamification in 2014, which is the use of game mechanics in the workplace – scoreboards, badges, achievements, totalisers and recognition for passing key milestones, such as a sales target, completing certain training courses etc. Gamification in e-learning takes advantage of people’s natural desire for competition, rewards and recognition. Including gaming techniques in an e-learning course leads to a rise is engagement which in turn increases retention. It also tracks what has been learnt, ensuring that employees do not skip past important parts of a training course whilst rewarding the successful completion of training programmes.

The future of learning

L&D professionals need to adapt to the cultural shift which is taking place in the workplace. New technology is being increasingly used in the office and at home and so training programmes need to reflect this. However, this is only half of the truth: mobile and social technology can undoubtedly be beneficial in learning environments because it can adapt to employee working and living patterns, rather than forcing a day of classroom-based training on a team, for example.

However, not all employees understand the benefits of e-learning and so it is up to managers to educate their employees. These barriers can be overcome if employers take the time to communicate the benefits of technology-based learning, but managers must not forget to also educate employees about how best to use this technology.

There are many new developments in e-learning, and although it may seem like a battle to keep up with the latest trends, they can have an incredibly positive impact on the workforce. With that in mind, there is no reason why 2014 should not be the year of e-learning.

For more on e-learning, see our paper on MOOCs here:

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