WHITE PAPERDistance learning for a strategic HRThe best practices of innovative companies By Steve Fiehl, CrossKnowledge Preface by Jean-Marie Peretti
PrefaceOn-line learning contributes to the implementation of strategic directions and thealignment of managerial decisions. It significantly increases efficiency while savingtime. As distance learning allows a massive and targeted increase in the companyworkforce’s skills, many crucial strategic choices can be implemented. The consis-tency between learning content and strategic directions is improved. With thiscoherence, the HR Department can become a strategic business partner, efficientlycontributing to the success of the organisation’s objectives.On-line learning enables managers to guide and support change by providing themwith the necessary skills and tools, when they need them, which allow them to playout their roles fully as actors of change and to make decisions aligned with definedpolicies. Managers are both clients and contributors to the on-line learning modules.They can thus improve their colleagues’ skills on a daily basis so as to achieveobjectives. The flexibility of on-line learning and its availability to a large number ofpeople are two key assets for organisations that are seeking successful change.The development of on-line learning in a company increases the degree of motivationand involvement of the workforce. Indeed, the very quality and availability of thisresource has this motivational effect, encouraging staff to develop their skillsaccording to the organisation’s needs, to improve their operational performance,and giving them greater choices. On-line learning, both customised and availablein a self-delivery mode, is becoming an integral part of the evolution towards an“à-la-carte” company. Distance learning also enhances employees’ motivation byfacilitating dialogue with their bosses about their personal career and skills deve-lopment.Finally, management and monitoring of on-line learning offers great simplicity, whileat the same time providing a full range of both personal and collective information. Itallows continual improvement of the adaptability and efficiency of the learning system, inline with organisational strategy. The traceability provided is an exceptional advantage.Faced with new constraints such as the “individual right to learning and training” inFrance, companies are forced to revisit how distance learning is adapted to respond tolegal obligations. The interface between the Human Resources Information System andthe distance learning platform improves the quality and efficiency of the system.
No doubt, on-line learning provides companies with numerous advantages when they are responding to these expectations. It brings together quality production with large-scale learning. It is so successful because it puts high quality learning modules at the disposal of companies and employees, and provides considerable scope for the implementation of corporate strategies. Companies which learn how to implement all the benefits and opportunities of this resource will have a real competitive advantage. Jean-Marie Peretti Biography: Jean-Marie Peretti, university professor, with a PhD in management science, from ESSEC and Sciences Po’, has a long experience as practitioner, lecturer and consultant, both in France and abroad, in the different fields of strategic management and human resources. He is a full time faculty member at the ESSEC and Dean of the IAE of Corsica, president of the IAS (International Institute of Social Audit) and past president of the AGRH (French-speaking Human Resources Management Association).
Contents5 Preamble7 The challenges ■ The “knowledge worker” ■ Strategy implementation and change management ■ Skills development, a marketing weapon in the war for talents13 Which learning strategy? The five objectives of the new policies on skills improvement ■ To increase access to learning and knowledge, while controlling the costs ■ To favour flexibility and responsiveness ■ To demonstrate measurable impacts ■ To favour a learning culture ■ To serve business AND individuals19 Five innovative practices in HR - learning to respond to the new challenges in skills improvement ■ Practice No.: from “mono-mode” to “blended learning” ■ Practice No.: supported learning in the workplace ■ Practice No.: learning and development, new HR services for colleagues ■ Practice No.4: concentrating on a strategic skill ■ Practice No.5: systemising learning distribution in all its forms37 Conclusion
Preamble Distance learning has consistently increased in importance for corporations over the last few years. After “the fad effect”, the time has come for more mature and better thought-out applications, based on the first successful experiments. Today, very few people question the relevance of distance learning, least of all its users. However, we still need to ask how we can benefit from its full potential. How can it help the heads of Human Resources Departments play the role that management committees expect from them? How can a company use distance learning to attract talented individuals and gain their loyalty, ensuring that it has access to the key skills it needs for growth, helping it to stay agile and ready for change, and implementing strategy effectively? This white paper is designed to answer these questions. It is based on: ■ Hundreds of distance learning projects in corporations of very different sizes and backgrounds ■ The experience of dozens of company Executives, Human Resources Directors, and Chief Learning Officers of large companies ■ Surveys on the management organisation of large corporations that have been conducted in order to understand the strategic value given to learning and skills development policies. Acknowledgments We would especially like to thank the following companies for sharing their experience with us:ALCAN, ALTADIS, AXA, CAISSE D’EPARGNE, EADS, EDF, ESCP-EAP, ESSEC, ITALCEMENTI, L’OREAL, RENAULT, and SANOFI-AVENTIS. 5
The challengesAny thinking on learning strategies and skills development must takeinto account three significant phenomena in contemporary societywithin the human resources context.The “knowledge worker”, the new key asset for corporationsThe first phenomenon emphasises the rise in power of what Peter Drucker calls the“knowledge worker”. Services and innovative work now have a major impact on theadded value of companies. Companies’ performance today relies massively on thehuman factor. As Peter Drucker explains, “the most important contribution to 20thcentury management has been the increase of the manual worker’s produc-tivity by a factor of 50. The most important contribution to managementduring the 21st century will be to increase the knowledge worker’s productivityin a similar way. The key asset of 20th century companies was the physicalequipment. The key asset of 21st century companies will be their knowledgeworkers and their productivity.”For two corporations with similar product lines, identical strategies and same marketconditions, the one that will “overperform” its competitor will be the one with employeesthat are more qualified, more motivated and more in tune with the company strategy.All top executives will support this assumption. The real world is unfortunately faraway from this ideal. A survey carried out by Harris Interactive in the United States on,000 employees in companies of all sectors showed dramatic results:■ Only % of those surveyed stated that they perfectly understood their company’s objectives and the “raison d’être” for those objectives■ Only one in five agreed to being enthusiastic about their team and company objectives■ Only one in five understood the connection between what they were doing and the company strategy■ Only 5% believed that their organisation gave them the means to carry out their key objectives■ Only % thought that their organisation promoted dialogue on new ideas
