Corporate demographics are a valuable tool that helps organizations take stock of their programs and measure how well they are achieving their goals. This can be especially useful in the e-learning industry, where it is difficult to accurately measure the pervasiveness of learning adoption. When organizations benchmark their e-learning usage against others that may be similar to them in some aspect, be it industry, size, geography, etc., they are able to gain deeper insight into their e-learning programs.
It is important to note that since learning usage indicators are a factor of an organization’s unique organizational characteristics, a company with a demographic profile similar to another could experience a different e-learning adoption level. For example, if one company views learning as a vehicle that drives business outcomes, employees are expected to allocate time to learn in order to keep their skills sharp. Additionally, if an organization has instituted job competency frameworks, uses blended learning models and steadily markets learning, that organization will yield dramatically higher usage than a company with the same demographic profile that does not have these characteristics. That being said, there are some high-level trends related to adoption within a corporation’s demographics:
People-focused businesses have strong learning cultures. Consulting firms, temporary agencies and professional service companies tend to adopt e-learning quite pervasively. Because their employees truly are their product, learning itself provides an innate competitive advantage. In such institutions, e-learning tends to be one part of a sophisticated overall learning and talent management strategy. Conversely, organizations whose product is more transactional or less dependent on the people aspect tend to experience lower levels of e-learning adoption. Organizations that operate in a highly secure environment where information outside of the firewall is limited may also see lower e-learning levels than organizations where access policies are not as restrictive.
Localized e-learning is poised for significant growth. North America continues to be where most e-learning adoption occurs. In Asia and Eastern Europe, e-learning use is climbing at a fast pace — there is an increasing demand for localized business skills content. When such content reflects the specific culture of the region, adoption will be higher. When organizations deploy globally, adoption will also be affected by national laws and policies. Certain countries embrace e-learning and even provide compensation and tax breaks for it, while other countries may have privacy laws and “safe harbor” policies that could hamper adoption.
Workforce compensation is a key factor in how and when learning happens. One of the advantages of e-learning is that it is available to a learner anytime, anywhere. Interestingly, in organizations where the workforce is largely salaried, there tends to be more use of e-learning outside of the traditional workday from personal PCs and mobile devices. Where employees are compensated on an hourly basis, and in situations where labor laws don’t support training during non-paid hours, e-learning needs to be formally scheduled, and its adoption tends to be a factor of how much time hourly employees are provided for training.
There is higher e-learning penetration in organizations that are already net-savvy. An organization’s use of other online tools corresponds positively to the adoption of e-learning. This means that if an organization’s employees are already accustomed to conducting business with other online self-service tools, those corporations tend to take to e-learning more quickly and sustain a higher level of utilization over time. The prevalence of other online tools also assumes that the corporation’s workforce is predominantly computer-literate and that the IT infrastructure provides appropriate bandwidth.
In addition to corporate demographics, there are two additional dynamics, called “outliers,” that can determine adoption of e-learning programs. These two dynamics can supersede other factors in e-learning adoption:
Compliance requirements: When employees consume e-learning in order to meet a corporate mandate, there will always be higher adoption compared to a program that is not required. In some companies, participating in e-learning about legal policies and safety practices is a contingency of employment. Another kind of approach that correlates to high e-learning adoption occurs when a company insists its employees consume a certain number of professional development hours per year. A third type of compliance-driven participation occurs when an employee must satisfy continuing education credits in order to maintain a professional credential or certification.
Learner ease of access: While it may seem intuitive, one of the biggest challenges to e-learning adoption is a cumbersome user experience. When access to e-learning requires 19 clicks, approval of a complex funding request, time delays on enrollment, or any other type of barrier, e-learning adoption will suffer. It is imperative that learning organizations remain learner-centric in their design and deployment plans. Learners needs to know where and how to get e-learning, find what they need simply and launch it quickly.
Kieran King is global director of loyalty strategy at SkillSoft and can be reached at email@example.com.
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