Going into the new year, the state of business is change at every turn. From workplace norms to innovations in technology, there is frequent and continuous fluctuation. A nimble, flexible workforce with the skills and knowledge to function effectively in a state of constant change is essential to survive and thrive in the new economy of 2011.
Optimizing the skills and knowledge of an organization’s employees and streamlining the distribution of business-critical information is essential to help achieve your business goals. As CLOs know, learning and development is a key factor in accomplishing these goals. Proper training enhances the ability of a workforce to accelerate processes such as new product and service launches; reduce the time needed to implement IT updates; and enhance the expertise and effectiveness of customer-facing teams like the sales and service departments.
Yet many companies underestimate the importance and business impact of spending time and resources to cultivate an atmosphere that encourages and supports continuous learning. While most organizations have a stated goal to help employees grow and advance, the learning function is one of the first areas to experience cutbacks when times get tough. This is often counterproductive, as it hampers the ability of the organization to develop and maintain the skills and knowledge that are the foundations for business success.
Globalization Continues to Demand New L&D Approaches
Workforces are more dispersed than ever, another result of the increased pace of business today. With offices and employees spread out across states, countries and even the globe, extending the reach of training across locations and time to ensure organizational alignment is critical. The uptick in flexible-work culture — such as virtual-work policies — and mobile employees also contribute to the widely dispersed workforce. Techcast.org, the virtual think tank at George Washington University, estimates that 30 percent of employees in all industrial nations will work remotely two to three days a week by 2019. As business becomes more dispersed and the adoption of virtual collaboration continues to rise, engaging employees and aligning the whole organization via learning becomes even more crucial. L&D pros must realize that these changes in workplace culture often require new learning solutions and practices.
Meeting the Need for Speed
According to a report by webinar consultancy the 1080 Group titled “Web Conferencing Training Trends 2010: North America,” last year, in-person training was expected to decrease from 62 percent of all training delivered to just 50 percent. Meanwhile, the expected use of alternatives like Web and audio conferencing has increased. In-person-only training programs often struggle with low attendance and content retention, hampering ROI as these programs involve high costs and time commitment.
A recent survey of decision makers and training managers of businesses with between 100 to 1,000 employees, conducted by research firm Kelton Research for virtual meeting service provider Citrix Online, found that traditional corporate training programs often underachieve due to logistical obstacles such as employee availability, time constraints and staffing. Survey respondents said frequent business travel and remote working were reasons contributing to low participation in training.
Though in-person training is still beneficial in certain situations, such as providing content for small group work, role-playing or advanced discussions, the rate at which business is now moving renders in-person-only training programs ineffective, as participants are rarely able to congregate in the same office — let alone the same room. Survey respondents cited remote access from any location as a key change that would increase the effectiveness of training.
Another thing to note is how technological advances in the past five years have opened the door to new ways to participate in corporate learning and development initiatives. These technologies fit today’s accelerated rate and dispersion of business operations, as well as the new cultural implications of the workforce. From Web conferencing software for online training platforms to virtual meeting applications for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, these tools and platforms enable nearly instantaneous information distribution and consumption and provide intriguing new channels for effective and efficient employee training.
The Bottom Line
As the pace of business continues to accelerate and mobility within the workforce continues to rise, virtual communication and collaboration in support of learning becomes more and more essential. Blended approaches that combine the best of traditional learning models with online learning are gaining momentum because they help decrease costs and meet the needs of an increasingly dispersed and mobile business workforce. A blended learning approach offers faster and more affordable ways to arm an organization with the knowledge and skills needed to adapt to changes and achieve business goals.
Bob Lee is senior product marketing manager of learning solutions at Citrix Online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.