Collectively, these three components nurture a system that allows organizational competence and workforce output to be measured and enhanced. In fiscal year 2002, Cisco Systems Inc. saw a $133 million financial benefit from this type of comprehensive e-learning program. This was in addition to an estimate that an employee who is either new or changes jobs acquires the necessary competence 40 percent faster through e-learning than classroom.
Benefits of a comprehensive Internet learning system accrue to the individual (the employee) as well as the organization (the employer). In this article, we’ll discuss benefits to the organization.
The advantages of a comprehensive e-learning model for the organization present a strong case for decision-makers to pursue. From an employer’s perspective, each component corresponds to a distinct organizational advantage.
E-communication translates into strategic alignment. Use of e-communication enables strategic alignment between organizational priorities and the workforce through knowledge sharing. The virtual intimacy and proximity created through presentations over Internet video help level the playing field between headquarter-based and remote employees and also create a sense of connectedness in mission, purpose and strategy. Changes in human resource policies delivered system-wide through video streaming concurrently to all sites reduce the risk of setting in motion rumor mills on the grapevine.
E-training translates into benchmarked competencies. Specific competencies with a focus on performance and skills development can best be achieved through a formal training program. Such a program may be delivered in the classroom or online. Each has its place in an organization, and blending the two, choosing which method for what audience and topics, is a key to success. Delivering via electronic means saves time and cost and leverages skills of specialized talent to larger numbers across the organization, regardless of location.
E-assessment translates into results. E-training and e-communication, when complemented with a responsive assessment program, can determine the efficacy of the knowledge dissemination effort. Tools such as online or proctored exams, simulations or scenario problems may be used to assess skills and knowledge.
If no true and valid assessment is done, the training is for its own sake, not for the benefit of the individual or the organization. Why are you investing in training? What business results do you expect from a knowledgeable and competent workforce? How can you be sure your workforce has the knowledge and skills the company needs today? What if the skill needs change as fast as the technology or the products and services? How can the organizational talent keep up with those changes?
Using electronic means for assessment is especially relevant in the delivery of performance simulation questions to candidates for a more accurate reflection and prediction of competence. These metrics are first used to indicate individual success, but also serve as the basis for determining organizational success: the business impact of investing in an integrated system of communication, training and assessment.
The productivity pyramid offers a useful model for organizations to apply a comprehensive approach to learning, competence and measurement. Anything short of a comprehensive approach to e-learning is likely to make potential productivity advantages suspect. If potential productivity benefits are uncertain, e-learning will remain, at best, an instructional experiment with questionable value and disappointing results.
Tom Kelly is vice president of the Internet Learning Solutions Group at Cisco Systems Inc. Nader Nanjiani is marketing programs manager of the Internet Learning Solutions Group at Cisco Systems. Contents of this article will also appear in the book “The Productivity Pyramid: A Cisco Approach to Internet Learning” by Tom Kelly & Nader Nanjiani from Cisco Press in 2003.