■ Only 0% thought that their organisation held them accountable for their results ■ Only 0% admitted to having confidence in their organisation ■ Only % acknowledged working with a feeling of trust towards other company departments. Growth in Defining objectives for “knowledge workers”, motivating and supporting them and revenue cannot improving their skills – these have become key challenges for all organisations, and no exceed growth in people who longer just fall within human resources policies. Failure in this regard is likely to make can execute overall company performance plummet. Now that human resources professionals are and support increasingly numerous on executive committees, what solutions must they propose? this growth And specifically, what policy on leadership development? What support can they provide for management? What skills development strategy can they suggest when learning is still considered as an expense and thus a scarce resource? Dave Packard, 1937 Strategy implementation and change management The second phenomenon at work is the acceleration of change and strategic discon- tinuities in organisations. Radical changes in business models like that of IBM (who progressively abandoned the manufacturing of computers to move to the service industry) or that of Thomson Multimedia (who dropped consumer electronics for multi- media services and technologies sold through BB) are no longer unique examples. The creation, in just a few years, of Internet giants capable of changing the rules of complete economic sectors, and the emergence of new Indian or Chinese leading industry players (heretofore and for a long time the prey but now becoming industry raiders) are making the European, Japanese and American multinationals take stock of the transient nature of their competitive advantage. For this reason, the CEO of a large Fortune 00 company asked all of his managers to put a sheet of paper in their pockets with the following words: “Your business model is no longer sustainable.” They had to read it every morning! The acceleration of these changes brings about enormous problems of adjustment. If, as we have seen, business depends on people, then every time a large company changes strategy, it must communicate this change to its whole management who in turn must pass it on to the teams. These same teams must develop new skills in order
to adapt to the new strategy, to the new positions, and to the new way of doing things. From here on, workforces are getting increasingly larger, more widely dispersed, and more international. This is probably where the real challenge lies, and where learning policies are most valuable in general for management. When IBM and the ASTD [NH - who are ASTD (American Society for Training Development) surveyed 50 Presidents and CEOs of large American groups to find out where they thought learning created most value, the response was overwhelmingly: / strategy implementation, / change, / leadership development. Intermediate management plays a key role in this difficult management of change: ■ It must communicate top management’s policies into a language understandable by everybody, whoever, wherever. It must do it in such a way that the message is neither transformed nor left open for interpretation. ■ It must implement the strategy while justifying the project, fixing the objectives, selecting the managers and defining and controlling the action plans. ■ It must support and motivate the teams to reach the objectives defined by the top management, using the following tools: personal leadership, reward policy, delegation, learning and development. Learning Is management sufficiently prepared for the difficult task of handling this change? It is is not about a very good question! As Jacques Horovitz, professor at IMD, noted, “Managers are creating often found accountable for the failure of policies decided by top management: programs. It is about we often hear people saying ‘intermediate management isn’t sophisticated realizing the enough’, ‘management resists change’, ‘management won’t take initiative’, strategic agenda and ‘management has rerouted our initial objectives.’ On the contrary, in established by companies where things are done, it is very often the managers who are to be the executive committee thanked.” 4 As we all know, human capital development policies are far from easy in the context of rapid and brutal changes. Change affects the corporation differently at different levels. An AmericanCEO interviewed A new activity, a new business, internationalisation, a new range of products, and so by IBM forth - these developments may require an extremely rapid increase in the skills of salespeople, the intensive training of a call centre or the setting up of a project team. Management of human resources departments must not only follow but anticipate, by responding more and more quickly to the demands of operational staff by supplying the necessary skills, in the same way that, years ago, factories had to supply products and purchase raw materials.
Skills development, a marketing weapon in the war for talents The third phenomenon is both demographic and sociological. With the “baby-boom” generation reaching retirement, companies are going to face a scarcity of qualified human resources. Between now and 00, 50% of the management of numerous large Western and Japanese corporations will retire. This means the recruiting and intensive learning of tens of thousands of people to replace them. The new managers must be able to work in increasingly complex and changing environments, with more and more technology, in teams, sometimes far away from headquarters, and with a large degree of autonomy and responsibility. The famous “war for talents” has started. Attracting talent as well as identifying and winning applicants’ loyalty is becoming a general management obsession. Skills deve- lopment policies have become a sales pitch to attract candidates and form an integral part of what is now called “Corporation Branding”. As demonstrated by a survey carried out by the Hay Group of 500,000 people in 00 British companies, “a company’s ability to train its staff and continuously develop their skills has become the no.1 key to attracting and keeping business partners.” This major phenomenon is explained by the new behaviour of the working individual. According to Loïc Cadin5, careers today follow a new model: that of the “mobile career”. Evolution is no longer linear but contains breaks and reorientations, sometimes associated with identity crises. Employees have understood that they should no longer expect the company to provide them with a career plan but must, first and foremost, develop their own skills and their employability so as to be able to bounce back, change professions, or adapt to changes in scope or application. Companies are today proposing a new contract: performance versus employability. In practical terms this means: “help us to benefit from your working ability and the corporation will guarantee the learning and support that will keep you employable on the jobs market.” In this context, skills development policies must no longer only serve organisations’ strategic interests but also meet individual needs. In learning, the individual becomes the key actor in plans for the customisation of career paths, the development of self- learning, the recognition and taking into account of individual experience, and so on.0
Changes in European legislation and their strong emphasis on learning policies thatpromote individual skills and employability development, confirm this development.Offering individual support to all associates must from now on be part of companies’marketing on the new skills market. But how can such a promise be organised andfinanced?Never before has so much been expected from human resources management in theareas of learning and development policies or the quality of management. Accordingto an American survey in 00 (Human Resources Competency Study), the skills andpractices of HR had an impact on 0% of a company’s financial performance, whichrepresented twice the figure five years previously. It is more than probable that thispercentage has increased considerably since.
