Extending Learning Beyond Employees

Eighty-six percent of surveyed respondents conduct extended enterprise learning (EEL), and 37 percent of training resources are invested in partners outside employees, according to recent research by Elearning! magazine. Should

Eighty-six percent of surveyed respondents conduct extended enterprise learning (EEL), and 37 percent of training resources are invested in partners outside employees, according to recent research by Elearning! magazine. Should your organization be deploying an extended enterprise learning strategy?

Some corporations could not succeed without an extended training program.

Cisco Learning Network hosts a virtual training center supporting a global reseller network. Content is offered via e-learning, social communities of practices and forums. Aramark’s Liviu Dedes, vice president of Organizational Development, says Aramark’s training department supports many channel partners, with most of their training occurring at client locations. This type of extended training provides extra challenges and opportunities for today’s enterprises.

A Definition

Extended enterprise learning (EEL) leverages learning systems to serve stakeholders beyond employees. It encompasses the dissemination of information to customers, partners, suppliers, channel and distributor networks, franchises/franchisees, association members, independent agents, contractors and other trusted third parties.

Extended enterprise learning is the entire collection of relationships that support the creation and delivery of a product or service to a customer. It can include several “cycles,” such as product development, supply, sales, implementation, maintenance and support. Each of these elements represents a link in the “value chain” of a product or service. “When internal operations/processes (like HR, finance, shipping, receiving) and the customer are added to the value chain, the value chain is completed,” according to Bersin & Associates.

EEL Goals

“In order to rationalize the extension of your learning to customers and other stakeholders, you must have a business goal that can be achieved by providing knowledge, information or training to some part of that extended enterprise,” says Peter Jurisic, vice president of Blatant Media.

Aberdeen Group reports that 62 percent of organizations deploy EEL to improve product knowledge and improve satisfaction. And 41 percent of enterprises host EEL as a profit center, according to Aberdeen’s Best-in-class Learning & Development Study.

“EEL can also increase growth opportunities, strengthen customer relationship, support new prospects and create a value chain,” reports Jurisic.

Where to Start

Implementation of an EEL program is based on the theory that an educated value chain is better prepared to support a company in developing, building and delivering a product and in offering and supporting the product to the end customer.

“Extended learning embraces the concept that the company is larger than its employees and that it extends to partners, customers and others who are linked by common objectives,” says Janet Clarey, Elearning! magazine’s technology editor.

Five distinct ways that corporations can get involved in extended learning are:

1) Leverage existing online training, matching customer needs to content.

2) Offer “freemium” (free + premium) knowledge courses. (Basic courses are free, while more advanced courses are fee-based.)

3) Use internal experts to build value networks. “You need a culture of knowledge sharing. Employee knowledge must be seen as public goods, not individual assets, so there’s no knowledge hoarding,” says Clarey.

4) Write separate versions of content for the various audiences. In some cases, partners and customers can often be referenced, if they are more expert than your own employees about niche topics.

5) Use a third-party certification of content (possibly a “certificate of completion”), because third parties add legitimacy to training.

Platform Consideration

Extending enterprise learning can both increase the bottom line and raise end-customer satisfaction. But the program must run across a learning platform that can fit your organization’s current and future needs.

“There is a constant change and a need to communicate change immediately, effectively, consistently and with cost surety,” says Jurisic. “Today’s competitive set demands effective and immediate communication, which in turn demands an affordable learning management system (LMS) with no contracts and no headaches.”

When evaluating a platform Jurisic advises:

>> The “right” LMS must be user-friendly, easily understandable, and easy to set up.

>> Most importantly respect the generational and cultural diversity of your audience. For example, mature workers don’t want an LMS to make them feel obsolescent because the technology driving the system needs advanced technical skills. At the same time, the younger worker has high expectations of software — they don’t want to be turned off learning because of “lame” course delivery.

>> Ensure the software delivers a user experience that is authentic to the brand and aligned with the client’s corporate business structure. A personalized interface integrated with a robust LMS infrastructure should offer the ultimate learning opportunity for students wherever they are in the world.

>> Does the LMS provide for unlimited roles and administrators allowing for user groups to be managed in their own unique ways?

>> Does the pricing structure reflect how you do business? Does it respect the constant ebb and flow of learners (turnover, infrequent usage, etc.)

>> Challenge the LMS vendor to understand and meet your workflow. Can the system be easily configured without customization and without delay in deployment?

>> Is there deep comprehension from the vendor in the context of global audiences, delivery, cultures etc.?

–To learn more about extended enterprise learning solutions, contact Peter Jurisic at peter.jurisic@absorblms.com or (403) 617-1971.

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