In the larger context, productivity, performance and profitability should play in concert to achieve a sound outcome. Productivity measures working efficiency per employee. Performance and profitability, on the other hand, measure the quality and effectiveness of the work.
An effort to improve productivity within a context of performance and profitability is a better measure of value for an organization. The value generated from productivity improvements is often evident from the impact on profitability. If increased productivity does not yield desired gross margins, the productivity gains may well be attributed to a function of workforce reduction rather than workforce development. Increased customer satisfaction ratings, for example, demonstrate productivity improvement complemented by higher performance.
Knowledge workers generate value. And value converts to profits. The right combination of e-communication, e-training and e-assessment tools can form an environment where knowledge workers flourish. Internet learning provides the necessary tools. Here’s how.
E-communication translates into increased awareness. An organization is only as good as its front-line employees who face the customers. An impactful employee is a direct outcome of successful communication in an organization. The ability to download a sales presentation allows sales people to be accurate, current and confident in their meetings. Access to tools such as video-on-demand allows customer support personnel to view short clips demonstrating troubleshooting or installation tips on their workstations.
Organizational change, goals, products, priorities, consistent messages from executives to employees, reinforcing ethical conduct—the endless list of topics that are important to employees should be consistent across the entire organization. The more the employee knows about his job, the intentions of the company, the goals of the department, this particular customer—all this and more is why e-communication is an essential success criteria for employees and companies.
E-training translates into skills. An advantage of e-training from an employee’s perspective is the opportunity for mastery or self-paced learning. Learners can repeat and practice certain tasks or check facts whenever necessary or desired. They can go back to any point in the content as needed for their job or for their customer, whenever they choose. The kinds of training made available should reflect the needs of the intended audience and the outcome desired. This is usually best dictated and most appreciated by the audience and the management, not necessarily the training organization charged with the responsibility for creating the content. Let the audience drive what is created, when and in what form as much as is feasible.
E-assessment translates into career development. Employees value objective metrics that allow them to demonstrate improvement in their skills. Online exams, simulations, proctored exams and certifications are valued by most employees as objective evidence of the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary for recognition, compensation or advancement. Employees are looking for confidence in their competence and a means of demonstrating it within the organization. Objective metrics given them broader visibility and greater chances for recognition, advancement and promotion.
Internet learning sets an individual on the path to productivity that benefits an organization in more ways than the mere savings of time and money. The empowerment an individual experiences from using productivity tools stimulates risk-taking and entrepreneurship. As a result, knowledge workers who continue to learn, adapt and perform in a changing marketplace define whether an organization flourishes or falters during difficult times.
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.