The Role of E-Learning
This transformation is not achieved through an e-learning initiative, although e-learning is often part of the process. Technology enables us to build learning organizations because it allows employees to benefit from the speed and flexibility of an anytime , anywhere education system. But e-learning is just the vehicle. On its own, it is no better than the videotapes that no one watches or user manuals that no one reads.
Many companies have tried to make the transition to a learning organization, only to invest millions of dollars in failed solutions. They failed because they didn't understand what they were trying to do, assuming that throwing enough money at flashy online-training solutions would mean they were dedicated to learning.
They offer their employees technology tools but ignore the cultural revolution required to make them useful. Becoming a learning organization is far more challenging than just implementing technology. It requires a major shift in cultural attitude toward learning. E-learning is a radically different approach to knowledge transfer. It requires employees to seek out knowledge rather than have it delivered to them. Unless you transform the attitude, support mechanisms, and reward system, you give your employees tools that have no value and no context. The best e-learning system in the world cannot flourish in those circumstances.
If you want to succeed at this transformation process, forget technology for the moment and think about your environment. You have to rethink your culture, your reward and recognition processes, your vision, and your determinants of who succeeds and why. You must give up your knowledge-is-power mentality and create a culture in which information sharing is at the foundation of what makes the company run. A learning organization practices genuine teamwork, in which all members are valued. It has strong leadership to support the learning goals, it has open lines of communication that flow up and across the organization, and the roles and responsibilities of every employee are clearly defined. Only after you've committed yourself to this monumental change effort can you appreciate the role that e-learning will play in supporting the change.
We succeeded in transforming Rockwell Collins, the aerospace giant based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, into a learning organization, because our online-learning initiatives had purpose. They were designed to support the goals of the company and enhance the key skills of the employees. We held their hands, marketed the system, and set the stage for users by showing them the value of our initiative. The transformation initiative removed incentives that supported the old system and put in place new processes for reward. We targeted cultural issues and either eliminated or worked around them. The result was a learning-organization transformation supported by technology-delivered training that has saved the company millions of dollars over three years .
The Role of Trainers
By giving employees the power and support to pursue learning and linking learning to the business vision, you will transform the training department from a peripheral, nonessential unit to a key contributor to the success of the company. Training's job in a learning organization is to offer instructionally sound, performance-based, quality training that supports the needs of the organization ”not to provide random training events to solve problems that are not related to skill or knowledge gaps.
You will no longer measure training's effectiveness through seat time and classes delivered, because you will be focused on the front end of the process. You will have processes in place to determine whether training is necessary and linked to defined business requirements, and the training you offer will be based on instructional-system-design principles.
As a result of this transformation, learning will finally be recognized as an essential part of the process and the learning team will garner new levels of respect and power within the organization.
Accomplishing this shift is a monumental goal for trainers on their own because they rarely hold the positions of power necessary to create cultural upheaval , and that's what it takes to achieve this meta-morphosis. This process will be far more successful if the training department has the support and voice of organizational leaders who have the authority to cause profound change and the desire to make sure their most valuable assets, their employees, are competent and skilled to meet the demands of present and future business objectives.
To achieve the organizational change necessary to become a learning organization, you need an all-encompassing strategic plan that defines where the company is today, where it needs to be in the future, and how you are going to get there. By following our method for becoming a learning organization, you will learn how to build a strategic plan that will win the active support of management.
By following our ten-step process you will create within your organization a new learning environment that will tie every learning opportunity to the business goals of the company. It will reduce your costs, improve your training quality, change end users' attitude toward training, and win you the respect and admiration of your management team.
At first it might be a bitter battle to convince skeptical executives, many of whom will have been burned before by training propositions . However, this proposition will succeed because this time you will have a fail-proof plan ”the one laid out in this book.