The current economic crisis is having an undeniable influence on human resource management, in particular when it comes to staff training. But does the new climate constitute a threat or an opportunity for HR departments?
Like any period of upheaval, once the opportunities it presents are weighed up against the threats it poses, this crisis will generate some extraordinary challenges for HR managers, and provide a chance to discover new, cutting-edge training technologies.
In a strained economic context, the pressure to keep tight control of training costs is greater than ever. Even so, it cannot be allowed to overshadow the need to develop staff skills, which remains crucial to ensuring competitiveness and performance in today's aggressive markets.
HR managers, and specifically those in charge of training, have a complicated equation to solve: they are being asked to spend less and train more. This is where e-learning can appear an interesting alternative to face-to-face, instructor-led training. Unavoidably, the more traditional training approach demands a considerable transport and accommodation budget, and has few solutions to offer if one of the intended trainees is absent on the day. E-learning is free of such constraints. The employee, who often learns without moving from his or her usual desktop computer, is involved in defining the training schedule and takes responsibility for the way training time is managed.
Training staff cost-effectively is not the only advantage of e-learning. If the programmes provided are of a high quality, e-learning is a most effective way to learn, as the training can be tailored to the needs and interests of each individual. If we take the example of learning to use office software, it is clear that each person starts from a different place and needs to acquire different skills. Traditional instructor-led training in this field can be a waste of time or, at worst, counterproductive and demotivating, because it cannot adapt sufficiently to the needs of individual learners.
E-learning lets a learner progress at his or her own rhythm, returning to a same training topic several times if necessary. There are no constraints imposed by the speed or slowness of the group, no judgements by comparison.
In areas such as software or language training, the HR manager is well advised to take advantage of the off-the-shelf e-learning content packages proposed by certain editors, instead of drawing up his or her own training programmes. The prices can be very attractive, because payment is generally per licence, with no initial investment. The HR manager needs to take care over the quality of the training content.
The role of the HR manager will prove decisive during the current period of uncertainty. This type of crisis has at least the virtue of focussing attention on established practices and bringing to light new ways of doing things, beneficial both for individuals and for the company. This is a good time to overcome resistance to change and convince management and staff to turn to new and efficient training methods such as e-learning.