Which learningstrategy?The five objectives of the new policieson skills improvementFacing these challenges, companies seek to adapt their HR - learningpolicies and equip themselves with what could be called a “learningstrategy”. Such a strategy is simply one in which all forms of learningare valued in the interest of serving the company’s long termobjectives.From a general management point of view, the technical specificationsfor such a learning strategy could follow five broad objectives.Objective No.1: to increase access to learning andknowledge, while controlling costsIt is hard to envisage increasing the performance of “knowledge workers”, aligningteams with the required strategies and new skills, and serving individuals in theirpersonal development projects without massively increasing access to learning andknowledge.Despite these efforts, the rate of access to learning remains unsatisfactory. In France,the European country where learning is most developed, 5% of employees haveaccess to at least one course per year. This figure is 54% for managers. Not so bad,one might say. But if a session lasts an average of three days and managers participateonce every two years, this means that they will spend less than % of their time at workin learning. Increasing access to learning therefore means not only improving the skillsof more people but also doing so more often.Moreover, these figures hide a large disparity. Even among managers who areconsidered, at least in theory, the most privileged group in companies, there is nocommon yardstick between the rate of learning of local national managers based atheadquarters and that of their colleagues in other countries.
Even L’Oréal, a company known for its strong training philosophy, recently recognised a disparity in marketing culture between its European managers and those in Asia, and has set itself the objective of addressing this gap. Finally, and most importantly, these rates of learning no longer meet regulatory requirements such as those now in place in France. The reforms alone will have a huge impact on the organisation of learning, its challenges, and the sharing of roles between the various different actors. But it will also have a financial impact. “According to a simulation, access to the Mandatory learning scheme bears a theoretical impact of more than 2% on the company’s wage bill.” Obviously, if the rate increases, the cost quickly becomes unsustainable if no economic solution is found. The first objective of each learning strategy is to therefore increase access to learning and knowledge… But this must be at constant, if not reduced, costs. Essentially, we have to do more with similar or less. The law promotes e-Learning to ensure non-discriminatory access to learning In 55, the English Parliament enacted the Disabled Discrimination Act, which made illegal any means of access to employment, to buildings and to services offered to company employees that exclude handicapped people. An amendment passed in 00 entitled “Training and Handicaps”, applied these rules to the means of learning offered by an employer. These means must be accessible to disabled people and, in order to ensure this, companies must carry out all “reaso- nable adjustments” necessary. The amendment clarified that e-learning was part of these reasonable adjustments. Furthermore, in , the United States adopted an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act. It states that all Federal Agencies must make their information systems and their computer services accessible to disabled people, in order to promote equality of opportunities.4
Objective No.2: to favour flexibility and responsivenessHuman resources management must “deliver” the teams and skills that operationaldepartments need, in the shortest possible time.First of all, this means having a very effective and responsive learning system,calling into question:■ Learning production methods: expensive educational design, calling for several months of set-up before programme launch, is becoming less and less satis- factory; the time has come for rationalisation and the elaboration of “ready to use” core curricula.■ Ways of implementing learning internationally: The need for “cascading” which is lengthy and difficult to master, progressively leaves room for the local reproduction of programmes designed elsewhere, or for worldwide implemen- tation of programmes no longer needing contact classroom learning.This requires an ability to anticipate needs: identifying key organisational skills, andmore systematic identification of the gap between needs and available skills.Finally this means more individualisation, in order to be able to interact with the rightpeople, in the right place and at the right moment, without having to think systematicallyin terms of large programmes and large classroom groups. In other words, this is “justin time” learning and not “just in case”.Objective No.3: to demonstrate measurable impactsThe question of metrics of learning is crucial, and Return On Investment is a recurrentone. Even if you can demonstrate that a particular course is efficient (which is far fromeasy), the impact on performance and on the bottom line is normally still unclear, consi-dering all other parameters. A survey carried out on large American groups shows that,contrary to what one might think, general management does not necessarily expectprecise figures concerning the ROI of learning. Managers are conscious of the difficultyof figuring it out, given that learning is notably behavioural.But they do expect a qualitative evaluation of the performance of the training department:does it properly serve the business’ needs? Does it develop skills that are crucial forthe organisation? Does it meet individuals’ development needs? Have the action plans/progress contracts been implemented? 5
In some American companies, learning is assessed by observing team results and tracing them back to the learning that the relevant staff undertook. Without trying to measure ROI per se, analysing the impact of learning can no longer be limited to ascertaining the degree of user or client satisfaction. We must be able to get feedback on the effect of that learning on individuals’ work, on their capacity to reach objectives, and on the skills that they have gained. Objective No.4: to favour a learning culture A lot of companies that call into question their skills development practices find out that they must first change their learning culture. In order for teams to develop and adapt continuously, learning behaviour needs to evolve from a passive to an active one. The idea is no longer just to send employees off for sessions, even if done with a high degree of understanding of the real challenge of the programme, and with a real follow-up by management. Rather, it is to implement a culture where people take stock of their own skills improvement and manage their learning strategies themselves, with the support of management and HR services. In other words, it’s a question of developing the workforces’ learning capabilities, to use a concept forged by Phillipe Carré and Marc Dennery. “We want to form in our company a culture where self-education becomes a daily practice and learning is considered as an investment rather than an expense.” This statement comes from Shell’s Chief Learning Officer: the job title itself shows the importance of all types of learning for the company. At Valeo, an HR kit is distributed to all the managers, explaining the different methods of providing learning, including pairwork tutorials, sending colleagues to conferences or exhibitions, switching positions, favouring temporary mobility for a year, and encou- raging self-learning at the individual’s workstation or at a resources centre. There is a whole range of possibilities for self-learning before sending an employee to a face-to- face session. Forming a learning culture helps in practical terms to increase the number of occasions for self-learning for all participants, without necessarily increasing the global budget. Competence and motivation are enhanced and learning becomes different: it is no longer just “going to a session”, but rather it fits with the daily working situation, thus becoming more operational, more tangible, more relevant and more efficient.
