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Roger Moore

Bond Teamspirit

General Manager

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Using technology to cultivate a culture of learning and development

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Why go with self-service?

Technology has been one of the great enablers in this era of employee empowerment. Self-service HR systems allow employees to carry out a range of functions that previously they would have been reliant on the HR and payroll departments or their manager to perform. Holidays can be booked, benefits chosen and payslips accessed where and when required, whether at home, work or on the move. Employees’ experiences at work increasingly mirror their consumer lifestyles at home where they can bank, shop, take a virtual tour of a property or book their train journey online. Whether it is performed from the comfort of their living rooms or at the desktop in the office, the internet has led people to expect far more hands-on control over every aspect of their lives.

One area where organisations have been slow to offer this level of control though is when it comes to learning and development.

What training has been like historically…

Traditionally, it would be the case that a line manager would inform an individual that he or she would be attending a training course in a particular location at a designated time. While there are occasions when this still has to be the case, increasingly astute employers are realising that it makes sense to make technology available to employees so that they can exercise control over their own training.

The availability of learning and development modules for self-service HR systems means that individuals can explore what training is available to them and select a course at a time and place that suits them. This facility coincides with a shift within many organisations to encourage employees to take more ownership of their learning and development and in doing so puts them firmly in control of an important part of their working life. While they still need to secure authorisation to undertake the course from their line manager, the technology is allowing them to proactively look at what opportunities are available to help progress their careers.

Modules such as this mark another important step in the overall movement to empower employees to take more responsibility for their working lives but it also brings benefits for the organisation. If employees feel they are being treated as responsible individuals, able to make their own decisions about their futures, it in turn helps to earn employers their trust and respect. All of this helps to motivate and engage the employee which ultimately leads to higher performance. Employees are more likely to be loyal and prepared to go the extra distance on behalf of the organisation, which in the longer term should result in lower attrition rates.

Bottom line benefits

What’s more, it brings benefits that will directly impact the bottom line. Organisations and their workforces are becoming more geographically dispersed whether this is because they are located in different buildings, cities or countries or because they have more remote and home-workers. Training can be a highly devolved and disparate process which brings a raft of challenges when it comes to both its procurement and administration. Providing a self-service module for learning and development can act as a central hub to control costs and reduce and streamline administration.

Data from the system allows the L&D department to gain an overall picture of the organisation’s training needs which can also increase its power of negotiation with a training provider. The system also allows L&D and line managers to track training more effectively, which is especially important when it comes to mandatory courses in areas such as health and safety. A central record of the training courses that every individual has undertaken and when will make it far easier for managers to ensure their entire workforce is compliant and up-to-date.

Naturally, as with all technological developments, employees must be made fully aware of what it means to them and how they should make best use of it. With something as important as organisational learning and development, there will be an element of self-motivation as employees understand the benefit to career prospects down the line. Nonetheless, the technology still needs to be easy-to-use, intuitive and easily accessible. Also the proliferation of smartphones and tablets serves to highlight the importance of making it available for the mobile environment as well as the desktop. Finally, its introduction must be accompanied by an internal marketing campaign and the communication strategy needs to be sustained to keep up the momentum afterwards.

Who owns the system?

Ownership of the system will reside with HR and/or L&D but it is vital that the function(s) secure buy-in from both the board and the management tier. Line managers in particular must be involved at the outset so they fully understand what the system means to themselves and their team. If an employee goes online, sees a course they like and decides where and when they want to do it, it will be extremely de-motivating if the line manager steadfastly refuses to authorise it. Such behaviour will threaten the credibility of the whole system. Clearly, the manager involved needs to have a budget for the training but the onus is on them to demonstrate that each request is taken seriously. If it genuinely isn’t possible to release the person for training, or they think the course isn’t sufficiently relevant for their role, they must discuss alternative options with them. If HR and L&D allow line managers to have shared ownership of the system from the outset, it is likely to heighten appreciation of it.

Implementing a self-service learning and development system isn’t just about making training more accessible for employees and more cost-effective for employers, although these factors are clearly two major drivers. It is also about raising the profile and importance of learning and development within the organisation and showing that, as an employer, you take it extremely seriously. During the recession training budgets were one of the first things to be cut. And while in some cases organisations had no option, the availability of learning and development opportunities are an important part of the employer brand and employee value proposition, especially for those entering the workforce or in the early stages of their career. Training can be a significant differentiator when it comes to attracting top talent. Moreover, to compete as the UK emerges from the economic downturn, employers need to make sure that they can put together highly skilled and motivated teams which will be able to give them competitive edge and training is the key to achieving the right skills across the business.

4 Responses

  1. Learning and Development of Generation Y

    Fiona and Itzik, thanks for your responses to my article. In light of your comments, I would like to expand a little further:

     

    Generation Y have been brought up in the technology age so they are very used to computers and using them to access information as well as social interaction, gaming, etc. Their natural instinct is to go online to find out more information or to do training, so online training courses are becoming more prolific. These courses are still fairly new and they tend to be predominantly in the retail and manufacturing sectors, but I expect them to become the norm in years to come – something which is already being demonstrated with the rapid rise in webinars available. Behind the online training is the Learning and Development (L&D) aspect of being able to communicate with your manager and book training – it is all coming from online technology. 

     

    These offerings are going to become more attractive to potential employees that come into a company because if they’re used to using technology and see that in order for them to progress their career, they can access a lot of information via the online route, it would feel like the normal thing to do and they would be very comfortable with it. However, if the company didn’t offer those sorts of things, the perception might be that it was behind the times.

     

    The transition to online L&D is a gradual process and initially, the content of the training courses will most likely be put together by HR, with the request for the training course handled by the line manager. The line manager would make sure that there are suitable courses available for staff; however, with the increase in self-service L&D, it is increasingly likely that the employee will also come to the line manager with suggestions for training courses. In this way, technology can open up a wider discourse and allows more people to input into the whole process, which should generate a far more productive type of development path.

  2. Beautiful!

    Beautiful! And in the same breath,

    who is leading the content and learning steps& development agenda?

    Itzik

  3. one element of self-directed learning

    Really interesting post.  I think there is a huge role for self-service learning in organisations for all of the reasons that you outlined and also because the expectation Gen Y have of learning/develop/career progression is very different – they are used to accessing information as and when they need or want it.

    Self-service learning would be one method that people can use to start taking on a self-directed approach to their offering. 

    Fiona

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Roger Moore

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Thank you.