Cultivating Corporate Managers to Be the Trainer’s Best Friend. E-learning — applied to the right problem in the right way — can deliver enormous efficiency and effectiveness gains to an organization. In tough economic times, those who can create more results with fewer resources will win. An organization’s competitive edge is directly related to the abilities of its human resources. Organizations and their training departments currently are reacting to a uniquely grim combination of business conditions. A volatile stock market with the Dow going up and down like a yo-yo. A growing credit crunch. Unpredictable fuel prices. Increasing unemployment. These factors, combined with the election of a new president, make the economic outlook for the next 12 to 18 months murky at best. But innovative, cost-effective training strategies can result in new opportunities for learning and performance to flourish. E-learning Business Advantages E-learning delivered on-demand via Software as a Service (SaaS) offers organizations and individuals: >> The convenience of availability 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. >> Just-in-time training opportunities. >> Tremendous cost savings. >> Reduced time away from the job. >> Centralized knowledge management. >> Built-in student enrollment and course management (via a learning management system). >> Documentation of compliance. The growth of SaaS learning is driven by both compelling economics and the potential for more effective education. The Internet reduces the cost of learning, both direct and indirect, and increases its relevance and retention. In addition, it enables the delivery of consistent learning programs throughout an organization. Whereas employees once had to congregate in one location to receive corporate learning, sometimes flying in from around the country or even the world, corporate learning can now come to them. Anytime, anywhere learning can greatly increase student retention and satisfaction. However, convincing your senior management team to adopt and implement an e-learning system will require a clearly defined strategy. But developing a clear e-learning strategy is only the beginning. It must then be applied to your particular business situation. An effective e-learning strategy will offer a clear statement of the business problem(s) and your proposed solution(s), as well as provide measurements of success. In essence, it describes your organization’s current status versus the desired status, and how the organization can achieve its goals. Aligning and Measuring The target audience for your e-learning strategy will most likely be composed of both business unit managers and senior executives — the people who will ultimately give your strategy the business and financial support it needs to succeed (and will continue to need over time). Consequently, it is important that your strategy be aligned with their goals and “points of pain.” A well-formulated strategy will support the planning and decision-making processes of these two groups. Business unit managers own the problems that training solves. Business unit managers are pragmatic; their overriding interest is getting the job done — and soon. Until you know what your business unit managers are trying to accomplish, you can’t talk to them about potential results. The business unit manager is usually training’s primary sponsor. The “right client” is the decision-maker who understands the end goal and has responsibility for the organizational area in which the problem occurs. When you’re working with the right client in your organization, measuring results is not difficult. Start with business problems and work backward. The most important step in measuring performance is pinning down the business manager’s answer to the classic question: “What’s in it for me?” Don’t skip this step. Without it, meaningful tracking is impossible. First, gain agreement on the business problems to be solved and the value of solving it them. Then you’re ready to outline what you propose to do to solve it. Establish a baseline measure of current performance, and clearly indicate how performance and perhaps compliance will be tracked and reported. Management is looking for results. Determine what your project sponsors will accept as persuasive evidence that the program produced the agreed upon result. Working with strong probabilities, proceed to make your case logically by linking learning to business results. Establish a causal (not casual!) link between a particular skill deficiency and a particular business outcome. The process of tracking learning results starts before any learning takes place. It begins with partnering between the training manager and the line manager who owns the business problem to be solved. Be sure you articulate agreement on the value of solving the problem. Your joint examination of the problem will pinpoint the gap between the results desired and the results you’re actually getting. Then determine what major skill gaps and learning deficiencies are holding people back. Then estimate the expected dollar value to be gained by eliminating the deficiency and make tangible projections from those outcomes. Make sure you get agreement on the expected outcomes, how they will be measured, and what constitutes good performance. Meanwhile, throughout the process, you’re helping managers answer questions about why skills matter and what good performance looks like. You’re focusing sustained attention on solving business problems and adding value. You’re identifying tangible values for each skill to be taught. And taking steps to recession-proof your job! —Learn about the other group successful learning professional must understand and align themselves with, a detailed explanation of the ROI benefits of e-learning, as well as important next steps to move your e-learning strategy forward by downloading the entire article at www.geolearning.com/recessionproof.