Objective No.5: to serve business AND individuals As we have seen, all skills development policies will be increasingly valued by the partici- pants, who will be asking themselves if the company has their individual interests in mind and whether their employability is being well maintained, or even increased. Training The objective of all HR development policies must therefore: supports business ■ On the one hand, provide immediate performance (“learn for today”) performance and employee growth ■ On the other, develop individuals for the near future (“learn for tomorrow”), through individualised programmes that respond to participants’ personal concerns (What skills improvement do I need for what type of career? What quali- An AmericanCEO interviewed fications do I need? Will they be recognised elsewhere?). These programmes must by IBM11 also respond to the organisations’ concerns (What are the key skills for tomor- row’s professions?). Which probably means: ■ On the one hand, learning programmes with an increasingly short term objective, which are increasingly specialised, and which are increasingly brought about by a problem or a need for a specific skill ■ And on the other, development initiatives belonging to a larger context and with a more long term focus0.
Five innovativepractices in HRLearning to respond to the new challenges inskills improvementThrough the experience gathered from one hundred internationalclients and thousands of learning projects using distance learning,CrossKnowledge has identified five large innovative practicesresponding to all or part of the technical specifications that we havedescribed above. This inventory is of course in no way exhaustive butshows some strong trends.Innovative Practice No.1: from “mono-mode”to “blended learning”Traditional learning practices, notably in behavioural learning, are based on the seminarprinciple: gathering a group of about ten people for a period lasting from one to fivedays, with a preference for many sessions rather than longer course duration.Studies today show that:■ % of classroom learning is forgotten two days after the session■ Skills are more easily gained by learners if the support period is extended, right up to and including the practical implementation of the skills.
Furthermore, the no-show rate due to training leave, especially among management groups, is growing in companies, paradoxically for courses considered high priority by those involved. Training managers are finding it increasingly difficult to motivate managers to learn about evaluation processes, for example, even though this activity is rarely done well despite its importance to the assessment of individual perfor- mance. This explains the emergence of a new learning format, called “blended learning”: ■ Which lasts up to three to four months, instead of just a few days. ■ Which combines different educational methods, such as teleconferencing, virtual classroom (interactive synchronous distance learning for groups of five or six people maximum), self-learning (asynchronous learning for one person, at their own rhythm and time), self-evaluation, practical workshops (half-day or whole day), individual support by a tutor or a manager, forums for collaborative work, and so on. ■ Which is chosen in connection with the educational objectives, but also according to the target population (motivation level, experience of the subject, familiarity with new technologies, etc.) and the constraints (budget, learning start/end date limits, the more or less diverse nature of the target groups, etc.). The benefits of this new format are numerous: ■ It helps to adapt better to the client’s needs. The more the relevant group is geographically dispersed and the lead-time is short, the greater is the call for distance learning. ■ It saves on time spent in the classroom, saving also the costs incurred through absenteeism. The reduction in total costs allows an increase in number of participants. ■ It strengthens the link between learning content and implementation. By the very fact that it is spread out over several months, this learning enables participants to go back and forth between theory and practice, and course objectives (such as improving team or project performance) can become operational objectives. Finally, the link with the bosses of the participant’s manager can be set up more easily, which brings greater efficiency.0
Example: the AXA Manager blended learning courseIn 2004-2005, AXA undertook an ambitious learning course for all its managers.Designed together with CrossKnowledge, this course lasted eight months andalternated self-learning phases with one-day workshops. Moreover, this courseincorporated numerous innovations:■ One part of the course was individualised to correspond to each participant’s needs: a preliminary self-evaluation enabled entry level grading and recommenda- tions for personalised self-learning components, added to a core curriculum.■ The educational effectiveness of the course was assessed by a final self- evaluation, involving knowledge but also an evaluation of managerial practices that were covered by the programme.■ The participants’ manager actively participated in the programme by following his or her progress, and by confirming the skills improvement plans proposed during the programme.■ The learning course was academically assessed as it was part of the EM Lyon (Equis and AACSB accredited Management School) PGM certification programme, thanks to an NVQ system.The results were as follows:■ On average, an increase of more than 4% in skills between the beginning and end of the course■ Several hundred specific improvement plans defined and launched during the course■ Several managers successfully attended the EM Lyon programme and have graduated■ Sharing and networking in management teamsThe most common blended learning encountered in companies surveyed byCrossKnowledge is equivalent to a three day course and takes place as follows:■ Course launch conference call (list of expectations, course explanation, possible participation of a human resources representative)■ Pre-requisite measurement via self-assessments■ Core curriculum self-learning phase on key concepts or on techniques to be mastered■ ‘Implementation’ one day workshop■ A “putting into practice” phase supported by self-learning components often individualised, and by tutorial programme■ Post-course measurement of skills improvement■ Feedback conference call.
It should be noted here that apart from the phases of self-learning carried out via inter- net, these new systems rely very little on new technologies, in order to fit in with compa- nies’ incumbent computer facilities and not upset traditional practices too quickly. The reliance on technology may increase over time: ■ Substituting conference calls with virtual classes, forums or chats depending on the educational objectives ■ Addition of new learning methods such as simulations. We notice here that apart from the phases of self- learning carried out via internet, these new systems rely very little on new technologies, in order to adapt to companies’ computer facilities and not upset traditional practices too quickly. The reliance on tech- nology may increase over time: ■ Substituting conference calls with virtual classes, forums or chats depending on the educational objectives ■ Addition of new learning methods such as simulations. Simple or sophisticated, blended learning is here to stay. EADS: MVPs concerned about optimising their time At the heart of the EADS group, ,000 employees have been identified as MVPs (Most Valuable People). As such, they have access to the entire catalogue of CrossKnowledge e-learning modules. Two months before attending learning programmes, these managers are invited by the training staff to participate in selected modules in order to check that they have the necessary prerequisite experience. Both during and after classroom sessions, the training staff invite the participants to further their understanding and knowledge by going on-line. This introduction to distance learning allows a reduction of 0% in the number of days of contact classroom learning. The facilitators were quick to notice an impro- vement in the quality of their interactions. “The participants were thankful that the number of days of classroom learning was reduced. Their time is precious. These engineers and managers have a real appetite for benefiting from the resources that we provide. All the more so considering how this increases the efficiency of the groups” ,states Hervé Borensztejn, Head of Leadership Development Learning at the EADS group.
