October 2016

Online Training: Is It Time to Dump Your Company’s Horse-Drawn Carriage?

man-with-flagIn the late 1900s, the Locomotive Acts were passed in the UK parliament placing bizarre restrictions on early cars.These draconian limitations were imposed to limit speeds to 2mph on city roads and required a man with a red flag to walk in front of a vehicle with multiple wagons. Interestingly, these laws were pressed into place by influential men with an interest in the railway industry and horse-drawn carriages.

Some things never change hey Thuli?

What does that have to do with live training events and staff appraisals?

An interesting variety of factors are thrown into the appraisal pot during the evergreen task of measuring the capability and performance of people. These typically subjective and unquantifiable factors often end up being the basis for recruitment, development, performance management and promotion decisions.

When it comes to training and development, jargon-laced phrases conjure up images of rooms filled with dedicated employees learning useful things, interspersed with frequent ‘Aha!’ moments and perhaps the odd tear when the motivational video is shown at the end. “Wow, did you see that?”

In fact, live training events often send a little frisson of excitement through the team selected to attend. A few days at a cool hotel, lattes and sticky buns on tap, some cool videos and a slick presenter – and to top it all – legitimate time off work! You can cut the anticipation with a pastry knife.

The problem …

Live training is expensivelive-staff-training1 in the context of today’s negative economic environment. Consider the costs of the venue, travel, materials, lost productivity, accommodation, 3 meals a day and the live trainer(s). People are often vague about why they’re present – HR / my boss sent me. And we come back to our desks and continue to do the things we’ve been doing for years, enjoying no real impact from the event. Habits die hard. Learning is slow.

Some of these events are the result of an effective training company salesman who persuaded the HR manager or the boss that his or her team needed an injection of enthusiasm and a “fresh perspective” or a “team build”. Or a smart employee motivated their boss to send them on a course.

The paradigm change.

Technology, gamification, the internet and the recording of world-class content is enabling anyone – anywhere – to access great training content at the fraction of the cost of a normal live training event.

Multiple channels and platforms exist for companies to provide their staff with top quality training options which they can access from work, home or on the road. Management can assess and verify the quality and relevance of the content of any given course beforehand and not delegate their teams to a presentable trainer with smooth and interesting delivery but less in the way of substance and sustainability – aka, the horse-drawn carriage.

What does online learning mean for employers?

A capability matrix is created per job. Training solutions (from formal education to short courses to coaching & mentoring to the huge online world of training and development solutions) are linked to each capability requirement.

HR selects as many online training solutions as required to improve the defined capabilities for a particular job. The content of these courses (80% online and 20% live) can be tested and enhanced over time to ensure relevance and currency to produce optimal capability development.

When appraisals, increases and promotions roll around, it’s a simple task to check an employee’s commitment by checking their personal capability scorecard for increases in capability.

These simple, measurable and useful online facilities remove a large part of the subjectivity and bias from otherwise subjective decision making about arbitrary issues such as Joburg vs Cape Town – now there’s a no brainer …

So if we want recognition or a promotion, what responsibility do we bring to the party? Our commitment to self-development for starters.

The bottom line: Capability development is becoming far more measurable with the advent of trackable and measurable online training solutions.

wits_protestss_95769bAs an aside, the #feesmustfall campaign is unintentionally driving the move towards online training, which, ironically, defeats the ‘students’ (if they are students) who are violently and undemocratically pushing for free education. They might just get it, but not in the format they were hoping for: a 3-year jol on campus at taxpayers’ expense.

But don’t shoot all the horses!

We’re not arguing against all live training. There’s obviously a place for live training. Useful, usable, relevant content delivered by a well-spoken and engaging person is enormously beneficial – especially if that’s your preferred method of learning.

uber-hangingHowever, consider the plethora of new online methods. Consider how Uber burst onto the scene with a cashless, safe and reliable transport solution – very attractive to the consumer – but which irritated the volatile taxi industry (horse-drawn carriages). Being chased by an angry taxi driver with a sharp tool is nobody’s idea of fun. But Uber is here to stay and we waste energy fighting it when customers are embracing it.

The simplest solution is generally the best one. And the best solution today wasn’t an option yesterday.

To summarise: To find the best solution for your business, define the capability requirements for each key job in your business, work out how to measure and develop them, research all the available solutions, weigh up the costs, select the best options and, most importantly, measure, measure, measure the success of your T&D programme. If a sales trainer says he’ll transform your sales people, ask him to define ‘transform’ and then write the contract around the definition. If he’s good, he’ll work with you on a mutually agreeable definition. If not, move on.

If you need help with the crucial topic of capability development, we’d love to assist you. To find out more, please contact me. I’ll respond within 12 hours.

Read more →