“It is possible to propose learning systems outside of working hours on themutual initiative of the employee and employer, which means:■ A schedule of learning outside of work hours, favouring self-learning at home or during breaks, dispensing with group learning days which are restrictive to personal time management■ A format of undertaking learning activities by means of short sessions■ A customisation of learning activities■ A certification of learning activities in order to get a final degree or a formal certification.The traditional format of the three-day course is open for reinvention: collective in-class learning time is to be reduced considerably. The “all in-class” is substituted with“blended learning” which mixes different types of traditional techniques (group learningdays, practical exchange workshops and so on) with innovative techniques such as self-learning, e-tutorials and collaborative work.A good ten years dedicated to educational innovation (coaching, e-learning, alternatinglearning, experiential learning, etc.) were needed, to move on from the traditional ses-sions.”Innovative Practice No.2: supported learningin the workplaceAs we have seen, the closer that learning gets to professional practice, the moreefficient it is and the more it fits to the expectations of the different stakeholders.The manager is the most legitimate person to support a colleague’s development inthe workplace.Jacques Horovitz, one of the world’s specialists in service quality, sees the manager-trainer as one of the keys to successful companies. “In successful companies, teamsdon’t spend their time learning management theories but in applying them ina concrete mode. (Quoting a service company): 60% of the monthly meetingsorganised by managers are dedicated to team learning.”4Unfortunately, examples of companies where managers have understood and activelyplay out this new training role are still scarce. In reality, they are very often lacking theeducational skills and especially the time and patience needed.
The companies that have understood this problem use distance learning as an ally to achieve the transformation of the manager into coach or trainer. The innovative practices which make up the most important part of workplace learning rely on: ■ Self-learning being available at all times and adapted in a tailored way to the participant’s real needs thanks to well-designed modular resources and ■ Managerial support. In these systems: ■ Managers take charge of their staff’s improvement in skills ■ Managers are directly involved in their learning ■ The learning feeds and maintains the dialogue between managers and staff ■ Whereas before managers were a little lost when asked to play the teaching role, they now find support in distance learning which frees them from educa- tional challenges while at the same time increases the standing of their role as coaches. Managers do not rely exclusively on HR and programmes to improve the skills of their staff. They are asked to invest time and energy actively in the improvement of their employees’ capabilities. Their annual appraisal may take this issue into account. Example 1: supported learning by managers at Altadis France The sales managers in the principal division of Altadis in France have access to a self- learning portal used in these ways: ■ Free access, depending on their individual needs which they do not necessarily report to their hierarchy ■ Following individualised programmes worked out with their manager according to the progress plans defined at the moment of their evaluation interview and during their present activity ■ The platform interface allows participants to know exactly where they are in the programme progression. This same information is more importantly available to their managers who can follow their colleagues’ advancement. The participants’ managers can thus chase them up if necessary. It is worth noting that managers do not have access to the “free” modules chosen by their staff. After one year, the results are as follows: ■ 5% of subscribers are connected ■ All managers have recommended the course to their staff ■ The average session duration is hours minutes per person. An average of five self-learning sessions have been attended ■ Sessions attended by the participants help support learning sessions now organised by the managers.4
As Patricia Duquesnel, in charge of the project at Altadis, explains: “What interests usis to see our managers take ownership of the modules and provide the contentaround them. In this particular case, e-learning is a learning tool available toour managers, and we expect the managers themselves to be the trainers ofthis tool.Example 2: Sanofi-Aventis Europe’s e-Campus portalAt Sanofi-Aventis, managers located in more than 0 European countries attend amid-year competencies improvement interview, which enables them to recommendpersonalised distance learning courses to their staff. Course allocation is automatedthanks to a very close coupling between the different distance learning sessionsavailable and Sanofi-Aventis’ skills repository. In order for the manager to generatea staff member’s personalised programme, it is just a question of determining thatperson’s competence level in relation to the major points of the matrix. The systemhelped all of management to discover the Group’s new skills reference in a just fewmonths, which was one of the programme’s strategic objectives.“Just-in-time” learning in the workplace meets adults’ educational needs.According to Malcolm Knowles (1998):Adults would rather■ control what they learn and how they learn it■ rely on their experience for guidance■ learn what they consider urgent or relevant for their activity■ learn in the context of situations under their control, so that they can understand better, or of situations which require a different way of behaving.Innovative Practice No.3: learning and development, newHR services for work colleaguesAs we have seen, skills development policies must take into account both the indivi-dual’s needs and the interests of the company.When this is done, employees will see new HR services being offered to them: evaluationof skills and potential, self-learning portals, coaching, help with professional projectdefinition, and so forth. These services will be built into the offer that the company mustmake in order to attract quality profiles and gain their loyalty. 5
Our approach For a company, this can present quite a challenge. is to offer tools to employees so that they may ■ It must show applicants that it is truly concerned about the development of their become, in the individual skills and vocational focus and that these concerns are an integral same way as component of the “Company Brand” the company, ■ It must find an economical and credible solution to the individual right to learning actors in their as granted by new laws. own career evolution, ■ It can expect questions on certification, verification of staff capabilities, and in terms anything that concerns people’s employability on the jobs market of skills and ■ It must have flexible and individualised approaches covering the spectrum of qualifications employee’s needs (mobility, re-qualification after finishing a career, return to work after maternity/paternity leave, etc.) Régis Régnault, Distance learning is being used increasingly to help respond to these challenges. CGT5 Even if it’s obvious that it cannot cover everything, distance learning has become necessary in the new context due to its affordable price and, in particular, its ability to be customised. Backed up by distance learning, learning policy becomes a way of supporting the trend towards professional mobility. For each of the companies’ target groups (MVPs, senior staff, staff returning from maternity or paternity leave, staff at mid-career looking to new horizons, etc.) there are various corresponding human resources challenges and learning activities that are adapted to the situation. Increasingly, learning is going to become part of a marketing approach. The participants become the customers. The training manager and HR department must segment these groups and design a training package that is adapted for each of them. The following examples witness these new trends. Example 1: learning at Renault At Renault, a self-learning portal was opened in 004 for the 0,000 Renault staff in France. Run through e-mailing campaigns, it offers training for all employees in the topics of their choice. The cumulative time spent on training courses proposed by the portal is accounted for at the end of the year within the context of the Mandatory Learning Scheme. This system allows thousands of learning hours to be taken into account within that scheme.
Example 2: training at AlcanFrom the start of 00, Alcan has proposed a range of distance learning courses on thesubjects of communication, negotiation, personal development and general companyculture (finance fundamentals etc.). The courses implement a very innovative program-me in educational design.■ Learners start off with a telephone interview with a tutor during which their expec- tations are taken into account and their mission (to carry out a specific progress workshop during the programme) is defined.■ In order to position themselves correctly, participants carry out a self-evaluation which indicates the most important parts of the learning programme to them.■ Mission progress is followed by the tutor for the totality of the course by way of set telephone calls and email feedback. Participants self-learn in order to deliver their missions successfully.■ Results are evaluated at the end of the course by way of a final self-evaluation. Thanks to the highly operational nature of the learning, the rates of satisfaction are high and the reputation and quality of the learning programme are established.■Example 3: a certified learning programme at ItalcementiIn 00, Italcementi created a degree-based learning programme with distance learningplaying a partial role in the programme.“For the Italcementi group, it is imperative to develop management skills inthe engineers that are recruited worldwide”, explains Jean-Pierre Herbinier, head ofmanagement training and development at the Italcementi group. “The majority have in factstrong technical skills, but they must learn the management role in order to be able to takeon growing responsibilities later on. Training them not only meets the company’s needs butalso responds to a strong demand on the part of the engineers themselves. During therecruitment phase, they ask: ‘What am I going to learn?’ and ‘How are you going to trainme?’ Learning policy is therefore one of the ways of standing out when looking to attracttalent. This is where the idea of setting up a degree-based cycle comes from. It’s a learningprogramme which perceived value is much higher than in traditional learning programmesand which also represents an important sign of recognition. So what we have is an inter-nationally recognised Masters that we created in conjunction with the Politecnico di Milano(Milan Polytechnic) and which incorporates e-learning with CrossKnowledge. Its participantscome from the Group’s subsidiaries all over the world.”
This Masters degree has three successive levels. Level involves an internal integration programme. Level is the management programme per se. Level is for the more senior segment (5-40 year old). So called “elective” courses can be taken separately in other universities in order to give flexibility to the system. Distance learning was introduced for the Management programme, which consists of two weeks of in-class learning, one in November, and the other in June. Between these two sessions, the participants work remotely with a quite compact 5-module inter-session course dealing with behavioural themes, which is intended to take the November session further, and dealing with marketing, as preparation for the June session. Course support has been very carefully studied. A system of conference calls, hosted by consultants from the CrossKnowledge network, helps to capitalise on acquired knowledge and support the trainees. “In the end, thanks to this support, we really had the feeling that we had helped build an authentic trainee community”, stated Jean-Pierre Herbinier. The final stage of support is a system for checking acquired experience. This questionnaire-based system was implemented for gaining credits for the Masters. The results: ■ % of the participants passed their exams. As the programme was subject to official scrutiny, the educational team checked how the participants applied the main management concepts by making them present concrete cases of appli- cation, such as change management. ■ 0% of the participants followed all of the prescribed sessions, making a total of more than ten hours each of distance learning which is the equivalent of two to three weeks of in-class learning. ■ On finishing the course, the manager participants became ardent proponents of distance learning.
These three examples outline the new logic in training proposals conceived to developskills and professionalism throughout a whole career. By carefully segmenting the targetpopulations, by proposing systems adapted to each individual situation, these proposalsare likely to meet with enormous success, for the mutual benefit of the company andthe employee.Innovative Practice No.4: concentratingon a strategic skillDistance learning can help company strategy implementation by concentrating on thedevelopment of the skills that are necessary for it.The challenges are twofold:■ To improve staff capabilities effectively where the company has most use for them■ To be able to do it quickly and worldwide.Even where training remains classroom-oriented, most strategic alignment programmesuse distance learning components more and more frequently, either to transferessential course material or to enable the implementation of a transverse project viacollaborative platforms.Example: EDF (a major European electricity supplier) uses distance learning toteach its managers finance fundamentalsOn the eve of floating the company’s shares and after becoming a limited company,EDF wished to improve the financial education of its ,500 directors, three quarters ofwhom are engineers. As distance learning has the shortest cycle time, and is the leastexpensive, it rapidly presented itself as the most relevant solution. It took less than twoyears for the whole group to acquire this knowledge of finance.This solution had the added advantage of being able to reach a very dispersed targetgroup (40% abroad), not only due to the internet but also because the course wasavailable in English as well as in French.
The programme consisted of several steps. ■ First of all, participants carried out self-evaluations of their knowledge in finance. The modules were prescribed according to the answers: participants therefore had completely individualised courses. ■ Participants followed their courses with tutor support in a set period of time. ■ At the end of the course, participants carried out final self-assessments to evaluate the progression of their skills. Special attention was given to promoting programme awareness. ■ An email signed by the Directors in charge of Human Resources and Communication was sent explaining the reasons for the initiative on developing financial awareness. ■ A “package” was sent with a CD-ROM [NH – confusing to mention], connection instructions and headphones. ■ A welcome email was sent, co-signed with CrossKnowledge. ■ All of these documents were expressly identified as being an EDF corporate initiative. ■ This was followed-up by the managerial newsletter, with very positive accounts in subsequent issues, to keep the flame burning. The results: ■ Despite the optional and voluntary nature of the programme, more than three quarters of the trainees participated, with an average follow-up rate of 0%. ■ Between the two self-assessments, the participants noted a 40% progression in their financial skills.0
Innovative Practice No.5: systematising learningdistribution in all its formsWith changing strategic contexts, the needs of business units that are constantlyrequiring greater responsiveness, and individuals’ demand that their own skillsdevelopment be taken into account, the need to industrialise and systematise learningis becoming obvious.Blended learning courses, self-learning with managerial or tutorial support, open-accessportals and similar systems offer the heads of training and development new ways ofresponding to an exploding demand, to diverse needs, and to changing contexts.Comprehensive catalogue for ESSECSince 5, ESSEC (a leading European business school) has been building distancelearning progressively into its educational philosophy. Until 00, the school systemati-cally developed its own on-line learning content. But faced with the increasing costs ofthis approach, it decided to concentrate its internal resources on roughly ten multimediacases a year which were then put on the market. Since 00, faced with the market’swealth of on-line content, an increasing number of faculty members began to build thisdimension into their learning until a critical volume was reached. In September 005,ESSEC signed an agreement with CrossKnowledge to make its entire catalogue availableon the Myessec.com portal. With a renewed contract in 00, 0% of its 0 facultymembers have already built the use of the catalogue into their courses.Each semester, ,500 students and employees undergoing training follow courses onmyessec.com with a completion rate of %: “It’s the teacher’s ability to promotethe use of the catalogue that makes the difference”, declares Jean-Pierre Choulet,director of ESSEC’s systems information area. A team of fifty people, backed up with agood deal of support from teachers, ensures the increasing potency of a network at theservice of educational science. “Being able to propose, during continuous learning,unlimited access to a catalogue of educational resources has become a salesargument”, he added.
Having observed numerous company practices using distance learning, we have gathered a few examples of HR challenges and the corresponding systems in the table below. Examples of Challenges System concerned topics The increase in Blended learning programmes. importance of the Generate a strong feeling of belonging to the Collaborative distance pro- MVPs or any group. Favour the network. grammes. Portals for more senior homogenous group. communities. Expatriates are often isolated in their local Individual distance study courses structure. They don’t often participate in local available in various languages. Expatriate learning. learning, which is not adapted to their level or Self-learning portals making spe- language. cific information available too. Manage to give coherent learning, despite Collective distance programmes. Dispersed network. pronounced geographic dispersion. Blended learning courses. Heads of entities in a decentralised group are veritable local ‘barons’. They are most often quite Individualised distance coaching. Network of dispersed senior and have difficulty accepting the necessity Self-learning portals on chosen directors. for re-training. In any case, their status doesn’t subjects. allow them to get involved in their own entity’s training courses. Distance learning for short, Mergers/Takeovers. Have messages delivered quickly and globally. tailor-made courses Certain groups consist of entities/brands that want to (or have to) keep their identity at first. The Generic portal (or part of the Create coherence in a trick is to facilitate the creation of a group identity portal) common to all entities. multiple-brand group. without compromising the different individual Possibility to offer portals by identities. One of the principal factors of success entity if necessary. is speed and the ability to reach everybody. Until recently, many managers didn’t do any more training on reaching 50. Today, we’re beginning to understand that it will be necessary Training for senior Individual distance learning with for people to continue to work ‘effectively’ up to staff. tutor support. the age of 5 or more. Companies must find a way of motivating them. They are individuals who are difficult to train in groups.
In order to implement such different and numerous programmes or systems, theheads of HR / Learning are going to have to start thinking in an increasingly indus-trial way:■ By pre-equipping themselves with technologies and self-learning content so they can implement distance learning strategies when they need to.■ By creating “building blocks” which can be combined in infinite ways in the context of different systems. These “blocks” are the elementary educational objects. On- line courses and self-assessments come easily to mind but we can also imagine “blocks” of in-class training (workshops), “blocks” of distance activities, virtual classes, etc.■ By training educational engineers and tutors internally to combine these “blocks” and thus create systems rapidly and industrially that are flexible and adapted to the internal clients’ needs. Examples include: • Free access self-learning portals • Portals where a selection of e-learning modules is recommended by a manager or tutor • Individual distance courses • Group distance courses • Courses mixing distance and in-class learningExample 1: a large telephone company radically reforms its trainingprogramme by massively incorporating distance learningThis operator has chosen to strengthen the vocational focus of its teams and, inparticular, management, by using distance learning on a large scale.Between 004 and 00, the company got the rights for the use of distance learningcatalogues for all of its employees worldwide, as well as for its subsidiaries.CrossKnowledge has provided the training teams with a tool for automatic coursecreation, enabling them to implement the project easily and autonomously. On theirown, the teams set up learning portals, distance courses, and blended learning coursesincorporating all of the training methods. They also run them through personalised follow-ups that can be automated, and monitor their impact through integrated reporting. Thistool was implemented with a learning plan.The learning programme for France, which represents 0% of the company’s employees,has been completely reworked in order to replace in-class learning with systematicblended learning.The group’s trade schools, responsible for the vocational focus of the teams according totheir activities, draw on existing “blocks” from the catalogues in order to develop the blended
learning programmes with the help of educational designers. These educational designers, part of training management, have been specially trained on these new educational methods. The learning programme for France, which represents 0% of the company’s employees, has been completely reworked in order to replace in-class learning with systematic blended learning. The group’s trade schools, responsible for the vocational focus of the teams according to their activities, draw on existing “blocks” from the catalogues in order to develop the blended learning programmes with the help of educational designers. These educational designers, part of training management, have been specially trained on these new educational methods. The company also develops thematic portals that are specific to the various groups within it. Results: ■ Tens of thousands of hours of learning could be carried out remotely, with the resultant cost savings ■ Distance learning has become the norm, after a challenging start ■ Production of new programmes has been considerably accelerated thanks to the implementation of an industrialisation system. Example 2: Shell Open University In the “Handbook of Corporate University Development”, Peter Bentley recalls how he went about creating the Shell Open University and the main principles at work in its creation. “In 00, more than 00 million dollars were invested in training. Nevertheless, there was a growing divide between the entities’ needs and the available skills. The training methods had to be revisited in a structural way. All the more so, considering that a second phenomenon had to be taken into consideration. In the petroleum industry, 50% of teams will retire between now and 00. Recruitment alone will not be enough to fulfil the needs. What we need therefore is a ‘learning strategy’ capable of bridging the divide between the needs and the skills currently available, while at the same time building a learning culture where learning becomes a daily reflex. What was the objective to be achieved? We will be able to say that we have succeeded if, in a few years:4
■ We have skilled and motivated teams■ The teams develop ‘on the job’ in accordance with business needs■ Learning is based on content relevant to our business■ Learning is available the world over, for everyone and for all time■ Self-learning has become a daily reflex■ Learning policy is a reflection of the Group’s skills requirements and conforms to the Group’s system of reference.In order to get there, our strategy had a two-pronged approach. / To supply learning for today (‘learn for today’), to meet the business’ immediate needs using just-in-time learning systems/ To develop tomorrow’s skills (‘learn for tomorrow’), to anticipate business needs and the individual’s personal skills improvement needs thanks to personalised courses.Each approach is sustained in the following way:■ ‘Learn for today’ • Coaching in skills or behavioural techniques by pairs, by one’s manager, by internal or external trainers • Learning in the workplace via collaborative learning, based on tasks to be accomplished • Short workshops/ learning programmes • Experience sharing and capitalisation.■ ‘Learn for tomorrow’ • Tutorial system by an experienced individual capable of helping steer the employee’s career • Collaborative learning • Learning programmes.All learning methods rely on a common pedagogical centre composed of variouslearning elements (learning nuggets). These elements are centrally purchased,systematised for the whole group, and can be restructured and reassembled at will.Today■ When learning focuses on resolving problems, it contributes to resolving opera- tional problems effectively and to increasing performance in a measurable way.■ Skills development is part of our company hallmark.■ The ‘time to skill’ is considerably reduced.■ The use of mentoring by experienced individuals reduces the impact when people leave the company and facilitates the transfer of experience.” 5
Towards new rolesThe new challenges in skills development, the evolution in regulationsand the innovative practices that we have described in this white paperprofoundly modify the roles of the different actors in the company.Managers will take on a growing role in supporting theimprovement of their staff’s skills.As we have seen, the growing importance of skills development forces corporations todecentralise learning activities in the workplace. New methods like distance learningmake this revolution in training possible. Skills development will thus merge more andmore with daily activities and it will become increasingly difficult for managers to ‘exter-nalise’ their teams’ skills improvement to training departments. Skills development mustsystematically become part of the operational objectives assigned to managers. Inshort: “Managers recruit, develop, and supervise their colleagues while HRgets in only when necessary.”The regulatory framework encourages this change. Previously, general managementasked the training directors to focus learning activities on the strategic skills neededby the company. Now, the decision-making power in terms of learning rests with themanager and the employee. These two categories of player are invited to negotiate,and where appropriate, to request advice from the training departments so as to fixtheir definitive choice.Trainers and educational designers must rethink their wayof doing thingsAs learning can no longer be reduced to one single method (in-class, CD-ROM, etc.) thechallenge for trainers and facilitators is to find the correct combination of the new andold learning methods. It should be thought of as a pedagogical process lasting severalmonths during which learners feed their experiences with theoretical knowledge andvice-versa.
This flexible design changes numerous reference points for the educational teams. “It’s necessary to help trainers understand that part of what they are saying in the classroom can be perfectly assimilated into distance learning”, underlines Anne Gazengel, Professor of Finance and Director of the corporate division of ESCP-EAP. To help them adapt, the trainers are invited to sign up for work groups in order to capitalise on and systematise their practices. At the AFPA (a professional association for the training of adults), which is currently undergoing a vast reworking of its practices, some of the ,000 internal trainers brought together in a workgroup admitted to no longer being happy to just “pass on” knowledge. They want to become “support figures” whose role is to monitor each person’s skills improvement. This evolution from “those who pass on knowledge” to “support figures” goes hand in hand with a reorganisation of the cycles and rhythms that are going to be increasingly divided in order to encourage individual work or work in small groups. HR/ training management will become increasingly business driven Leadership Their role will no longer be to design programmes but to manage learning strategies: and learning are indispensable to each other ■ By proposing learning strategies that correspond to the challenges facing the company ■ By simultaneously catering for the needs of individuals, the needs of operational John F. Kennedy units, and the needs of the executive committee ■ By managing learning as an operational process, linking skills development with company objectives in a continuous chain ■ By alternately playing the role of educational director (who designs educational systems), marketing director (who designs offers, divides up internal markets, communicates, and sells), and consultant (for operational units as well as for managers on the ground). By forcing learning to distance itself from the rationale of programmes that are limited in number, efficiency, and audience, distance learning and learning technologies are giving human resources managers new tools which allow them to work on new ambitions: ■ Competence, a key asset of a st century company, can be improved in a more systematic and measurable fashion
■ The distance factor will facilitate work groups and learning communities beyond frontiers and cultures■ Strategic changes will be able to be supported in a faster and more wide-scale fashion■ Learning and development will no longer be an occasional obligation but a reflex and a new culture, thus contributing to increased maturity and leadership.
References () Study quoted in “The Eighth Habit”, Stephen R. Covey, Simon and Shuster 004 () ASTD/IBM study, 00 () Read on the same subject “Total customer Satisfaction”, by Jacques Horovitz and Michele Jurgens Panak, FT Irwin 4 (4) Op. Cit. (5) Loïc Cadin, “Carrières nomades, les enseignements d’une comparaison internationale”, Vuibert, 00 () “The New HR agenda: 00 human resources competency study”,study quoted in “Les meilleures pratiques du développement des dirigeants”, Bruno Dufour – Martine Plompen éditions d’organisation, 00 () Source Insee 004 () Simulation presented in “Réforme de la formation professionnelle”, Marc Dennery, ESF, 005 () “Strategic Value of Learning”, ASTD/IBM Research Report, 00(0) Bruno Dufour, op. cit.() IBM/ASTD, quoted study() Research. Institute of America() Marc Dennery, op.cit.(4) Jacques Horovitz, op.cit.(5) “Journées d’actualité du Centre-inffo”, 00() “Handbook of corporate university development”, by Rob Paton, Geoff Peters, John Storey, Scott Taylor. Gower, 005() B. Dufour, op.cit. 4
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